|Americas | Asia | Australasia & Pacific | Africa & Middle East | Optics | Books||
Dave Sargeant & Panadda Panthong
24th May – 20th June
This four-week trip followed from the success of a winter visit in January 2003. Our original intention was for, at maximum, a three-week stay. However, whilst planning it quickly became evident that to visit all interesting areas the trip would need four weeks to do them justice. Therefore an itinerary was chosen to cover areas where most of the summer specialities could be found, as well as important outlying islands not previously visited. Hopefully having done one winter and one summer trip the need to return might be eliminated!
For the majority of the first half of the trip we travelled alone. We were later joined by our friend Tom Feild as part of his one-year, round-the-world trip. During our time on the Izu Islands and at Karuizawa we were further joined by Gary and Marlene Babic, who independently had planned a short visit coinciding with ours.
All accommodation, ferry, plane and car reservations were made in advance. The disadvantage of doing this was a lack of flexibility in the event that anything unexpected should occur, or we simply wanted to extend our stay at any locality. The advantages however, were that we didn't waste time trying to find or book accommodations, and it limited potential complications arising from language and communication difficulties, which are difficult enough already in Japan.
Due to us living in Oman no local travel agent was able to assist us in pre-booking anything in Japan. Consequently, arrangements were made using a variety of direct contacts, the Internet, and travel agents in both Japan and the USA. Most accommodation, and all ferries, was arranged through Hankyu Express in Osaka. However, this was done for us as a special arrangement as our previous trip had used this company via Sarus Bird Tours in the UK who utilise them for their Japan travel arrangements. Hankyu did an excellent job of the arrangements including sending us translated ferry timetables – it is a pity they deal with tour companies only. Vouchers and tickets were waiting for us on arrival in Japan.
We continue to be impressed with Japan – things work, run on time, and it is an incredibly safe country in which to travel. We found the Japanese people very service-oriented, friendly and polite. It was also nice to meet local birders, even though the language difficulties usually meant resorting to pointing at plates in the field guide. We enjoyed the trip immensely and would thoroughly recommend Japan to others.
Based on the past, it is still somewhat a pre-conceived idea that Japan is prohibitively expensive. For sure it is expensive, but by sharing costs, not eating in expensive restaurants and staying in more moderate accommodation, the costs are comparable to some western European countries.
A GPS was frequently used. Throughout this report, where useful, waypoints are referred to; coordinates of these appear in the table at the end.
For further information contact Dave Sargeant: akalat [at] gmail.com
Getting there - Flights and Visa
The main Japanese cities are well served by a variety of international airlines. We took Thai Airways into Osaka via Bangkok. Many airlines fly to both Osaka and Tokyo and will allow an open-jaw for the same price as a straightforward return. This is useful as it can save at least one domestic flight, although on this occasion we flew both into and out of Osaka. Be aware that both Osaka and Tokyo have two airports, both of which are used for domestic flights. As airport tax is included with domestic tickets there is no separate collection of an airport tax on departure. This applies to some international flights as well.
Visas are not required of most European, Australian or US passport holders. A 90-day tourist visa is granted on arrival. Other passport holders are usually issued a 90-day visa which should be applied for from the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.
During our visit the exchange rate was approximately 110 ¥ (Yen) to the US$. Somewhat surprisingly we received a better rate at Osaka airport terminal than at one of the high street banks in Kyoto. Note that most ATM machines will not accept foreign cards, and it might be difficult to find one that works other than at international airports, at least not without major effort. The exact reasons for this are unclear, but our Japanese travel agent pre-warned us about it. We encountered severe difficulties on Hokkaido where, eventually after trying Kushiro airport, several department stores, and banks, we found one machine that worked in Rausu post office. It's very likely also that withdrawal amounts will be limited. Despite its high-tech image, credit cards are not widely accepted in Japan. Do not rely on being able to use one other than for major expenses such as hotels, car rental or expensive restaurants.
Health, Safety and Hassles
No problems at all on this front. The main issue we faced was our inability to communicate effectively.
The only areas we had problems with mosquitoes were nights on Mikurajima (Izu Islands) and damp woodlands and marshes of Hokkaido. Being June, and hence only late spring on Hokkaido, mosquitoes were only just beginning to emerge, and are probably considerably worse later. We also encountered a few ticks in undergrowth of Shiretoko National Park on Hokkaido. Snakes were surprisingly common, especially on Mikurajima, and we encountered a variety of species almost daily.
If arriving from a tropical destination at the main airports you are required to fill in a health card, presumably to assist the tracing of people in the event of a public health problem; not a bad idea considering the outbreak of SARS a few years ago. Tap water is safe to drink everywhere, and hygiene standards are way above what most westerners would consider the norm.
Car Rental and Driving
Our car rentals on Kyushu, Honshu and Hokkaido were pre-booked through Hertz via their USA toll-free numbers. Despite our previous hassles with Hertz (see Sargeant et al. 2003 report) where we swore never to use them again, their prices were slightly cheaper than Avis. Note that Hertz itself does not operate directly in Japan, but in agreement with Toyota Rent-a-Car. Car rental offices do not necessarily operate outside of normal office hours, and this should be checked and taken into consideration when planning an itinerary. Our car rental costs were:
One excellent feature of all the cars we rented was the fitting of GPS navigational systems as standard. These proved incredibly accurate and made getting around a real doddle. The system was invaluable when driving right through the centre of Tokyo en route between Hakone and Narita. However, the market has yet to mature sufficiently for a dual language interface, so it's necessary to get to grips with the all-Japanese interface and buttons before heading-off. Models differ, but only four functions are necessary to work out: zoom in/out, pan, reset, an how to switch off the irritating Japanese lady presumably telling you to turn left, turn right, watch the junction, etc.
In Japan's service-oriented society, 99% of petrol stations are attended service. However, we did encounter one Jomo station near Tokyo that was self-service, "cards only" and even had no staff in attendance. Normally we would have driven to the next station. However, on this occasion we were very low on fuel. Fortunately a local truck driver gave us assistance in selecting fuel and running an American Express card through the Japanese-only system. Unleaded petrol ranged between 103 and 110 ¥/litre.
Due to extensive urbanisation, particularly on Honshu, and consequentially an abundance of traffic lights, motoring around Japan is far from speedy. Speed limits are low when compared to European roads. To make decent times driving between destinations it is essential to use the toll roads and expressways. Unfortunately tolls on these are very steep. We paid the following:
An International Driving Permit is essential. The number of drivers on the rental agreement does not seem an issue, and anyone with a valid licence can drive. As a general tip, try to limit long drives; progress is generally slow and the ubiquitous traffic lights at what feels like every junction, become quite irritating.
Being such a large country with potentially many islands to cover, almost all birders will end up flying at least some of their itinerary. Although domestic airfares are potentially expensive, this can be circumvented by making use of the JAL or ANA "visit Japan" air pass deals, details of which are available on their websites.
These air passes, only available to foreign visitors, must be purchased outside Japan. During our stay we flew four sectors, each costing around 11,200 ¥. An additional sector from Sapporo to Kushiro, cost around $135 if I remember correctly, and had to be purchased locally. One oddity of all the internal flights we took was that no food was served.
Note that you should retain your domestic and international baggage tags, as they are verified before you are able to leave the arrivals hall. This seems strangely at odds with the honesty experienced throughout Japan.
Not only does ferry travel enable some cost saving, by combining overnight accommodation and travel, it also offers some of the most exciting birding in Japan. Seabirds and marine mammals vary enormously with the season, but unless poor weather prevents birding, most visitors should see a fair selection of albatross, shearwater, and petrel species from the decks, some of which are hard to see elsewhere in the world.
The principle problem is that none of the ferry companies has websites with English content. At the time of writing the Izu Islands ferry operates daily out of Tokyo departing 22h30 and the Tomakomai (Hokkaido) ferry operates out of Oarai twice daily at 18h30 and 23h30 but with no sailings on Sundays. The Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands ferry operates out of Tokyo every five to seven days departing 10h30. Ferry company office contacts as follows:
Ogasawara Kaiun Ferry (Tokyo/Chichijima/Tokyo) Tel: (03) 3451-5171
Tokai Kisen Ferry (Tokyo/Mikurajima/Tokyo) Tel: (03) 5472-9999
Shosen Mitsui Ferry (Oarai/Tomakomai) Tel: (029) 267-4133
Other Miscellaneous Information
We found obtaining a good bi-lingual map in advance to be difficult. The best road atlas is the 1:250,000 Japan Road Atlas published by Shobunsha. We purchased a copy in the bookshop situated on the 4th floor of the arrivals Terminal 1 in Narita Airport. The price was 3,000 ¥ in 2003.
Post offices were available and efficient, and are generally locatable on the in-car GPS systems. Even in airports they only opened normal business hours.
Japan has a dearth of Internet cafés, other than at airport terminals. Beware of keyboard mapping difficulties. Snappy Internet telephones were available in some airports, which even though allowing keyboard mapping in either Japanese, Korean or English still gave problems. None of the tourist hotels we stayed in had Internet facilities.
The electrical supply is Japan is somewhat unusual, being 100V, 60Hz. Plugs are the flat, two-pin type commonly used in the USA.
We stayed at a variety of tourist hotels and bed and breakfast guesthouses (minshuku in Japanese). Most were pre-booked and paid in advance, and many included meals. This is probably a good idea for evening meals as buying them separately at a restaurant proves expensive. However we skipped breakfast just about everywhere, except Furen, as it was served too late (usually 07h00 – 10h00) and the hotels too distant from birding sites to make going out after, or popping back later, a viable option. By far the best value accommodations are the minshuku, as these include always include good Japanese meals (breakfast and dinner) and usually have larger rooms than hotels. Bathroom facilities are shared. Most have washing machine facilities. Additionally they offer the added attraction of staying with Japanese families, many of who seem to find it quite engaging to welcome foreigners into their homes. Other than at better hotels, towels are not generally provided, so bring one from home. During our visit we stayed at the following:
Osaka Itami Airport Hotel. Located inside the airport terminal of Itami domestic airport. We chose this purely for its convenience due to our late night arrival and early departure the following morning. The rooms were typically small, and the price typically expensive at 17,400 ¥/double. However, it was quiet and we slept well. Address: 3-555, Hotarugaike-nishimachi, Toyonaka-shi, Osaka Pref. 560-0036. Tel: (06) 6-6855-4621. Fax: (06) 6-6855-4620.
Kirishima Kokusai Hotel, Kyushu. This somewhat fancy middle-class ryokan (hot spring) hotel is located conveniently between Kagoshima airport and Mi-ike. 10,650 ¥/pp, including excellent Japanese dinners. This was just up the road from the identically priced Kirishima Castle Hotel where we stayed during our previous visit. The location is about 25 minutes driving time from Mi-ike. The Ebino-kogen (plateau), to the north can be reached in a similar time. Although large, the hotel was quiet, had good rooms and comfortable beds. Neither this or the Kirishima Castle Hotel have the name signed in English, so if in doubt, ask. Address: 3930, Takachiho, Matsuzono-cho, Aira-gun, Kagoshima Pref. 899-6603. Tel: (09) 95-78-2621. Fax: (09) 95-78-3139.
Hotel Villa Fontaine, Tokyo. This "cheaper" business hotel is excellently located within walking distance of Hamamatsucho JR/Monorail station and fairly close to the Takeshiba ferry terminal. It is also extremely well connected to the Haneda domestic airport, as the Monorail train runs directly between Hamamatsucho station and Haneda airport. The price was 11,500 ¥/double including a basic continental breakfast. Address: 1-6-5, Shiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0014. Tel: (03) 5339-1200 for reservations, or (03) 5730-6660 direct. Fax: (03) 5730-6700.
Overnight ferry from Tokyo to Ogasawara Islands. Due to the price, almost no one will travel anything other than standard second class on this ship (22,570 ¥/pp one-way). Facilities are good, and include hot showers. On boarding, each person is allocated a numbered space on the communal floor, consisting of two blankets, and a leather brick (pillow in Japanese). The overhead lights are turned out at 22h00 and typically everyone is quiet, and sleeping not difficult. Food in the café was expensive and we didn't try it, as we carried our own food on board. As with all ferries in Japan, vending machines sell a variety of drinks and noodles and boiling water is available in a centrally located urn.
Minshuku Tsuki, Hahajima. This was the nicest minshuku at which we stayed. Both the facilities and food were excellent, and although the owner spoke little English we felt very welcome and enjoyed our stay here. 6,825 ¥/pp. The village around the port has three small supermarkets. Address: Motoji, Hahajima, Ogasawara-mura, Tokyo 100-2211. Tel: 04998-3-2040. Fax: 04998-3-7100. The minshuku is just off the port road at waypoint TSUKI.
