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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

  • other wildlife in the world
  • Photograph of Red-crowned Cranes

    A beautiful image of 'dancing' Red-crowned Cranes in the cold Hokkaido winter by Francesco Veronesi.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Ryukyu Robin

    Ryukyu Robin on the island of Amami by Paul Noakes.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Japan


    Endemics 20

    Mainland 3
    Copper Pheasant, Green (Common) Pheasant and Japanese (Green) Woodpecker.

    Mainland and Ryukyu Islands, Nansei-Shoto Archipelago 1
    Ryukyu Minivet.

    Ryukyu Islands, Nansei-Shoto Archipelago 3
    Ryukyu (Whistling) Green-pigeon, Ryukyu Robin and Ryukyu (Narcissus) Flycatcher.

    Amami-Oshima, Ryukyu Islands, Nansei-Shoto Archipelago 4
    Amami Woodcock, Amami (Owston's/White-backed) Woodpecker, Amami (Lidth’s) Jay and Amami Thrush.

    Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, Nansei-Shoto Archipelago 3
    Okinawa Rail, Okinawa (Pryer's) Woodpecker and Okinawa (Ryukyu) Robin.

    Iriomote, Ryukyu Islands, Nansei-Shoto Archipelago 1
    Iriomote (Varied) Tit.

    Ryukyu Islands and Izu Islands 1
    Izu Thrush (present on Miyake-jima, a short ferry ride from Tokyo, at Tairo).

    Izu Islands 2
    Izu (Owston’s/Varied) Tit (present on Miyake-jima, a short ferry ride from Tokyo, at Tairo) and Izu (Japanese) Robin.

    Bonin Islands 1
    Bonin White-eye.

    Bonin Islands and Volcano Islands 1
    Bannerman’s (Tropical) Shearwater.


    Japan and Russia 4
    Long-billed Murrelet, Spectacled Guillemot, Japanese Accentor (only on the southern Kuril Islands and the south end of Sakhalin Island) and Grey Bunting.

    Japan, Russia and China 2
    Blakiston’s (Fish) Owl and Japanese Robin.

    Japan, Russia, China, North Korea and South Korea 2
    Varied Tit and Japanese Waxwing.

    Japan, Russia, North Korea and South Korea 1
    Steller’s Sea-eagle.

    Japan and South Korea 3
    Japanese (Black) Woodpigeon (small islands. Rare, perhaps extinct in China), Japanese Murrelet and Japanese Wagtail.

    Japan, Taiwan and Philippines 3
    Black-chinned Fruit-dove, Ryukyu Scops-owl (Nansei-Shoto Archipelago, Lanyu Island off southeast Taiwan, and the Batanes and Babuyan Islands off northern Luzon, Philippines) and Ijima’s Leaf-warbler (Izu and Tokara Islands, Japan, in summer, migrating south via Taiwan to the Philippines during the winter when rarely seen).

    Japan and Philippines 1
    (Japanese) Yellow Bunting.

    The birds listed below occur on the northern islands during the northern winter.

    Other specialities
    Mandarin Duck, Baikal Teal, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Streaked Shearwater, Tristram's Storm-petrel, Black-faced Spoonbill, Hooded, Red-crowned and White-naped Cranes, Black-tailed, Kamchatka, Saunders's and Slaty-backed Gulls, Pigeon Guillemot, Japanese Pygmy and White-backed Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Rosefinch and Asian Rosy-finch.

    Also a chance of Lesser White-fronted Goose, Short-tailed Albatross, Red-faced Cormorant, Eastern Water Rail, Demoiselle and Siberian Cranes, Solitary Snipe, Grey-headed Lapwing, Brunnich's Guillemot (Thick-billed Murre) and Ochre-rumped (Japanese Reed) Bunting.

    Bewick's and Whooper Swans, Greater White-fronted and Taiga Bean Geese, Falcated and Harlequin Ducks, Black and Stejneger's Scoters, Smew, Pacific Diver (Loon), Pelagic and Temminck's (Japanese) Cormorants, White-tailed Eagle, Japanese (Common/Eastern) Buzzard, Long-billed Plover, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Lesser Black-backed (Heuglin's) and Vega Gulls, Ancient Murrelet, Crested and Least Auklets, Crested Kingfisher, Bull-headed Shrike, Asian Azure-winged Magpie, (Oriental) Rook, (Oriental) Crow, Japanese Tit, Chinese Penduline-tit, Brown Dipper, Brown-eared Bulbul, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart, Dusky and Pale Thrushes, White-cheeked Starling, Meadow and Yellow-throated Buntings, Hawfinch, Japanese Grosbeak and Russet Sparrow.

    Also a chance of Tundra Bean Goose, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Common and Sandhill Cranes, Ural Owl, Black Woodpecker, Daurian Jackdaw, Bohemian Waxwing, Brown-headed Thrush, Pallas's Rosefinch and other buntings.

    'Snow Monkey' (Japanese Macaque) and Sika Deer. Also a chance of Japanese Sable, Sea Otter, Japanese Serow, Racoon Dog, Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel, Red Squirrel, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise, and Common (Harbour) and Largha (Spotted) Seals.

    Other Natural Wonders of Japan

    Mount Fuji An almost perfectly symmetrical and currently inactive volcanic cone usually at least partly covered in ice and snow about 100 km (60 miles) from Tokyo, rising to 3776 m (12,388 ft).

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Japan

    Photograph of Steller's Sea-eagle

    Steller's Sea-eagle by Ian Merrill.

    Photograph of Snow Monkey

    'Snow Monkey' by Brian Field.

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Japan

    To see Snow Monkeys and Red-crowned Cranes in snow, as well as hundreds of eagles and thousands of other cranes, it is necessary to visit Japan in the middle of the northern winter when the average temperature is 0°C. The very best time to go is the second half of February when the cranes are courting and the eagle numbers usually begin to peak. The best time to look for birds which are present during the northern summer only is the second half of May to early June. The wet season usually starts then, moving north to reach Honshu by July.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Japan

    Birds of Japan by M Brazil. Helm, 2018.

    Birds of East Asia by M Brazil. Helm, 2009.

    Birds of Japan and North-East Asia: A Photographic Guide by T Shimba. Helm, 2019 (Second Edition).

    550 Birds of Japan by M Kirihara et al. Bun'ichi Sogo Shuppan, two volumes, 2000 and 2004.

    Apps etc.

    Japanese Birds.

    Birds of Korea Pro.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Japan

    Many trip reports, some for Japan, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Japan. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Japan' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Japan

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Japan

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Japan

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Japan include the following.