Reduced to a population of over a dozen, the Japanese crane became endangered as a result of indiscriminate hunting. Thanks to the conservation efforts of neighboring residents, however, the population has increased and the Japanese crane was designated as a Special Natural Monument in 1952. Currently, approximately 1,000 Japanese cranes live in East Hokkaido throughout the year. The largest bird in Japan, Japanese cranes are regarded as birds of love since, once they have found a mate, they remain in pairs for the rest of their lives and cooperate in bringing up their offspring.
Japanese Cranes (Tancho) can be seen following throughout the year:
Kushiro Japanese Crane Reserve:
Currently (2005), 16 Japanese cranes live in this park. In August 1958, The Japanese Crane Reserve opened with five Japanese Cranes in Tsuruoka, Kushiro, with the purpose to protect and breed the endangered Japanese Cranes. The ecology of the crane was unknown in early years. After 10 years of attempting to have the cranes reproduce, natural hatching succeeded. Artificial hatching also succeeded, in 1970. Since then, many cranes have reproduced. At present, 18 Japanese Cranes freely move throughout the reserve. Hours: 9:00-18:00 (Apr. 10 – 2nd Mon. of Oct.) 9:00-16:00 (2nd Tue. of Oct. – Apr. 9) Closed: Dec. 31 -Jan. 3 Admission fee: 310 yen (adult), 100 yen (child) Access: Take Akan Bus, Lake Akan Route, from JR Kushiro Station Bus Terminal (approx. 55 min.) to Tsuru Koen Bus Stop; 880 yen (adult)
The Kushiro Zoo has the Tancho Protection and Propagation Center. In addition, Blakiston’s fish owls, Steller’s sea eagles and white-tailed sea eagles, which are all natural monuments, can also be seen here. Hours: 9:30-16:30 (Apr. 10 – 2nd Mon. of Oct.) / 10:00-15:30 (2nd Tue. of Oct. – Apr. 9) Closed: Dec. 24-Jan. 5 Admission fee: 500 yen (adult), free (junior high & younger) Access: Take Akan Bus, Fubushinai-Refre Route, from JR Kushiro Station Bus Terminal (approx. lhr.) to Dobutsuen (Zoo) Bus Stop; 850 yen (adult)
Wild Japanese cranes gather in several hundreds in the following feeding grounds from late October to late March:
Japanese Crane Observation Center (Akan International Crane Center Branch):
Located adjacent to the Tancho no Sato Roadside Station, the Japanese Crane Observation Center offers visitors a chance to take in the action at afternoon feeding time as the Japanese cranes sometimes compete with white-tailed eagles and Steller’s sea eaeles. Michi-no-Eki (Road Station) “Tancho no Sato”; Japanese cranes fighting with white-tailed sea eagles over food can also be observed at the afternoon feeding time. The farm fields near the town of Akan are known as artificial feeding grounds for the Japanese Cranes. The area is well-known as a major wintering area for large flocks of cranes. Although the people of Akan have been involved in crane conservation for many decades, the Akan International Crane Center is dedicated to public education and crane research. Hours: Nov. 1 – Mar. 31 8:30-16:30 Admission fee: 400 yen (adult), 200 yen (junior high & younger) (common ticket with Akan International Crane Center) Access: Take Akan Bus, Lake Akan Route, from JR Kushiro Station Bus Terminal (approx. 1 hr.) to Tancho no Sato Bus Stop; 1,410 yen (adult)
Feeding time: early morning and around 14:00
Tsurumidai (in Tsurui Village)
Around 1963, Shimosetsuri Primary School students began feeding Japanese Cranes in winter. The school was closed in 1974, and Mrs Watanabe, a local resident, continued to feed The Japanese Cranes. Over 100 Japanese Cranes come here during the winter season. Japanese Cranes can sometimes even be seen here during the summer season.
Access: Take Akan Bus. bound for Tsurui, from JR Kushiro Station Bus Terminal (approx. 1 hr.) to Tsurumidai Bus Stop; 970 yen (adult) Feeding time: around 9:00 AM
Tsurui/Itoh Tancho Sanctuary
The Wild Bird Society of Japan established the Ito Japanese Crane Sanctuary at the Itoh feeding station. A Nature Center opened there in 1987. There is an observation room on the first floor, and the second floor has a study room. In winter, nearly 200 Japanese Cranes gather here. Access: Take Akan Bus. bound for Tsurui, from JR Kushiro Station Bus Terminal (approx. 1 hr.) to Tsurui Mura Yakuba (Village Office) mae Bus Stop, and walk 15 min.: 1.220 yen (adult) Open: Oct 1-Mar 31 9:00-16:30 Closed: Tuesdays, Wednesdays but except for National Holidays.
Feeding time: around 14:00