Minshuku To-o-ya, Mikurajima. 7,500 ¥/pp. Mikurajima, being almost completely undeveloped, has limited accommodation, consisting only of a few minshuku and one small hotel. This minshuku was the poorest value of those where we stayed and the food was not particularly exciting. It was a novelty for the owner that we were the first foreigners ever to stay here, and as usual we were made to feel very welcome. They provided lunches at 600 ¥/pp. As there is no car rental facility on the island we rented the owners own small, rather beaten up, van – for which we were charged only 2,000 ¥/day. Tel and fax: (04994) 82281.
Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo. 19,700 ¥ for a triple. Another business hotel with good facilities, that was also quite well located for access to Takeshiba Ferry terminal and Hamamatsucho JR/Monorail station. It is also served by a Narita Airport bus several times daily. The staff spoke good English. We gave the restaurant a miss, as it looked expensive. Address: 1-5-10, Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011. Tel: (03) 3433-4141. Fax: (03) 3433-4142.
Hotel Route Inn, Karuizawa. 12,600 ¥/double. One of a chain of Route Inn hotels across Honshu, and typical of its class. Rather uninspiring and characterless in general, but the price was reasonable, and Green Pheasant would appear to be rather easily found in the adjacent fields. The facilities included washing machines and dryer (in the communal bathroom – onsen in Japanese), but the restaurant was rather basic and the food worth missing – don't eat here. This hotel is situated just south of Route 18 a few km west of Karuizawa - waypoint KARINN. Address: 2037-1, Miyota, Miyota-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano Pref. 389-0206. Tel: (0267) 321-011. Fax: (0267) 321-012.
Quatre Saisons, Hakone, Honshu. 4,770 ¥/pp. It would have been nicer to stay closer to the Hakone National Park, although accommodation around the lake looked expensive. The Quatre Saisons was certainly nicely located, with our room perched high above the river from where we could observe Japanese Wagtail and Brown Dipper almost without getting out of bed. From here to Ashi-no-ko (Ashi-no Lake) was a 25-minute drive. Price-wise, this was one of the better value accommodations at which we stayed. Breakfast however was served only between 08h00 and 09h00 and dinner in the restaurant was priced higher than we were prepared to pay. Address: 120, Tonosawa, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Pref. 250-0315. Tel: (04) 60-5-6531.
Overnight ferry from Oarai to Tomakomai, Hokkaido. 6,500 ¥/pp, or 9,000/pp for 2nd class cabins. This was the largest and most comfortable ferry on which we travelled. We paid the additional 2,500 ¥ for 2nd class bedded accommodation (eight beds, with sheet/mattress, to a room), which was well worth it as the communal areas appeared uncharacteristically noisy and crowded. The restaurant, which we had not tried on our previous visit, served reasonably priced and quite good Japanese food. Use of the restaurant was straightforward. At the entrance many of the dishes are presented as wax models. Simply read the Japanese characters and compare them to the selections on the adjacent ticket machine. Once you have purchased your ticket simply hand it to one of the restaurant staff.
Lodge Fuhren (Minshuku Furen), the minshuku of Matsuo-san, Hokkaido. This is one of the birders' standard places, mentioned in both bird-finding guides. Finding it is not straightforward, as it isn't signed at all except once you reach the house, where a small sign in Japanese only can be seen on the door. It is located, at waypoint MATSUO, just before the Nature Centre at the eastern end of Furen Lake. The place has a nice atmosphere with good Japanese food and flexible mealtimes. The homemade saké, and six types of homemade jam at breakfast were especially memorable. Takeyoshi Matsuo himself is a keen birder and naturalist, and has excellent knowledge of where to find the local specialities. In the summer, earplugs are a good idea if you don't wish to be woken up by barking dogs at 03h30. The price was 6,200 ¥/pp. Address: 213-7, Tobai, Nemuro, Hokkaido 086-0074. Tel and fax: (0153) 253919. Email: matsuo-t [at] plum.plala.or.jp
Minshuku Washi-no-yado, Rausu, Hokkaido. This minshuku is located just east of Rausu at the base of forested hillsides. Incredibly, you really can see Blakiston's Fish-Owl without getting out of bed! The owner has capitalised on attracting Japanese photographers by feeding and habituating a local pair of Blakiston's Fish-Owl, that now visit the stream outside the minshuku almost nightly. The owls are also accustomed to flash, which makes this an idea place for anyone interested in photographing this impressive, rare owl. Foreign birders do not seem to have visited much, if at all, preferring to try for the owl around Furen. This must be the place to come – highly recommended. It is probably easiest to arrange staying here through Matsuo-san at Furen, as the owner speaks no English. The price was similar to Lodge Fuhren. Address: Minshuku Washi-no-yado, 6, Kyoei-tyo, Rausu-tyo, Menashi-gun, Hokkaido, 086-1816. Tel: (01538) 7-2877. Fax: (01538) 7-3093.
Kyoto Dai-Ni Tower 2 Hotel, Kyoto, Honshu. 11,550 ¥/double. Situated conveniently close, within three minutes walk, to Kyoto central railway station, this is one of the standard tourist hotels in central Kyoto. The hotel was pleasant and quiet enough. However, it definitely possessed the smallest bathroom that I have ever seen, anywhere, with bath, toilet and shower crammed into a box measuring 4 feet x 5 feet and a ceiling less than 6 feet high – totally amazing. Breakfast was not included but was available at a breakfast buffet for 1,700 ¥. Consequently we ate at local eating establishments around central Kyoto. Address: 7 jo-sagaru, Higashinotoin-dori, shimogyo-ku, Kiyoto 600-8216. Tel: (075) 361-3261. Fax: (075) 351-6281.
Food varied from excellent to unexciting. Generally, the minshuku offered the best Japanese food that we ate, although some items we struggled to identify. Despite staying at several hotels catering to western tourists, we encountered little in the way of western meals, so be prepared to eat Japanese most of the time, unless you buy your own ingredients from a supermarket. At most minshuku be prepared to eat not only Japanese food, but to sit on the floor. This is a potential problem for those with old or stiff knees! Chopsticks are the norm of course, though spoons can always be requested.
Restaurants looked expensive and we never dined in them other than those where we had already pre-paid and included with the accommodation. As might be expected there is a heavy bias to fish, seaweed, rice and green tea. Natto (fermented soy beans), frequently served, is a delight we never came to appreciate. We would suggest bringing some snacks from home – cereal bars, dried fruit etc. to supplement what can be found in local supermarkets. Fruits and vegetables were readily available but always expensive. Decent, wholemeal bread was impossible to find. Beer was reasonably priced and available freely in convenience stores or often at vending machines. On the mainland the price varied from about 220 ¥, in supermarkets, to 300 ¥ from vending machines.
Some of the best places for a quick, cheap, tasty meals are the fast food noodle and rice bowl places found in most towns - the Yoshinoya chain was one we used frequently, where prices ranged from 300-500 ¥ for a "pork bowl" (rice covered with pork cooked in sauce). All of these places had pictorial menus that made ordering easy.
In the convenience food line, stores such as the Lawson Stations, Family Mart and 7-11s, served French fries, fried chicken and a line of local fried items. Noodles and noodle soup were similarly available. These stores also sold many ready-prepared meals – mostly Japanese style rice and fish, but also salads – which were reasonable value at 400-600 ¥/meal. All shops had a microwave for heating such meals. MacDonald's, Wendy's, KFC and the like were found only in larger cities.
One novel way to eat free is to visit supermarkets in larger towns. These frequently place morsels and titbits out for customers to sample in an attempt to entice them into purchases. A few turns around the shelves can provide quite a selection. You'll certainly leave less hungry than on entry!
Every hotel room had tea, coffee and a kettle enabling us to fill flasks each morning and the ferries had urns of boiling water. This enabled us to make coffee/tea/soup/noodles anywhere.
Few people speak English, other than airline staff and a few staff at hotels accustomed to dealing with foreigners. The one exception to this was Tokyo, where many of the shopkeepers and restaurant staff spoke passable English. A phrase book was very handy. In part we were lucky, as Tom had previously worked in Japan and new the basics of the language. This helped out enormously with some of the more complex requests, such as on Mikurajima where we had great difficulties understanding why a guide was needed for certain areas of the island.
As we covered Japan from the sub-tropical south to the temperate northeast we experienced a large range of climatic conditions. With Japan's weather being so variable, timing of any spring/summer visit to Japan will invariably require a fair degree of luck to avoid inclement weather at some point. Our visit was no exception, and although we experienced good weather in the south and north, we had to contend with rain every day during the week on Honshu. We were fortunate in leaving Japan when we did as the day following our departure a typhoon struck, delaying flights and ferries.
On Kyushu the weather was sunny with variable cloud cover and temperatures of 21-25°C by day. On the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands the weather was sunny but humid, with variable amounts of cloud cover and daytime temperatures of 28-30°C. On Honshu we unfortunately experienced a week of varying amounts of rain, low cloud and cool, overcast conditions, with a temperature around 25°C. Not surprisingly the weather on higher parts of Mount Fuji was cold, wet, windy, and generally miserable. Hokkaido was generally pleasant with blue skies, strong sun, and clear air. However, a strong northerly wind made the 10–15°C temperatures appear much cooler.
Given the vagaries of Japan's weather, timing a summer trip can be tricky. Timing is complicated by Japan's short rainy season that occurs in the early part of summer. Rain moves slowly northward, making any trip covering most latitudes at this time almost destined to run into rain. Spring and autumn are the driest, but potentially too early or too late for many summer birds. We felt it was important to visit at peak song activity, as well as trying to avoid the oppressive summer heat and humidity of Honshu, and minimising the likelihood of typhoon activity from mid-summer onward. We felt late May to early June to be optimal. Useful weather data for trip planning, anywhere in the world, can be found at the World Climate website.
During our visit, daylight hours varied from about 05h15 to 18h30 in the far south, to 03h45 to 19h30 on Hokkaido. These timings made for many bleary-eyed, early morning starts into the field. Somewhat surprisingly Japan does not invoke summer time.
Wild Bird Society of Japan (1982). A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan. Despite its age and somewhat dated taxonomy, this still remains the main English language field guide to Japan. Although some of the plates leave something to be desired, identification of most of Japan's birds is possible.
Lee, W.S, Koo T-H, and Park, J-Y. (2000). A Field Guide to the Birds of Korea. LG Evergreen Foundation. Useful but not essential.
Brazil, M.A. (1987). A Birdwatcher's Guide to Japan. Kodansha Institute and Wild Bird Society of Japan. We found the directions and maps still accurate.
Robinson, J.W, (1987). A Birder's Guide to Japan. Ibis Publishing Co. Either of these two birding guides is useful for general overviews and directions, although we felt the Brazil book to be slightly more useful and had better maps.
M.A. Brazil (1991). The Birds of Japan. Helm.
Collar, N.J (editor) (2000). Threatened Birds of the World. BirdLife International, Lynx Ediciones and BirdLife International.
Clements, J.F. (2000). Birds of the World: A checklist. Ibis Publishing Co.
Snakes. There is an interesting website with photographs of Japan's snake species.
Lonely Planet Guide (1997). Japan. Useful for pre-trip planning and especially many of the maps once in Japan.
Unfortunately, unlike for winter trips, there appears to be a complete lack of comprehensive trip reports for spring and summer. However, a number of useful reports and web postings were gathered, with the following being of most use:
Sargeant, D.E., Cooper. J., Fairbank, R., and King, J. (2003). Japan Birding Trip Report. 11-26 January 2003.
Danzenbaker, J. (1999). Japan, May 24 – June 21, 1999. This was the most useful report as the dates coincided with our visit.
Lehto, H.J. (1997). Birdtrip report to Japan. 15-Aug to 28 Aug 1997.
Anderson, B. (2002). Japan "from palm-trees to pack ice" 20 February-6 March.
Birding Guide in Japan. A useful overview of sites and species.
WorldTwitch. A search of the World Birding Discussion Board produced messages on finding Izu endemics.
Ueda, Hideo (1999). 283 Wild Bird Songs of Japan. 3 CDs with recordings of 283 bird species, with two booklets: one in Japanese and one in English.
Kabaya, Tsuruhiko and Matsuda, Michio (2001). The Songs and Calls of 420 Birds in Japan". Six CDs with recordings of 420 birds, and a 447-page book. The book has photos and sonograms, main text in Japanese (with English and scientific species names), and indexes of scientific and English names to the CD tracks.
Both are available from birdsongs.com.
In addition to the authors of the trips reports we used, we would like to thank Chris Cook, Koji Tagi, Nigel Moorhouse, and Joe Tobias who answered queries concerning the birds of Japan. Special thanks go to Dr. Kei Ueda who provided information on Mikurajima, and made the necessary arrangements for our visit there. Additionally we would like to thank our travelling companions who made the trip so enjoyable, especially Tom Feild, whose command of Japanese really enhanced the trip.
In general we saw what we expected, although we were very surprised at how scarce and difficult some supposedly "common" species were to find. The weather on Honshu probably contributed to come of these difficulties. The main disappointments were our inability to find Pleske's Warbler on Mikurajima and the lack of Band-rumped Storm-petrel from the Hokkaido ferry, which should have been common at this time. The comments below are intended to add to information provided in any of the references listed above, either to update or add to that provided, and should be read in conjunction with them.
Almost all our time here was spent walking the trails to, and within, the Wild Bird Forest as outlined in Brazil. Narcissus Flycatcher was common. Only one pair of Fairy Pitta was found, in the area about one third of the way up the trail to the observation hut in the Wild Bird Forest. At the top, close to the hut is an obvious intersection where five trials meet. Walking the graded track here for about 2.5 km brings you into a good area for Copper Pheasant [Click here for map]. A morning along this section of trail produced a single male Copper Pheasant. In two days of searching we only located one pair of Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher, quite close to the car parking area above the campsite. Japanese Green Woodpecker was found both along the trails and around the campsite by the lake. White-backed Woodpecker was fairly easily found, while other common species included Japanese Bush-Warbler and Varied Tit. A small group of Ryukyu Minivet regularly passed the car parking area.
About 15 km north of Kirishima the main road passes across the Ebino Tableland (plateau). This is a popular tourist area with plenty of trails and preserved forest around the lakes that occur in the area. Although not specifically mentioned as a specific birding locality the forest holds plenty of birds. Oriental Cuckoo was heard and Red-billed Leiothrix was very common. Other species seen included Bull-headed Shrike and Meadow Bunting. We walked the trails around Lakes Rokkannon and Onami.
Tokyo to Chichijima, Ogasawara Islands Ferry
The 28-hour trip from Tokyo to Chichijima, 1,000 km to the south, must be considered one of the most exciting ferry journeys in the world. One can expect a good variety of species from this ferry, as during the first half the ferry passes through temperate cold waters, followed during the second half through warmer tropical waters. The main attractions of this trip are the possibilities of seeing Short-tailed Albatross (winter breeder only), Matsudaira's Storm-petrel and Bonin Petrel. Common species include Short-tailed Shearwater, Streaked Shearwater, Bulwer's Petrel, and Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Other possibilities include Tristram's Storm-petrel, Bannerman's Shearwater, Brown Booby, and Red-tailed Tropicbird to name a few. For those interested, the route taken is mapped as waypoints –TAKESH, SEA, SEA2, SEA3, SEA4, SEA5, SEA6, CHICHI.
Chichijima to Hahajima, Ogasawara Islands Ferry
This local ferry ploughs the route between the two islands almost daily with a two-hour crossing time. The cost is 3,700 ¥ each way. The tropical waters here are usually good for Matsudaira's Storm-petrel, Bulwer's Petrel, Brown Noddy and Wedge-tailed Shearwater. To our surprise, on the two crossings we made, we saw very little.
Hahajima, Ogasawara Islands
As the Tokyo – Chichijima ferry always stays three days in port at Chichijima, it is necessary to spend these nights on either Chichijima or Hahajima or a combination of the two. For birders the more interesting is Hahajima, as the endemic Bonin Island Honeyeater is common there. Formerly this aberrant species, which is probably a white-eye, also occurred on Chichijima, but has not been seen for many years. The relaxing island of Hahajima is an excellent place to spend a few days. Not only is the honeyeater common, but it also harbours endemic races of Common Buzzard, Grey-headed Greenfinch, Brown-eared Bulbul, Japanese Bush-Warbler and Japanese Wood-Pigeon (now very rare). One paved road runs the length of the island, and there are walking trails up to the highest peak (245 m.), as well as through low forest at the southern end of the forest. Along these well-marked southern trails we found Scaly Thrush to be relatively common. The Brown Booby colony at Minamizaki held a single Red-footed Booby. Snorkelling and diving possibilities abound on both Hahajima and Chichijima, and "swimming with dolphins" is a local speciality.
Birders seeking the Izu Islands' endemics and specialities previously visited adjacent Miyakijima. However, since a severe volcanic eruption on that island a few years back, the island has been evacuated and no visits are currently permitted. Seemingly this has made finding Pleske's Warbler almost impossible (no information at time of writing on any reliable observations or localities). A few birders have visited Hachijojima, which harbours the specialities and looks likely for Pleske's Warbler. We visited the island of Mikurajima, based on the recommendation of Dr. Kei Ueda. This island appears to have been largely ignored by both birders and tourists alike and is still pristine and undeveloped, with forest covering at least 99% of the island. Finding most specialities proved easy, and according to Kei, Pleske's Warbler occurs in small numbers. However, we spent two days searching intently without success. The main problem is that the island is totally forested, on very steep slopes, with only a very few areas (mainly old landslides) where any grass habitat exists. If Pleske's Warbler does occur, then finding habitat would be the key. In contrast, the island of Miyakijima has large areas along the southwest coast of flat grassland. No wonder birders went there previously! Logistics are a small issue on Mikurajima, especially for non Japanese-speaking visitors, as no car rental is available. However, the main specialities can readily be found by simply walking out of town along the forested roads. Izu Thrush and Ijima's Leaf-Warbler were common. Japanese Robin was less frequent, but still readily found by voice. We also heard Japanese Scops-Owl directly behind our minshuku in town.
We followed the directions in Brazil, which are still accurate. An open hide has now been constructed just off the main road on the western side of the bridge. Here one will also find large photographs of the main specialities as well as a board with pushbuttons to hear tape recordings. A couple of paths wind out around the marsh from this point. Japanese Reed-Bunting and Black-browed Reed-Warbler are seen easily from the hide area, and we eventually found Japanese Swamp-Warbler displaying from here as well. Schrenck's Bittern is indicated on the board, but it is not clear if this rare breeder is regular. We had insufficient time to explore the area completely.
We spent the majority of our time at Karuizawa walking the Kose-rindo track along the river, as well as the trails that lead into the forest on the eastern side of it. We found the birding very slow going, probably due, in the most part to the wet overcast weather experienced the whole of our stay here. Our best success was disturbing a Japanese Night-Heron by the river, although subsequent attempts to relocate it on successive days were unsuccessful. Stub-tailed Warbler was fairly common by voice, and we recorded Grey and Siberian Thrush and a single Japanese Green Woodpecker. The only other area we worked was the gardens and housing areas along the Yagasakigawa river as mentioned in Brazil. Narcissus Flycatcher was fairly common in this area. We found Green Pheasant in the fields around the Route Inn Hotel west of town - waypoint KARINN. We had two males calling from exposed earth mounds early morning, so they are presumably regular in this area. Azure-winged Magpie was regularly seen along the main road west of Karuizawa.
We started our birding along the track (actually a paved road without vehicle access) along the eastern shore of the Ashi-no-ko, and especially inside the Jomoku-en (botanical garden/arboretum), which at this time of year was deserted. Our main aim was to find Japanese Yellow Bunting, but we failed to even hear any. A couple of tame Green Pheasant were feeding in the grounds, and this is probably a very good locality to see this species. Other than that the only birds of note were Scaly Thrush and Japanese Wagtail. We also scanned the lake edges for Mandarin but could find none. After two attempts along the eastern shore we switched our attention to the trail along the northwestern shore. Initially we had problems to locate this track due to the entrance gate being locked, so initially we accidentally worked the hills above the lake. The track along the western shore starts just past the dam [Click here for map]. This track was far more productive than the eastern side, with three Japanese Yellow Bunting found, as well as Hwamei. Having finished birding around the lake we attempted to locate the Sengokubara area, as mentioned in Brazil, for Chestnut-eared Bunting and Latham's Snipe. Either the road layout has changed, or the directions are unclear, as we could not find the exact area as indicated in Brazil. However, a good area of grassland and a small marshland are found along the road about 3.5 km north of Ashi-no-ko, at waypoint SENGKO. A good track ascends through the grassland, where Chestnut-eared Bunting was fairly common. Latham's Snipe was not found, but the strong winds made viewing difficult. Green Pheasant were calling from the trees behind the marsh.
The Hakone Shisseikaen (Botanical garden)
We only discovered this early morning on our last day, having seen it from the main road. From a distance the habitat looked interesting, as it appeared to include native marshland. We suspected the garden protects important marshland plants. Unfortunately the opening times, 09h00 – 16h30, prevented us from exploring. For anyone with a few hours to spare it might be worthwhile checking out (see Hakone map).
We were beaten by the weather on Fuji. We birded along both the eastern and southern routes up the mountain. Stopping along the road is difficult, so you will necessarily be restricted to the few pull-ins and parking areas. In our experience we'd agree with Brazil that the eastern Umagaeshi road is the better. Walking the forest trails from the car parking area at the end of this road produced Northern Hawk-Cuckoo, Orange-flanked Bluetail, and Arctic Warbler. Food can be found at kiosks/cafés at the end of both routes.
The Ferry Crossing from Oarai to Tomakomai
If one had more time we would recommend taking the ferry both ways. The crossing takes approximately 18 hours, depending on the sea condition, so by leaving at 18h30 there are fewer daylight hours. Leaving at midnight would ensure at least 12 hours birding. As well as birds, interesting marine mammals can be observed – in addition to the numerous Northern Fur Seals we saw a pod of six Killer Whales.
Furen and its surroundings have a unique and wild characteristic feeling making it, for me, one of the most absorbing areas in Japan. The three days here really were insufficient to fully explore and appreciate the area. Plenty of specialities can be found, though many are difficult to locate. In the immediate vicinity of Minshuku Furen at the eastern end of Furen-ko lies the Shunkunitai with its salt marsh and woodland. We explored this area as well as the forest around the adjacent Nature Centre. Gray's Warbler, Black-browed Reed-Warbler and Middendorff's Warbler were common. Lanceolated Warbler was only seen along the boardwalk next to the main forest on the Shunkunitai. We also heard Black Woodpecker here. A walk in the forest at the Nature Centre produced several Sakhalin Leaf-Warbler and Eastern Crowned Warbler. The Blakiston's Fish-Owl situation needs sorting out and clarifying, as it appears to be very difficult to rely on being taken to a roost site or feeding station by a local guide and is probably frowned upon locally. We noted that all trip reports were rather vague on detail as to how to arrange a local to escort you to these owls. Visibility at the standard site, the Hattoushi Bridge, is not particularly good, especially in the summer with leaves on all trees. We tried one night, but heard nothing. A better option, for those with time, is to visit Rausu (see below) where chances are much greater.
Our primary aim here was to look for Spectacled Guillemot, which we found on the first attempt, seeing a pair near the easterly point at Megane Iwa.
A few birds of the dwindling population of Tufted Puffin breeding in Japan can usually be found around the small island in the east of Biwase Bay just south of Kiritappu town. The situation is obviously becoming more desperate for these puffins, as plastic decoys have been placed on the island as well as "feeding" ones in sea to try to encourage them to breed. We obtained distant views of a pair just beyond the island when viewing from the headland. We also explored forest inland and a few kilometres north of Kiritappu as we drove back – although we saw very little.
Rausu and Shiretoko National Park
Our primary objective in visiting Rausu was to find Grey Bunting and Blakiston's Fish-Owl. The owl proved easy, while in contrast the bunting very difficult. We birded several localities, each with interesting species. The scenery was excellent. We based ourselves at the Minshuku Washi-no-yado just east of Rausu [Click here for Rausu map]. As mentioned in the accommodation section above, Blakiston's Fish-Owl feeds at the stream outside the minshuku almost nightly. Given the amount of snow likely here in winter we would have no idea how accessible it might be then. Brazil mentions the trail from Kumanoyu to Rausudake as being good for Grey Bunting. The short road opposite the onsen accesses the campsite, 3.7 kilometres from town. This trail starts behind the buildings next to the car park and continues, quite steeply into forest. Although we spent several hours on the trail we failed to find Grey Bunting. Continuing on the main road, past the onsen, toward the mountain pass, check the river for Long-billed Plover and Mandarin Duck. The pass, 17 km from Rausu [Click here for Shiretoko map and here for Shiretoko photo] has impressive scenery, and despite the crowds, is supposed to be a good place to find Japanese Accentor. Due to the biting wind, we worked the low forest and scrub from the road on the western slope below the pass. Grey Bunting was eventually located about 1.3 km down from the pass in dense low forest that was difficult to access. We also hiked the trail to the west of the road, 3.3 km from the top. Much of this was still covered in snow, which made walking, as well as keeping to the trail, difficult. We saw few birds along this trail, although one brief blur was probably an accentor.
Not strictly a birding site, but likely a site to be visited from a cultural perspective. We were actually somewhat disappointed with the temples of Kyoto. Maybe we had expected too much, but after the temples of Thailand we found Kyoto rather bland. The best way of getting around Kyoto is by bus. The first priority should be to visit the Tourist Information Centre for Foreigners, which is located on the 9th floor of the Itesan department store in the shopping centre within Kyoto Central Railway Station, where one can obtain city and bus route maps. They also have good Internet facilities - hard to find elsewhere. The next priority should be to purchase a one-day city bus pass from the main bus terminal office immediately outside the train station. For 500 ¥ you can travel anywhere in the city limits and is good value.
In generally we were very happy with the itinerary we followed, and how the trip worked out with limited difficulties and hassles. It would probably be difficult to have made it more efficient or visited more sites without sacrificing something somewhere or dipping on a key bird. When planning an itinerary, it would be a good idea to plan around the ferries. This is especially true for visiting the Ogasawara (Bonin) islands, as the ferry operates only weekly.
Sun 23 May Depart Muscat to Bangkok.
Mon 24 May Connection to Osaka. Bus from Osaka KIX to Osaka ITM airport.
Tue 25 May Flight to Kagoshima. Drive to Kirishima. Afternoon at Mi-ike.
Wed 26 May Mi-ike.
Thu 27 May Morning at Mi-ike. Afternoon on Ebino Plateau
Fri 28 May Morning at Mi-ike. Flight to Tokyo. Train to central Tokyo.
Sat 29 May Ferry to Chichijima, Ogasawara Islands
Sun 30 May Continued ferry to Chichijima and ferry to Hahajima
Mon 31 May Hahajima
Tue 01 Jun Hahajima
Wed 02 Jun Ferry to Chichijima. Ferry to Tokyo.
Thu 03 Jun Continued ferry to Tokyo. Late ferry to Mikurajima, Izu Islands.
Fri 04 Jun Continued ferry to Mikurajima. Afternoon on Mikurajima.
Sat 05 Jun Mikurajima.
Sun 06 Jun Ferry to Tokyo.
Mon 07 Jun Train to Narita. Drive to Ukishima marsh. Drive to Karuizawa.
Tue 08 Jun Karuizawa.
Wed 09 Jun Morning at Karuizawa. Drive to Hakone.
Thu 10 Jun Hakone.
Fri 11 Jun Mount Fuji
Sat 12 Jun Morning at Hakone. Drive to Narita. Train to Oarai. Ferry to Tomakomai.
Sun 13 Jun Continued ferry. Train, subway, taxi to Sapporo. Flight to Kushiro. Drive to Furen.
Mon 14 Jun Furen, Ochiishi, Kiritappu.
Tue 15 Jun Furen. Drive to Rausu. Afternoon in Shiretoko National Park.
Wed 16 Jun Shiretoko National Park. Drive to Furen
Thu 17 Jun Furen. Drive to Kushiro. Fly to Osaka. Train to Kyoto.
Fri 18 Jun Kyoto.
Sat 19 Jun Kyoto.
Sun 20 Jun Train to Osaka. Flight to Bangkok and Muscat.
Sun 23rd May
Our late evening flight on Thai Airways to Bangkok via Karachi departed on time. As usual in Karachi, no birds were observed from the plane window due to it being the middle of the night.
Mon 24th May
We landed at Bangkok on schedule, and after a four-hour wait connected easily to the Thai Airways flight to Osaka. Miraculously our baggage made the connection as well. The smooth connection was in stark contrast to the previous trip that experienced a 13-hour delay in Bangkok. Immigration, baggage collection and customs processes in Osaka were incredibly fast, with us having cleared all and changed money in 15 minutes flat from exiting the aircraft. Admittedly at 21h00 at night Osaka KIX airport was hardly busy, but it was impressive nonetheless. At the information desk we were able to purchase a ticket for the transfer bus to Osaka ITM domestic airport (cost 1,700 ¥/pp). The 22h30 bus was actually the last bus of the day, so a later arrival would probably have meant staying locally or taking a taxi to town. The transfer, even at this time of day with little traffic, took an hour, and at 23h30 we were very happy to check into the ITM airport hotel. Although expensive this option allowed us the easiest connection to our domestic flight the following morning as well as a maximum amount of sleep. We collected all our pre-arranged vouchers here as planned.
Tue 25th May
Little did we realise that today's "early" 06h00 start would soon rank as a late lay-in! Having checked-in for our Kagoshima flight we took a small breakfast at one of the terminal coffee shops (1,300 ¥ for a bagel and two coffees). The flight arrived on time at 09h15, and we immediately collected our pre-arranged car from Toyota Rent-a-Car and had driven to the Kirishima Kokusai Hotel by 10h30, although we did have a few problems locating the hotel as the name is only written in Japanese. This area of Japan is famous for its thermal springs, so after check-in one half of us headed for the onsen while the other half headed for Mi-ike to get to grips with the specialities of the area. The 25 km drive to Mi-ike takes only 25 minutes and I arrived there by 12h30, spending all afternoon on the trails around the Wild Bird Forest as mentioned in Brazil. Birding was quite slow, and not surprisingly I failed to find Fairy Pitta. However, Narcissus Flycatcher was fairly common, and Japanese Green Woodpecker and White-backed Woodpecker were seen. I also located a pair of Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher just uphill from the car park, which proved to be the only sighting of the trip. Another highlight was a Racoon Dog seen well on one of the forest trails. I passed plenty of Japanese photographers who seemed to fill the place. Dinner, which was included in the price of the hotel, was a fairly fancy, typically Japanese set meal consisting of at least 10 different varieties and variations on a theme of fish and seaweed. We crashed out rather early, foregoing any nocturnal visits to Mi-ike.
Wed 26th May
In order to attempt to locate Fairy Pitta I thought it prudent to be at Mi-ike as early as possible. This translated into an early 04h15 start that didn't feel so good at the time. Still, as I arrived at Mi-ike just before dawn a young Ural Owl was sitting in the road – just out of the nest and barely able to fly. A nice start to the day! Again I walked the trail up to the Wild Bird Forest, finding similar birds to yesterday, but also nesting Japanese Green Woodpecker. At 06h15 I were surprised to hear a calling Fairy Pitta down slope, not far from the trail. Despite its loud voice, the song is quite ventriloquial and it took several minutes to locate it, very surprising singing from high in the canopy. Reasonable views were obtained of a pair, which was around waypoint PITTA. I then worked the top of the trail system where the habitat looked good for Copper Pheasant, though I failed to locate any. Around 10h00 I returned to the hotel, stocked up on provisions at the local store and we both returned to the forest around 12h00. Almost immediately we encountered a small group of Ryukyu Minivet around the car parking area. Higher up in the forest we had nice views of Japanese Grosbeak. However we failed to relocate the pitta. Once back at the hotel we were again subjected to one of their large dinners, after which we drove back to Mi-ike to try for nocturnal species, particularly Japanese Scops-Owl. The night was quite however, and the only thing of interest were a pair of Badger feeding along the roadside. Driving up on them quietly we obtained excellent views.
Thurs 27th May
Another early start, this time working the top trail for Copper Pheasant. On the way up a Fairy Pitta was calling in a similar location to yesterday, but I didn't spend time looking for it. Once at the top I walked back and forth the one kilometre section of trial that looked best, and the on the fourth pass flushed a male Copper Pheasant from just below the track. Feeling rather elated I walked back, and again heard the same pitta. This time, with time to spare, I tracked it down and had excellent views of what was presumably the same bird as yesterday. This was at 10h15, so this bird is by no means is restricted to calling only in the early morning. In the afternoon we decided to give the Ebino Plateau area, above Kirishima, a try. This upland area consists of many lakes surrounded by protected forest. Red-billed Leiothrix was common, as was Japanese Bush-Warbler. Other species of note were Bull-headed Shrike, calling Oriental Cuckoo and Meadow Bunting. The area was rather crowded with tourists. Once back at the hotel, we were this time treated to the full Monte dinner in a private dining room. We were so stuffed with food before the end of the meal that we had to sneak rice back into the rice pot as the waitress kept plying us with food. We literally rolled out of the room after!
Fri 28th May
After an unplanned lay-in till 05h30, courtesy of the alarm not working, we again headed to Mi-ike. Disappointingly, despite hearing a couple of calls from the pitta we failed to track it down this time. Little else was seen during the early morning, so we headed back to the hotel for breakfast – the first one I had taken – after which we headed back up the hill toward Ebino plateau, giving a German tourist a lift en route. We spent a couple of hours walking the forest trail up to Lake Onami but saw nothing new – only the ubiquitous Red-billed Leiothrix. As checkout is normally 10h00 we had to negotiate a late checkout of 12h00. The hotel reception really wanted to charge us 1,500 ¥ each for this, but the friendly manager waived it. We dropped the rental car and took the 13h40 flight to Tokyo on which we were mysteriously upgraded to business class even though the plane was half empty. Arriving in Tokyo on a Friday afternoon, knowing we had to journey downtown to our hotel, we had been expecting difficulties. However, it proved to be simplicity itself as the Monorail train goes directly from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho station, just a few blocks from the Villa Fontaine Hotel where we planned to stay. [Note that there is a good book shop at the station]. Having dropped our bags we took a stroll around the general area, stocking up on provisions for the ferry trip as well as eating at Yoshinoya, the fast-food rice bowl chain that was to become very familiar to us over the coming weeks.
Sat 29th May
A lazy 07h00 start to the day with a basic breakfast of egg, salad and bread provided by the hotel. A taxi to the Takeshiba ferry terminal, at waypoint TAKESH, took only 5 minutes and cost 1,300 ¥. With less baggage it would easily have been walkable. Exchanging our vouchers for the Ogasawara ferry ticket was straightforward and the ferry left, predictably, on time at 10h00. Once clear of the main urban areas of Tokyo bay, seabirds started to appear in increasing numbers. Streaked Shearwater and Short-tailed Shearwater were abundant, and very surprisingly we picked out a few Bonin Petrel during the afternoon. After a noodle dinner and a few beers from the vending machines we crashed out on the floor with the other passengers. The video system was turned off at 21h30, and the lights at 22h00. Miraculously everyone fell asleep and the room was quiet. All in all we slept fairly well, considering those leather bricks.
Sun 30th May
Having set the alarm clock for 04h15, I managed to struggle up on deck by 04h30 where I met a fair number of Japanese who had woken especially to witness the sunrise. The sea was like glass, and the water temperature changed completely. Gone were yesterdays shearwaters, to be replaced by good numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Bulwer's Petrel, as well a few more Bonin Petrel and a couple of Matsudaira's Storm-petrels, the white-wing flash being easy to pick out in good sunlight. The morning was peppered with a few light showers and as we neared land a Red-tailed Tropicbird flew low across the stern of the ferry as well as a number of Brown Booby circling. A small pod of dolphin joined the boat briefly. The ferry arrived at Chichijima port - waypoint CHICHI - at 11h00 and we transferred to the 12h30 ferry (3,700 ¥ one-way) bound for Hahajima, our base for the next three nights. Arriving at 14h30, we were met by representatives of Club Noah, one of the diving outfits with whom we had arranged to go snorkelling the following day. After filling in the appropriate forms they gave us a lift to Minshuku Tsuki (Tsuki is Japanese for moon). The principal town on Hahajima is no more than a large village, and possesses just three shops and a post office. It seems the weekly ferry from Tokyo brings in the only frozen and cold food available, and the whole village turns out to shop – the entire fresh and frozen contents seemed to sell out in a few hours. Certainly later in the afternoon we could no longer find any bananas to purchase. Finding Bonin Honeyeater proved even easier than expected as we found a pair immediately in the tree outside the minshuku. Later that afternoon we sat on the beach and watched the world pass by – a very laid back feeling permeates this island, 1,000 km from the mainland. Birds around town were plentiful, though restricted to just a few species; Brown-eared Bulbul, Japanese White-eye and Blue Rock Thrush. Two Pacific Reef Egrets were feeding in the harbour. Evening dinner at the minshuku was typically Japanese, and some of the nicest food we experienced on our trip. Beer from the local vending machine was 350¥, about 20% more than the mainland.
Mon 31st May
Having cleaned-up the only surviving Bonin endemic the previous day we were certainly in no rush for another 04h30 start. Breakfast at 07h30 was a lot like the previous night's dinner. The owner nearly had a heart attack when we presented our Tupperware "bento" box and asked for some rice for lunch. Rice was no problem, it's just that Japanese culture does not comprise a "throw it all in one box" mentality. She hastily presented us with her version of the bento box complete with five little compartments for each of the items on the lunch menu. Evidently the heathens were in town! We're sure she'll be talking about it for months to come. We arrived back at Club Noah by 09h00 and joined three Japanese students on the boat. We had been warned that the water was "cool" by both the travel agent and Club Noah, but the 1,500 ¥ for a wetsuit rental seemed excessive for a couple of hours. Besides, we reckoned that we were real men and women and a lot tougher than the wimpy locals. This area of Japan is famous for its "swimming with dolphins", so we were hopeful that we'd encounter a group. Initially we headed out across the bay and after 20 minutes anchored by a reef and jumped overboard. Wow! This is where we discovered that the water was indeed "cool". "Bloody cold" was the expression that came immediately to mind. Fortunately we had life jackets that at least provided some insulation. The snorkelling was very good and the water clarity excellent. For some odd reason the others on the boat swam immediately ashore and pocked around on the tide line. Evidently "snorkelling" has a flexible translation from Japanese. After 30 minutes in the water we were pretty cold, so it was good to get back in the boat and go "dolphin hunting". Unfortunately we failed to find the local pod, so had to be content with another beach session as well as a deeper water snorkelling session which was good for Bat Fish. We arrived back at Club Noah by 13h00. The cost of this half-day snorkelling was 6,500 ¥/pp plus 1,500 ¥/pp for fin and snorkel rental. For those interested in diving, the rates were 18,000 ¥/pp for a two dive half-day session including full equipment rental. After lunch and a short afternoon siesta we walked along the main road to the north of the village, seeing more Bonin Honeyeater as well as a single Common Buzzard of the endemic sub-species that drifted across the harbour.
Tues 1st June
Departing at 08h30 we headed, on foot, for Minamizaki at the southern tip of the island, about four kilometres from town. [Click here for photo of Minamizaki] The first part of this walk along the main road was hot, humid and not particularly interesting. However, once the road ended, a series of marked trials continued through the low forest to the beautiful southern beaches and headlands – waypoint HAHA-S. [Click here for photo looking back over the low forests of Hahajima from the southern tip.] Bonin Honeyeater was common and very tame along these trails, coming as close as one metre from us. We also flushed and heard several Scaly Thrush. Just offshore is a Brown Booby colony, in which we observed a single Red-footed Booby. We also found a single Brown Booby nesting on the mainland that allowed close approach and good photo opportunities. On our return we managed to hitch a lift with a local agricultural worker that saved us the walk in the heat. Toward late afternoon I took a stroll down to the whale-watching headland by the harbour where the highlight was a White-tipped Reef-Shark swimming around at close range in the harbour. The neat, land crabs Coenobita purpureus by the headland appeared far more photographable than their counterparts in the forest this morning. On the return I checked out the concrete stream channels running through the village and was extremely surprised to turn up Black-crowned Night-Heron, Marsh Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint. A pair of the endemic race of Grey-headed Greenfinch was also feeding near the minshuku.
Wed 2nd June
For reasons unknown everyone received a western breakfast this morning, complete with knife and fork. Maybe after the bento box episode they were taking no chances. Before departure we checked the channels again, but only the stint was still present. Thereafter we were given a lift to the ferry that departed at 09h30. Again, birds from the ferry were disappointing, with only a single Matsudaira's Petrel of note. While waiting for the ferry to depart from Chichijima the heavens opened up. The rain was short lived however, and as we departed it appeared the whole town had turned up to say their farewells. This was a memorable departure. As the ferry pulled away, to the tune of Auld Langs Eyne, with many waving from docks, many of the tour operators' boats motored along side the ferry for 20 or so minutes, their staff and friends waving farewell like crazy. At the end of this, everyone did somersaults into the water and continued waving goodbye as we sailed off into the distance – amazing! During the afternoon we sighted a number of dolphins, one group of which looked like Risso's Dolphin.
Thurs 3rd June
Up on deck at 04h30. On both early morning occasions on this ferry crossing I was hoping for Short-tailed Albatross, though at this time of year the prospects would be pretty remote as this is a winter breeder. We were already in colder waters, and the day dawned, cold and overcast. Once again Streaked Shearwater and Short-tailed Shearwater were everywhere. Mid morning we passed through an excellent patch with over 200 Tristram's Storm-petrel within half an hour, and a couple of distant "white-rumped" storm-petrels which were probably Leach's. The ferry docked five minutes late at 15h05, after which time we had to hang out at the ferry terminal whilst waiting to meet Tom, Gary and Marlene who were due to join us on the 22h30 Izu Islands ferry. We had also arranged to meet Dr. Kei Ueda whom had been kind enough to help us with arrangements for Mikurajima. Both Tom and Kei had arrived by 18h30 so we walked to the Food City near Hamamatsucho Station for a Japanese dinner. On Kei's recommendation we simply left all our baggage on the floor in the middle of ferry terminal. Although we were not surprised to find it still there and untouched on our return two hours later, it was still impressive and serves to underline Japanese honesty – one of the things that makes travel in Japan so enjoyable. I wouldn't try the same trick at any of the ports in the UK! At this point Gary and Marlene joined us, having just arrived from the US. We travelled "special" second class that got us a 20-beded cabin, where we were the only occupants.
Fri 4th June
By sunrise at 04h30 we were already opposite Miyakijima, its volcano still smoking ominously, and could see our destination of Mikurajima – waypoint MIKURA. Docking at 05h40 we were met by the minshuku owners and transported up very steep streets to our lodgings. Evidently something had gone wrong in the communication, as they had only been expecting three persons and had no space for five. They suggested the small hotel across the road but that too was full. Eventually space was found at another minshuku just around the corner. It was on Mikurajima that we had the most communication difficulties on our trip, despite Tom's good basic Japanese. We had shown the owner a map of two sites we wanted to visit on the island. It seemed that we needed a local guide to walk anywhere off road, despite clearly marked trails. We were somewhat saved by the summoning of an American dolphin researcher who explained that since some tourist had fallen off a trail recently, there was a regulation of no unaccompanied walking. This seemed completely over the top but we had no option other than to ask for a guide for the afternoon. For the rest of the morning, the minshuku owner, who seemed to know something about birds, kindly transported us to forest outside the town where we easily found Ijima's Leaf-Warbler, Izu Thrush and eventually managed good views of Japanese Robin. We struggled however to locate any suitable habitat for Pleske's Warbler that is supposed to occur. After lunch, our guide, complete with vehicle, accompanied us up the main trail on the western side of the island as well as on some drive/stops along the western side wherever we could find seemingly suitable habitat. For the afternoon we negotiated a price of 12,000 ¥.
Sat 5th June
As we had no intention of paying for another guided session we negotiated to use the vehicle of the minshuku owner on the understanding we didn't drive "off road". Where they thought we could possibly drive off road was a mystery given the geography of the island - nothing but sheer forested slopes. We set off after our 07h00 breakfast, spending most of the day exploring all the navigable roads on the eastern half of the island. Once again, a complete lack of suitable grassland habitat confounded our efforts to find Pleske's Warbler, so we had to contend ourselves with more views of the same species as yesterday. Many areas of the island are very scenic, and the shear cliffs hold numerous colonies of breeding Streaked Shearwater, several of which we found as road casualties. Toward the end of the day we discovered the largest patch of grassland was actually right under our noses - around the small park above the harbour. However we still failed to locate the warbler, and in the afternoon rain only added Meadow Bunting to our Mikurajima list. The area did look promising, so we vowed to return the next morning, weather permitting. At this evening's dinner a party of retired Japanese men, one of which spoke passable English, joined us. After dinner the beers and conversation started to flow and the group magically produced a 40 year-old bottle of whisky which we were invited to help quaff. I'm sure secretly they were trying to drink us under the table, but after a couple of hours one of them had passed out on the floor, one thrown up in the toilet and we were still going strong. To cap it all, the third member of the party fell down the stairs the following morning and broke his foot, poor guy. He looked kind of sheepish when boarding the boat with us. Cheers guys, and great whisky!
Sun 6th June
Sometime early in the morning Japanese Scops-Owl was calling from trees behind the minshuku, but the constant rain deterred us from venturing out. Rain was still falling when we awoke, so we simply lounged about waiting for it to cease, which it finally did around 10h15. A couple of hours in the park produced nothing different to yesterday, so by 12h00 we were at the pier for the return ferry. Only a few minutes out of port we saw a couple of Bonin Petrel mixed in with the ubiquitous Streaked Shearwaters, as well as small numbers of Tristram's Storm-petrel. The ferry made an unexpected stop of Miyakijima, the off-limits island that had been evacuated several years previously. This appeared to be simply to collect workers presumably involved in maintenance or clear-up activities. For some odd reason all passengers were prevented from staying on the outside decks, though as soon as the ferry departed we were allowed to return to our viewing spots. Certainly the island is a mess. Even after several years, houses are still without roofs and none of the forest on the upper slopes shows any sign of regeneration. However, the lowlands along the coast do have suitable grassland where Pleske's Warbler formerly occurred and they may well have returned. The return journey produced a couple more Bonin Petrel and Tristram's Storm-petrel, but little else. The ferry arrived back at Takeshiba Pier 30 minutes early at 20h00, from where we took a taxi to the Shiba Park Hotel. Near the hotel we found the usual Yoshinoya. Heavy rain started to fall, and the informative nine day forecast in the hotel foyer was predicting eight days of rain for our upcoming Honshu part of the trip – not very promising!
Mon 7th June
Wishing to clear Tokyo well before the start of rush hour we opted for an early taxi to Tokyo Station. The hotel has given us two possible travel methods for getting to Narita Airport to collect our car. Either the airport bus direct from the hotel leaving 06b5, arriving 08h30 (cost 3,000 ¥/pp), or taxi to Tokyo Station, and Express train at 06h30. We opted for the latter assuming the slight additional cost would be offset by an earlier arrival. All was going well as we arrived at Tokyo Station (taxi 1,140 ¥) and attempted to purchase our tickets from the somewhat confusing automatic vending machines, as the manned ticket office was not yet open. At this point, seeing our struggles, a friendly Taiwanese lady suggested we could take a local train for less cost and almost the same time – and it just so happened she was going that way. Unfortunately this proved to work out at the same price and we arrived later than the Express having missed a connection en route. The eventual train cost was 2,100 ¥. So much for early planning. Having collected the car we headed the short distance on busy local roads to Ukishima Marsh where we arrived sometime after midday, driving through heavy showers en route. Very fortunately, after an hour or so the sun came out, which encouraged marsh birds to start singing. Eventually we found displaying Japanese Swamp-Warbler. Japanese Reed-Bunting was very common. Other species observed included Japanese Skylark, and Black-browed and Oriental Reed-Warblers. Although we would have liked to stay longer, potentially for Schrenck's Bittern, we needed to drive to Karuizawa. The drive took us four hours using toll roads, including a brief stop at a 7-11 for takeaway lunches. The heavy rain showers en route had largely stopped when we arrived at the forest at Karuizawa. The late afternoon was spent in damp conditions in forest along the Kose-rindo. [Click here for photo of Karuizawa.] The best birds of the afternoon were single Grey and Siberian Thrushes and a few calling Stub-tailed Warbler. Toward dusk we drove to the Hotel Route Inn (waypoint KARINN) outside Karuizawa town. The restaurant here was the poorest we encountered in Japan and not recommended. Crashed out at 22h00.
Tues 8th June
Skipping breakfast for an 05h30 start, we headed back to the Kose-rindo area and walked the road. Although heavily overcast, the promised rain had not as yet commenced. Given the conditions it was extremely quiet and we struggled to find anything of note. We did however have Brown Dipper along the river, and flushed a Japanese Night-Heron about halfway along the road. At 10h00 I drove back to the Inn to collect Nad, who sensibly had slept-in. The afternoon weather was even more miserable with us walking in the fog and rain in the Yagasakigawa area as described in Brazil where Narcissus Flycatcher was seen. Evening dinner was taken at the Korean bar-b-que restaurant (which looked just like Pizza Hut from the outside), just up the road from the Route Inn. Cost was 34,000 ¥ for three people including drinks.
Wed 9th June
A nice start to the day was two male Green Pheasant seen from the car park of the Hotel Route Inn as we were packing the vehicle. This morning we covered the higher, upper section of the Kose-rindo road. Attempts to relocate the Japanese Night-Heron were unsurprisingly fruitless. We worked the inner sections of forest. Few new birds, though after much effort located a single Japanese Green Woodpecker in open forest near the HQ/visitor centre. It's interesting to note that the visitor centre has a CCTV camera linked to a Giant Flying Squirrel roosting box just outside. So a dusk visit will often be rewarded with a view of this spectacular squirrel as it emerges for its nightly foray. Unfortunately we hadn't known about this and were due to leave. By 12h00 we had dropped Gary and Marlene at Karuizawa railway station and headed off to Hakone, again on expensive toll roads – where we arrived at 15h30. In retrospect our hotel, the Quatre Saisons was too far from the Ashi-no-ko lake area, but nonetheless was a nice place, with the room directly overlooking the river. Both Brown Dipper and Japanese Wagtail were visible from the room while taking afternoon tea. Again the weather was cloudy and overcast – not a good omen for a trip to Mount Fuji. Not to be deterred we headed off to Hakone National Park to walk the track along the eastern side of the lake looking for Japanese Yellow Bunting. The cloudy conditions meant that birds were not at all active, though we did see Scaly Thrush on the road and in the arboretum grounds had a very confiding Green Pheasant. For dinner, we gave the expensive hotel restaurant a miss, preferring to head down the main road in an attempt to find an eating establishment. This proved to be quite difficult and we had to drive several kilometres in pouring rain before we found a Raman noodle shop where noodle soup with beer cost us 34,000 ¥ for three people.
Thurs 10th June
We left the hotel at 05h30 surrounded by fog and low cloud. Although the weather had picked up by the time we had arrived at Hakone Lake, another walk down the eastern side road produced few birds. Around 10h00 we drove to the Fuji lookout just to the north of the lake but saw nothing but cloud. This was actually unintentional as we were trying to locate the start of the western trail around the lake as mentioned in Brazil. We ended up trying to walk down from the viewpoint toward the lake, but this proved not possible as the trial at this point goes up the mountain. On our return to the lake, we figured that the small picnic area to the right of the dam was actually the start of the trail. As the access road was closed we simply left the car parked by the locked gate and walked along the trail. The proved to be a good move, as during the afternoon we located three Japanese Yellow Bunting as well as the introduced Hwamei, which was a shock as we'd no idea they had spread so far in Japan. Two of the buntings were initially located singing from the tops of tall pines, while the other was grovelling in the undergrowth beside the track. All were located between 1 and 2 km from the gate. The marshy area near the dam held only a couple of Spot-billed Duck. Dodging the showers we finished the day with a takeaway meal from Family Mart in the hotel room.
Fri 11th June
Due to the alarm malfunctioning we didn't wake till 06h15. However it mattered little as the day was destined to be one long rain shower. We'd delayed our trip to Mount Fuji in the hope that the weather would improve. Things were looking hopeful as we passed Hakone Lake and briefly glimpsed the summit of Mount Fuji for ten seconds; thereafter it disappeared never to be seen again. We first decided to try the eastern flank of Mount Fuji on the assumption that it would receive fewer visitors and be less disturbed. Not much of a problem there, as when we arrived to low cloud, cold and rain showers we were the only visitors! Breaks between the showers enabled us to walk the forest trail adjacent to the gift shops at the car park. This was fairly successful with good views of Arctic Warbler, Orange-flanked Bluetail and Northern Hawk-Cuckoo, the later responding well to tape. By 11h00 the rain was heavy, so we opted to try the main southerly route up Fuji. Once at the top parking area the weather was even worse than on the eastern flank, so we dined in the café. After lunch we attempted to bird around the car park in hope of finding Japanese Accentor, but the biting wind and horizontal rain meant we gave up after 30 minutes of being completely soaked. Descending the mountain to the public park half way up at least meant the wind had dropped. Here we found Brown Thrush, Japanese Green Pigeon and Japanese Grosbeak. Around 16h00 we returned to Hakone stopping at another Yoshinoya en route. Just north of the lake we followed directions in Brazil to Sengokubara but the area seemed to have been developed. However the grassy hillsides along the main road looked good and a short walk found Chestnut-eared Bunting despite the strong wind that kept everything under cover.
Sat 12th June
Returning to the same grassy area we'd found the previous evening, we again worked the area finding more Chestnut-eared Bunting as well as hearing several Japanese Green Pheasant, but little else new. However we did find the Hakone Shisseikaen (Botanical Garden), which unfortunately didn't open till 09h00. From the hillsides above, this looked good marshy habitat, well worth exploring for birds. Unfortunately we lacked the time, having to leave for Narita. As it was Saturday, and more importantly we had GPS navigation, we opted to drive the direct route to Narita straight through the centre of Tokyo. This proved a good move as, not only did we not get lost, the traffic was not too heavy. The journey took 4 hours and 30 minutes. It's probably not advisable to attempt this route during rush hour as certainly in a couple of places the traffic ground to a halt, even though the whole route was expressway. From Narita, to get to Oarai ferry terminal, we chose to take the bus to Mito (2 hours - 3,000 ¥/pp) and then taxi (4,050 ¥). Although we had pre-booked standard second class we upgraded to 2nd class shared cabin. The extra 2,500 ¥ was worth it – proper mattress and sheets – and we slept well. The ferry departed at sunset, with a number of Black-crowned Night-Heron feeding around the harbour. We dined in the restaurant, which was fine though limited in choice.
Sun 13th June
Now being much farther north we had to be on deck at 04h00 to catch the sunrise. The conditions that greeted us were damp and overcast with drizzle and fog patches, which fortunately cleared by 06h00. Some of the interesting species observed were Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Northern Fulmar and Rhinoceros Auklet. Toward the northern end of Honshu we encountered several Fork-tailed Storm-petrels. One other highlight of the morning was a pod of Killer Whales cruising past fairly close giving excellent views. Northern Fur Seal were common, especially toward Hokkaido. The ferry docked at 13h15, and then followed a tortuous journey to get to Sapporo domestic airport, about 100 km away, in time to catch our 17h30 flight to Kushiro. We had earlier researched various ways of travelling between Tomakomai and this airport, and were concerned that any screw-ups would result in a missed flight (the last of the day). It turned out well, but not without some stress en route! Taxi from the ferry terminal to Oarai railway station (1,390 ¥) then train to Kito-Hiroshima, where we missed the connection to Sapporo (1,430 ¥), and consequently missed the airport bus. As a consequence a mad dash to the Toho Line subway and subway train to Sakaemachi (200 ¥) followed by a taxi to the airport (680 ¥). Not a recommended route, but we made it with 30 minutes to spare. At Kushiro airport we couldn't find an ATM that worked, so picked up the rental car and drove into town to a shopping plaza, but again could find no ATM that would accept foreign cards. Eventually we gave up and drove to Furen, a two-hour drive, arriving late at 22h40. Matsuo-san was his usual jolly self, waiting for us to arrive.
Mon 14th June
Despite the really early sunrise at 03h45 we only managed to drag ourselves from our beds by 05h00. Several other Japanese birders staying at Lodge Furen were already out, and struggling to see the Gray's Warbler that had been calling all night from the hedgerow immediately outside the door. From Furen Lodge we walked across the boardwalk to the local Nature Centre, seeing Middendorff's Warbler and Black-browed Reed-Warbler. A walk around the forest trail at the Nature Centre produced several singing Sakhalin Leaf-Warbler, but it took some time to eventually locate this very ventriloquial bird in the canopy. After the usual excellent breakfast we headed out to Cape Ochiishi where we had very nice views of feeding Spectacled Guillemot close to the headland, as well as numerous Slaty-backed Gulls. From here we drove to Kiritappu where we failed to find Tufted Puffin in two hours of searching, although we did initially wonder why the plastic models both on the distant island on in the sea were not actually moving. We arrived back at Furen-ko by 17h00 and did a quick stroll across the marsh finding a single Japanese Crane. After dinner we drove out to Hattoushi Bridge in the hope of finding Blakiston's Fish-Owl, but neither heard nor saw anything – just the ever-present Gray's Warblers.
Tues 15th June
By 05h00 we were out in the bracing northerly wind on the boardwalk. We found breeding Wryneck though no sign of Black Woodpecker which other birders had seen the previous day. After breakfast we drove to Rausu with numerous stops en route, arriving at 12h30. During the morning we found Long-tailed Rosefinch in roadside edges, numerous rafts of Common Scoter including one complete albino, as well as Greater Scaup, breeding Goosander and several White-tailed Eagle. In Rausu itself we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find an ATM machine that would accept foreign cards. Eventually we discovered one in the Post Office! After lunch from the local Family Mart we checked into the minshuku that Matsuo-san had recommended for seeing Blakiston's Fish-Owl. The owner has put an appreciable effort into attracting both owls and photographers to the property. The location is excellent with the owls literally on the doorstep. After, we took the main road from Rausu across the Shiretoko Peninsula through the National Park. On the way up we stopped by the river a few kilometres from town, and saw two pairs of Mandarin Duck – nice to at last see a truly wild version - as well as a few Long-billed Plover on shingle banks. Our first stop was the viewpoint at the pass complete with its busloads of tourists. Below the pass we followed the hiking trail as best we could, but quite a few remaining snowfields made this tricky – both locating the path and walking across the ice with inadequate footwear. After about 2 km we gave up where the path disappeared. Back at the minshuku we were served an enormous crab dinner, following which we watched the impressive sunset. On the owners suggestion we got into position in our car at dusk and waited for the Blakiston's Fish-Owl. Indeed we didn't wait long before one bird flew into a close-by sapling, and then directly to the pool below us. This bird took several fish before being replaced by a different, shyer individual. Over the next three hours each bird came and went several times at infrequent periods. With views down to 12 metres this really was a perfect ending to the day.
Wed 16th June
In an endeavour to find Japanese Accentor we were at the pass by 05h00, where strong winds and temperatures around zero degrees were not very conducive to accentors. After twenty minutes of seeing nothing we tried walking down the road where in the sun, and especially out of the wind, it was moderately pleasant. Oriental Cuckoo was fairly common. Failing to find either the accentor or Grey Bunting we headed back for breakfast by 07h00. Before leaving, the owner decided to assist us in a group photo. Very unfortunately she dropped the camera - onto concrete no less. End of camera! As one might imagine she was mortified. So with no camera to look forward to for rest of trip we headed out of Rausu to try the lower trail opposite the onsen as mentioned in Brazil. The forest along this steep trail is quite good, and park rangers were still working to clear sections where trees had fallen due to the weight of snow. Even at these low altitudes snow was still present in shaded areas. We were disappointed to have no luck at all with Grey Bunting. After another lunch at the local Family Mart we headed back to the top and spent from 13h00 – 15h30 working the sheltered slopes. Eventually we heard a response to tape and after some serious hacking through the thick scrub had a single Grey Bunting almost at our feet. Although the book describes the habitat of Grey Bunting as "open forest" this was about the furthest from it imaginable! We arrived back at Furen at 18h45 for our last evening with Matsuo-san.
Thurs 17th June
Our last day on Hokkaido started with another early start, out on the boardwalk and across the marsh, searching for Lanceolated Warbler and Black Woodpecker, obtaining brief views of former and hearing the later drumming. Several Japanese Crane were feeding on the marsh. After breakfast we said our goodbyes and drove to Kiritappu for a last attempt at Tufted Puffin. Success came readily this morning with a pair seen at distance. After, we tried some forest just outside Kiritappu but saw little, so headed back to Kushiro, where we took lunch. On the final leg we almost got caught in a traffic jam, and were forced to use the GPS to find an alternative route to the airport - just in time. Our Osaka flight left with only a 20-minute delay. From the airport we took the Haraku Express train to the centre of Kyoto (1 hr, 15 minutes, 3,700 ¥/pp) and checked into our hotel. Dinner was taken at the Chinese place across from the station.
Fri 18th June
A distinct lie-in today, with a late start at 10h30. We first visited the Tourist Information Office in the Central Station, and then grabbed a late Yoshinoya look-alike near the station. During our first day we covered Ginkaku-ji and finished with a walk through the old Gion area, trying to spot Geishas. This area is actually one of the most beautiful and more interesting parts of Kyoto. Much is made of the terraces of teahouses along the river, but the concrete banks and hoards of people hardly provide an idyllic setting - very overrated in our opinion. After our late walk around Gion we didn't get back to the hotel till past midnight.
Sat 19th June
A much earlier start today, with breakfast taken at the Inode Coffee Shop below the station. After, we took the bus around the city, visiting the northwestern temples. In the afternoon we stumbled upon the large temple near the station that was undergoing renovation and consequently free to visit. The day finished at Gion again, this time with rain most of the evening.
Sun 20th June
An uneventful journey by the Haraku Express to Osaka KIX airport, where we took the 11h00 flight to Bangkok and back to Muscat.
Taxonomy, scientific and vernacular English names follow Clements (2000, with updates) unless otherwise noted.
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
Form holboellii. One in flight across Furen-ko on 15-Jun.
Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes
Monotypic. A single from the Ogasawara ferry on 29-May, and 2 again on 2-Jun. A total of 12 from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun.
Laysan Albatross Pheobastria immutabilis
Monotypic. A total of 10 from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun.
Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Form rodgersii. A total of 150 from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun. Almost all were dark phase birds.
Bonin Petrel Pterodroma hypoleuca
Monotypic A surprising total of 28 from the Ogasawara ferry on 29-May, with some seen only a couple of hours out of Tokyo. A further 32 on 30-May in warmer waters closer to the Ogasawara Islands. Four from the Hahajima ferry on 30-May. On the return journey from the Ogasawara ferry, 120 on 2-Jun and 6 on 3-Jun. Four from the Izu ferry near Mikurajima on 6-Jun.
Bulwer's Petrel Bulweria bulwerii
Monotypic. A count of 126 from the Ogasawara ferry on 30-May, and a further 100 from the Hahajima ferry the same day. On the return journey, 6 from the Hahajima ferry on 2-Jun and 250 from the Ogasawara ferry on the same date.
Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas
Monotypic. At least 30,000 from the Ogasawara ferry on both 29-May and 3-Jun. Huge numbers of at least 50,000+ from the Izu ferry on 4-Jun. Numerous rafts totalling 15,000+ birds seen from Mikurajima on 5-Jun and 6-Jun. A few corpses on roads around Mikurajima on 5-Jun did not appear to be direct road casualties.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
Form cuneatus. A total of 160 observed from the Ogasawara ferry on 30-May, and 40 from the Hahajima ferry the same date. On the return journey, a single from the Hahajima ferry on 2-Jun and 300 from the Ogasawara ferry on the same date.
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
Monotypic. 4 from the Ogasawara ferry on 30-May.
Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris
Monotypic. A total of 400+ from the Ogasawara ferry on 29-May, mostly near Tokyo. 5 from the same ferry on 30-May and 500 on 3-Jun. 1 bird from the Izu ferry on 4-Jun and 40 on 6-Jun. At least 5,000 from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun.
Bannerman's Shearwater Puffinus (iherminieri) bannermani
Monotypic. This form is usually considered a subspecies of Audubon's Shearwater P. iherminieri. Much less common than anticipated, with only 2+ from the Ogasawara ferry on 2-Jun and 1+ again on 3-Jun.
[Leach's Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa]
Four "white-rumped storm-petrels" seen from the Ogasawara ferry at distance on 3-Jun were tentatively identified as this species.
Tristram's Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma tristramii
Monotypic. Six singles from the Ogasawara ferry on 29-May and again on 30-May. On the return journey, 12 on 2-Jun and 250 on 3-Jun. A total of 20 from the Izu ferry on 6-Jun. Potentially some of these individuals, seen at greater distance, may have been Matsudaira's Storm-petrel as good light is required to see the wing flashes in that species.
Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma matsudairae
Monotypic. A single from the Ogasawara ferry on 29-May, and 2 on 30-May. On the return journey one from the Hahajima ferry on 2-Jun and 3 from the Ogasawara ferry on the same date. In good light, the white wing flashes are easy to see as the bird banks and turns.
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma furcata
Monotypic. 14 seen from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun, toward the northern end of Honshu. Due to their grey colouration, these birds are surprisingly well camouflaged against the sea and tricky to pick-up, especially at distance.
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda
Form rothschildi. A single bird low over the Ogasawara ferry on 30-May.
Red-footed Booby Sula sula
Form rubripes. One perched in a tree within the Brown Booby colony at the southern end of Hahajima on 1-Jun.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster
Form piotus. 12 from the Ogasawara ferry on 30-May, and 2 from the Hahajima ferry the same date. A total of 14 individuals around the coast of Hahajima on 31-May while snorkelling. About 150 in the colony at the southern end of Hahajima on 1-Jun. Four from the Hahajima ferry on 2-Jun and 90 from the Ogasawara ferry the same date.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Form hanedae. Common around Tokyo with 10+ on 28-May, 100+ on 29-May, 10+ on 3-Jun, and 20+ on 6-Jun. A single en route on 9-Jun, and 20 on 12-Jun.
Japanese Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus
Monotypic. One at Tomakomai on 13-Jun, and 66+ around eastern Hokkaido on 14-Jun and 15-Jun.
Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus
Nominate form. Only seen at Cape Ochiishi with 20 on 14-Jun.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Monotypic. One in Tokyo en route to Tokyo Central train station on 7-Jun.
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata
Monotypic. Two pairs on the river above Rausu on 15-Jun.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Monotypic. A few groups totalling 30+ en route between Furen and Rausu on 15-Jun, and 7 on the return journey on 17-Jun.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Nominate form. A single at Mi-ike on 28-May. Two at Hakone on 10-Jun and a further 3 there on 12-Jun. A pair near Furen on 14-Jun and 4 en route on 15-Jun.
Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha
Form zonorhyncha. Ten at Ukishima on 7-Jun, 3 Karuizawa on 8-Jun, 1 Hakone on 10-Jun, and 2 there on 12-Jun.
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Monotypic. Two en route near Rausu on 15-Jun.
Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Form mariloides. Two en route near Rausu on 15-Jun.
Black Scoter Melanitta (nigra) americana
Monotypic. This form is usually considered conspecific with Common Scoter M. nigra. Several rafts totalling 150+ en route to Rausu on 15-Jun, including one complete albino bird.
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Nominate form. A single at Rausu on 16-Jun.
Goosander Mergus merganser
Nominate form. Eight en route to Rausu on 15-Jun, and 14 at Rausu on 16-Jun.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Nominate form. A single at Ukishima on 7-Jun, and 20 at Hakone on 12-Jun.
Pacific Reef-Egret Egretta sacra
Nominate form. Only seen on Hahajima with up to 3 daily on 30-May, 1-Jun and 2-Jun.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Form jouyi. Widespread and fairly common, recorded on all mainland islands. One individual circling high over Hahajima on 2-Jun was a surprise.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Form coromandus. 2 Hahajima on 31-May and 1 there on 1-Jun. Singles on Mikurajima on 4-Jun and 5-Jun. 2 en route to Ukishima on 7-Jun.
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Nominate form. A single in the drainage canals of the town on Hahajima on 1-Jun.
Japanese Night-Heron Gorsachius goisagi
Monotypic. One of the surprises of the trip. One flushed from beside the river at Karuizawa on 8-Jun. Subsequent investigations in the same area failed to relocate it.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Nominate form. Singles at Ukishima on 7-Jun and en route on 9-Jun.
Black-eared Kite Milvus (migrans) lineatus
Monotypic. This form is usually considered conspecific with Black Kite M. migrans. Widespread, but commoner in the north. Small numbers recorded from Kyushu, Mikurajima, Tokyo, Karuizawa, Hakone, and Hokkaido.
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
Monotypic. A total of 8 birds in eastern Hokkaido on 14-Jun and 15-Jun.
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis
Monotypic. A single bird perched inside the forest at Mi-ike on 26-May.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Form japonicus on the main islands, with toyoshimae on the Ogasawara Islands. A single on Hahajima on 3-May. Two at Hakone on 10-Jun, and 2 at the pass in Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Form interstinctus. A single at Ukishima on 7-Jun.
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Form japonicus. One above the pass in Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Chinese Bamboo-Partridge Bambusicola thoracica
Form unknown. This species has been introduced to Japan. Recorded daily on Mikurajima with 2 on 4-Jun, 6 on 5-Jun, and 1 on 6-Jun. Two at Hakone on 10-Jun.
Copper Pheasant Syrmaticus soemmerringii
Form ijimae. One male flushed from beside the trail at Mi-ike on 27-May.
Green Pheasant Phasianus versicolor
Monotypic. At Karuizawa recorded from fields around the Hotel Route Inn, with a single on 8-Jun and 2 calling males on 9-Jun. At Hakone, 2 recorded from the arboretum on 9-Jun and 10-Jun. At least 3 heard at Hakone on 12-Jun.
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Form indicus. One heard from the boardwalk at Furen on 15-Jun.
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis
Monotypic. Only seen around Furen with a single on 4-Jun, 3 on 15-Jun and 3 on 7-Jun.
Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii
Monotypic. Small numbers in eastern Hokkaido on 14-Jun, 15-Jun, 16-Jun and-17-Jun.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Monotypic. A single bird near the beach in town on Hahajima on 1-Jun.
Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos
Monotypic. Two at Rausu on 15-Jun.
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes
Monotypic. Two at Furen on 17-Jun.
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis
Monotypic. A single bird in the channels around town on Hahajima on 1-Jun, was still there the following morning.
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Monotypic. One group of 10 birds seen from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun.
Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus
Monotypic. Four birds on the river above Rausu on 15-Jun.
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
Monotypic. Two in Tokyo on 3-Jun, 6 on Mikurajima 5-6-Jun, and plentiful on eastern Hokkaido on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun.
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus
Form pallidissimus Up to 15 daily on Hokkaido on 14-Jun, 15-Jun, 16-Jun and 17-Jun.
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus
Monotypic. Common on Hokkaido on 14-Jun, 15-Jun, 16-Jun and 17-Jun.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
Form sinensis. One seen in Tokyo harbour from the Ogasawara ferry on 3-Jun.
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
Form pileatus. One on Chichijima on 30-May, and another on 2-Jun. Two on Hahajima on 30-May and 1 on 31-May.
Common Guillemot Uria aalge
Form inornata. Two from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun.
Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo
Monotypic. A pair seen very well from the headland near Ochiishi on 14-Jun.
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
Monotypic. Two from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun.
Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata
Monotypic. Ten from the Tomakomai ferry on 13-Jun. 2 at Kiritappu on 14-Jun.
Tufted Puffin Fratercula cirrhata
Monotypic. Two seen at distance from Kiritappu on our second visit on 17-Jun.
Feral Pigeon Columba livia
Not common. Introduced to Japan. A few seen en route on seven days on Kyushu, Honshu and Hokkaido.
Japanese Wood-Pigeon Columba janthina
Nominate form. Very common on Mikurajima with 30 on 4-Jun and 40 on 5-Jun.
Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Nominate form. 4 Mi-ike on 28-May and 2 on 29-May. At Karuizawa 2 on 8-Jun and on 9-Jun. Four on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun and 4 en route on 12-Jun. Two Furen on 15-Jun and 4 there on 17-Jun.
White-bellied Pigeon Treron sieboldii
Nominate form. Common at Mi-ike, with up to 20 daily from 25-28 May. A single at Karuizawa on 7-Jun, 1 Hakone on 10-Jun and 2 on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Northern Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus hyperythrus
Monotypic. Formerly considered a form of Fugitive Hawk-Cuckoo C. fugax. Three in forest on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun. Very vocal.
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Form telephonus. Heard at Mi-ike on 27-May and 28-May, Karuizawa on 7-Jun and 8-Jun, and Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun. Two seen in Shiretoko National Park on 17-Jun.
Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus
Form horsfieldi. Sometimes this form is considered a distinct species – Horsfield's Cuckoo C. horsfieldi. We couldn't notice any difference about the song in the field from other forms heard in Asia. Singles heard on Ebino Plateau on 27-May and at Hakone on 9-Jun and 10-Jun. At least 10 in forests at higher elevations in Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun, where often quite prominent and singing from exposed perches.
Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus
Monotypic. Very common on Mikurajima with up to 25 daily on 4-Jun, 5-Jun and 6-June. A few heard at Hakone on 9-10-June and 2 heard on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Japanese Scops-Owl Otus (lettia/lempiji) semitorques
Monotypic. Formerly treated as conspecific with either Sunda Scops-Owl O. lempiji, or Collared Scops-Owl O. lettia. One calling around 00h30 from behind our minshuku on Mikurajima on 6-Jun. The call was a soft "pew-u" as noted in Brazil, given irregularly. Unfortunately the rain prevented further investigation.
Blakiston's Fish-Owl Bubo blakistoni
Nominate form. Two birds, presumably a pair, heard hooting, and seen coming to feed at the stream by the minshuku in Rausu on 15-Jun. With views down to 12 metres this was one of the highlights of the trip.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis
Form fuscescens on Kyushu, with coreensis on Hokkaido. A very young bird, just out of the nest, on the road inside Mi-ike, early morning on 26-May. Seen at close range before it hopped into the forest, barely able to fly. One heard near Hattoushi Bridge near Furen on 14-Jun.
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus
Nominate form. Four on Mikurajima on 4-Jun, and 3 there on 6-Jun, 1 Karuizawa on 7-Jun and 12 on 8-Jun, 4 Mount Fuji on 11-Jun, and up to 15 daily on Hokkaido on 14-Jun, 5-Jun and 16-Jun.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Form japonica. One at Hakone on 10-Jun.
Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda
Form major. Fairly common at Mi-ike with up 4 daily on 25-May, 26-May, 27-May and 28-May. Less easily seen, and surprisingly often calling from pines.
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Nominate form. A single bird calling on territory at Furen on 15-Jun and 17-Jun.
Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos kizuki
Nominate form on Kyushu, with seebohmi on Honshu and the Izu Islands. Fairly common on Kyushu, Mikurajima and Honshu.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos
Form namiyei on Kyushu, with form stejnegeri from northern central Honshu, which presumably includes Karuizawa. Up to 4 daily at Mi-ike on 25-27-May. Also recorded at Karuizawa with 2 on 7-Jun and 1 on 8-Jun.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Form japonicus. Only recorded at Karuizawa, Hakone and Mount Fuji, with max. 4 on 9-Jun at Karuizawa.
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
Nominate form. The only record was one heard drumming at Furen on 17-Jun.
Japanese Woodpecker Picus awokera
Nominate form on Honshu, with horii on Kyushu. Up to 4 daily at Mi-ike on 25-May, 26-May and 27-May, including pair at nest hole with young calling inside. A single at Karuizawa on 9-Jun after a lot of searching.
Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
Monotypic. Singles, and/or a pair heard daily at Mi-ike on 26-May, 27-May and 28-May. Pair seen there on 26-May and 27-May, both near waypoint PITTA.
Bonin Honeyeater Apalopteron familiare
Form hahasima. Common on Hahajima on 30-May, 31-May and 1-Jun, with up to 30 daily. Although traditionally treated as a honeyeater, recent publications suggest this is an aberrant white-eye species.
Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata
Form illex. A pair near the car park at Mi-ike on 25-May was the only record.
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Form hiugaensis on Kyushu, with japonicus in northern Japan, presumably including Mount Fuji. One at Mi-ike on 26-May and 2 there on 27-May, with 2 on Ebino plateau on 27-May. At least 10 on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana
Form japonica. Four en route near Tokyo on 6-Jun, and singles west of Karuizawa flying over the main road on 8-Jun and 9-Jun, seemingly every time we drove the route.
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Form orientalis. Widespread, and probably overlooked due to the abundance of Large-billed Crow. Small numbers at Mi-ike, Hakone, and on Hokkaido.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Form japonenesis Widespread and common. Not recorded on the Ogasawara islands.
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
Monotypic. Only recorded from Karuizawa with 6 on 7-Jun and a single on 9-Jun.
Ryukyu Minivet Pericrocotus tegimae
Monotypic. This species is sometimes considered conspecific with Ashy Minivet P. divaricatus. Recorded around the car park at Mi-ike with 4 on 26-May, 2 on 27-May and 2 on 28-May.
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus
Nominate form. At least 10 at Ebino Plateau on 27-May, 2 Hakone on 10-Jun and 12-Jun, and 3 on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii
Nominate form. Recorded at Karuizawa with 2 on 8-Jun, singles at Hakone on 9-Jun and 10-Jun, and 1 on the river above Rausu on 15-Jun.
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
Form philippensis. Common on Hahajima on 30-May, 31-May, 1-Jun and 2-Jun with up to 30 daily. A few seen around the ferry terminal on Chichijima on 31-May. Four on Mikurajima on 5-Jun and 2 there on 6-Jun.
Siberian Thrush Zoothera sibirica
Form davisoni. One singing at Karuizawa on 7-Jun. Despite a lot of searching it could not be located in the treetops.
Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma
Form toratugumi. At least 6 singles in forest at the southern end of Hahajima on 1-Jun. Singles at Hakone on 9- Jun and 10-Jun.
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis
Monotypic. One at Karuizawa on 7-Jun, and 2+ at Hakone on 10-Jun.
Brown-headed Thrush Turdus chrysolaus
Nominate form. Heard at Mi-ike on 27-May and 28-May, and two seen in the park below Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Izu Thrush Turdus celaenops
Monotypic. Common in forest on Mikurajima with 20+ daily on 4-Jun and 5-Jun.
Chestnut-cheeked Starling Sturnus philippensis
Monotypic. Small numbers daily on Hokkaido.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Form not known as introduced. Two in Kirishima town on 28-May.
White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus
Monotypic. Four at Ukishima on 7-Jun, 6 at Hakone on 8-Jun and 10 there on 10-Jun.
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa daurica
Nominate form. One at Karuizawa on 9-Jun.
Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina
Nominate form. Common at Mi-ike with up to 6 daily on 25-May, 26-May and 27-May. A total of 5 at Karuizawa on 7-Jun, 8-Jun and 9-Jun. Three on the lower trail at Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana
Nominate form. Singles at Mi-ike on 26-May and Ebino plateau on 27-May. Four at Karuizawa on 9-Jun and a single at Hakone on 10-Jun.
Japanese Robin Erithacus akahige
Form tanensis. Only recorded on Mikurajima with 10 on 4-Jun and 2 heard on 5-Jun. Shy and difficult to observe in the dense under-storey of forest.
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope
Monotypic. Three at Furen on 14-Jun and 2+ at the pass in Shiretoko National Park on 1-Jun.
Orange-flanked Bush-Robin Tarsiger cyanurus
Nominate form. Six on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun, and 4+ at Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura
Form stejnegeri. Six in scattered localities whilst driving around eastern Hokkaido on 14-Jun.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Form asiatica on Hokkaido, with amurensis on Honshu, and roseilia on Kyushu. Recorded daily from Mi-ike, Karuizawa, Hakone and eastern Hokkaido, with max. 6 at Karuizawa on 8-Jun.
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
Form daurica. A single at Mi-ike on 26-May.
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Form fumigatus. Widespread and commonly heard in forest. Recorded from Mi-ike, Ebino Plateau, Mikurajima, Karuizawa, Hakone, Mount Fuji, Furen and Shiretoko National Park.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Form trivirgatus. Recorded from Karuizawa and Hakone, with max. 4 at Hakone on 9-Jun.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Form ijimae. Small numbers along the coast of eastern Hokkaido 14-17-Jun.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Form gutturalis. Widespread and common, though not recorded on the Ogasawara Islands or Hokkaido.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Form japonica. 1 Mikurajima on 4-Jun, and again there on 6-Jun.
House Martin Delichon urbica
Form lagopoda. Common around central Honshu with max. 20 on 12-Jun. On Hokkaido only one pair seen, en route to Rausu on 15-Jun.
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Form japonenesis. Two at Furen on 14-Jun.
Brown-eared Bulbul Ixos amaurotis
Nominate form in central Japan, with hensoni in the north, matchiae on Kyushu, and squamiceps on the Ogasawara islands. Widespread and very common except on Hokkaido where only 2 seen around Furen on 17-Jun.
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus
Nominate form on Honshu and Kyushu, with stejnegeri on the Ogasawara and Izu islands. However the island form my have been genetically swamped by introductions from the mainland. Widespread on Honshu, Ogasawara Islands and Mikurajima. On Kyushu only seen once, at Mi-ike, with 20 on 26-May.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Form brunniceps. Ten at Ukishima on 7-Jun and 4 in grassland to the north of Hakone on 10-Jun.
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps
Monotypic. Up to 3 heard daily at Mi-ike on 25-May, 26-May and 27-May. Elsewhere, small numbers recorded from Karuizawa and Hakone.
Japanese Bush-Warbler Cettia diphone
Form cantans on the mainland with the nominate form on the Ogasawara islands. Widespread and common.
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata
Monotypic. Only recorded from Furen, where occurred in forest edge along the boardwalk. Two heard singing on 14-Jun and 17-Jun with one seen directly under our feet under the boardwalk on 17-Jun.
Middendorff's Warbler Locustella ochotensis
Nominate form. Up to 20 daily around Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun.
Gray's Warbler Locustella fasciolata
Monotypic. Up to 20 daily around Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun. Sings all night, including one individual directly outside the door at Lodge Furen. Much more easily heard than seen. Very skulking and keeps to the thickest patches of weeds along road and field edges and undergrowth in forest. In response to tape playback will often pop its head out for quick look. Common, but frustratingly difficult to see well.
Black-browed Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps
Nominate form. Four at Ukishima on 7-Jun, and up to 10 daily around Furen on 14-Jun and 15-Jun.
Oriental Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis
Monotypic. At least 20 at Ukishima on 7-Jun, 4 heard Hakone on 10-Jun, and 3 there on 12-Jun.
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
Nominate form. At least 6 in higher altitude forest on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Sakhalin Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides
Monotypic. Up to 5 in forest around the Nature Centre at Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun, and 17-Jun. Two heard along the lower trail in Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun. Very ventriloquial, due to its high-pitched thin whistle. Initially we were looking in the undergrowth when actually the bird was calling from the lower canopy!
Eastern Crowned-Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus
Monotypic. Up to 6 in forest around the Nature Centre at Furen. Also 2 along the lower trail in Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Ijima's Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus ijimae
Monotypic. Abundant in forest on Mikurajima on 4-Jan and 5-Jun. Well over 100 seen on 4-Jun.
Japanese Swamp Warbler Megalurus pryeri
Nominate form. Two in display flight at Ukishima on 7-Jun. Had the weather not cleared and been sunny for a brief period during our visit, we might not have seen this bird, as it does not appear to be common at Ukishima.
Hwamei Garrulax canorus
Form unknown. This species has been introduced on Honshu and is now apparently fairly common in forest on this island. Only a single individual seen along the western track around Ashi-no-ko at Hakone on 10-Jun.
Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea
Form unknown. Another introduced species that has spread rapidly. Fairly common in the undergrowth of forest on the Ebino Plateau on 27-May and 28-May, with up to 10 on each visit. Common around Ashi-no-ko at Hakone, with 2 on 9-Jun and 20 on 10-Jun.
Marsh Tit Parus palustris
Form hensoni. Pairs at Furen on 14-Jun and 15-Jun.
Willow Tit Parus montanus
Form restrictus. Singles at Karuizawa on 8-Jun and 9-Jun.
Coal Tit Parus ater
Form insularis. A few daily at Mi-ike on 26-May, 27-May and 28-May.
Great Tit Parus major
Form minor. Fairly common at Mi-ike, where recorded daily with max. 10 on 26-May. On Ebino Plateau 4 on 28-May.
Varied Tit Parus varius
Nominate form on Kyushu, with owstoni on Mikurajima. Common at Mi-ike, with max. 12 on 26-May. On Mikurajima 2 on 4-Jun and 8 on 5-Jun. A few around Karuizawa on 8-Jun and 9-Jun, and up to 6 daily at Hakone on 9-Jun and 10-Jun.
Japanese Skylark Alauda japonica
Monotypic. Three at Ukishima on 6-Jun, and up to 20+ at Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun.
Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans
Nominate form. Two en route to Rausu on 15-Jun, just happened to be by the roadside while stopping to photograph flowers.
Eurasian Tree-Sparrow Passer montanus
Form saturatus. Widespread and common, except on Mikurajima.
Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla lugens
Nominate form. Two at Ukishima on 7-Jun, 1 en route on 12-Jun, up to 10 daily at Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun, and 4 Shiretoko National Park on 15-Jun, and 16-Jun.
Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis
Monotypic. Up to 4 daily around Hakone on 9-Jun and 10-Jun. 8 en route on 12-Jun.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Form robusta. Two at Mi-ike on 26-May and 1 there on 27-May, 2 Karuizawa on 7-Jun and 8 on 8-Jun, 1 Mount Fuji on 11-Jun, 2 en route on 12-Jun, and 1at Rausu on 15-Jun.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Nominate form. Two along the roadside higher on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun, 1 Furen on 14-Jun, and 6+ at higher elevations in Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Grey-capped Greenfinch Carduelis sinica
Form minor on the mainland, with kittlitzi on the Ogasawara islands. Seven on Hahajima on 1-Jun and 2 on 2-Jun, 1 on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun, 2 Hakone on 12-Jun, 4 Furen on 14-Jun, 6 on 15-Jun, and 2 on 17-Jun.
Long-tailed Rosefinch Uragus sibiricus
Form sanguinolentus. A group of 4+ en route from Ochiishi and Kiritappu were surprisingly the only sighting of this supposedly common species. A stunning bird and one of the birds of the trip.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Form japonicus. Two at Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata
Nominate form. Up to 10 daily at Mi-ike on 25-May, 26-May and 27-May. Two at Hakone on 10-Jun and 1 on lower down on Mount Fuji on 11-Jun.
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides
Nominate form. Six on Ebino Plateau on 27-May, 1 Mikurajima on 5-Jun, 1 Karuizawa on 7-Jun and 20 at Hakone on 10-Jun and 3+ there on 12-Jun.
Ochre-rumped Bunting Emberiza yessoensis
Nominate form. Up to 10 at Ukishima on 7-Jun were vocal and prominently singing from reed tops.
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata
Nominate form. A single on our first visit to the grasslands at Sengokubara near Hakone on 10-Jun, and 3+ there on 12-Jun.
Yellow Bunting Emberiza sulphurata
Monotypic. Three singles along the western side of Ashi-no-ko at Hakone on 10-Jun. Two were singing from the top of pines, the third from undergrowth beside the track on the floor.
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
Form personata. Up to 8 daily around Furen on 14-Jun, 15-Jun and 17-Jun. Also 10 at Shiretoko National Park on 16-Jun.
Grey Bunting Emberiza variabilis
Monotypic. A single bird found after much searching in dense, low forest on the eastern side of the pass in Shiretoko National Park.