Bird-watching in Japan : Opinion

Eriko Bando

コピー ~ CIMG1992.JPG
I am a nationally licensed English-speaking tour-guide living in the Tokyo metropolitan area.  A native of Hakodate, Hokkaido, moved in the 1980s to Tokyo.  After 30 years, many years of birding (my pleasurable diversion) and after four and half years of work at BirdLife International, Asia Division, I realized that I could no longer enjoy simply watching wild birds without introducing them to foreign tourists.  

「If you share my passion for birding, I would be more than delighted to take you to historic places, cultural sites, and scenic spots, while enjoying bird-watching from forest birds to sea birds all over Japan. 」



Q1 Why did you start bird-watching?

It was a fateful encounter with wild birds that led to my becoming birdwatcher. After I left for Tokyo from Hakodate, Hokkaido for going to a college, I noticed that I had lived in rich wilderness.  For a start, I began climbing mountains. On one winter day in 1983, I took a rest and had lunch in front of a mountain hut in Mt. Daibosatsu-Toge, a small flock of forest birds passed through me making stops on my backpack, shoulders and pecking my lunch, a rice ball and flew away. It was like a dream as if angles came to me. As soon as I descended the mountain, I became a member of Wild Bird Society of Japan. Since then, I have been enjoying bird-watching for nearly 30 years.
コピー ~ 夜間の鳥の写真 1.JPG

Q2 As an interpreter and tourist guide, what kind of tours have you done?  Have you done a bird-watching tour?

Besides regular sightseeing trips, there were school excursions from overseas to Japan, business incentive tours, experiential Japanese custom-activities such as tea ceremony, Ninjya and Samurai, supervised tours for foreigner invitations to Japan by public offices. Since I made a start last year, I have worked for 42 days. As part of the Japan Times 40,000th issue celebration project held in December, 2010, I did a bird-watching walk in Sanbanse tidal flat, which was one of the Japanese culture experience tours.

When I introduce wild birds in Japan to participants I use photos I took and hand-written pictures. The photos show that shore birds are also active at night in illumination of lights of factories and Tokyo Disneyland in the neighborhood. The hand-written pictures inform of various bird migratory paths. A bird in a borderless world flies across the sea and then people live in different countries can see the same bird.

The picture, the world map of distribution based on natural science represents where on the earth Japan is located and what the geography of Japan is like. I describe Japan as a mountainous country, made up of about 6,800 islands and the coast line is extremely long. Japan as an island country, has endemic species. The birds in Japan are about half forest, land birds and half water, sea birds. On the other hand, the 9,000 species of birds in the world are 90% forest, land birds and 10% water, sea birds.  

I recommend visitors to Japan to take opportunities to see seabirds. Particularly, for example, off the coast of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture next to Tokyo the water faces the open sea, the Pacific, where both warm and cold currents meet. The marine fauna and flora of the coastal area nearby are so rich and diverse that many seabirds, dolphins and whales come to prey on. In twenty kilometers far from the land, they may be able to have a lucky chance to see a short-tailed albatross. Its wing blade is about 2 meters wide when fully spread.
コピー ~ 鳥の飛行ルートの地図.JPG
Talking about the birds of Japan, I also let the visitors join in on various topics such as seaweed cultivated in the Tokyo Bay, a sea grass and clam connected to Japanese food and the other cultures as an interpreter and tourist guide born and brought up in Japan.

Q3. What other useful tools do you bring with you?

Besides the photos and handwriting maps, I try to bring a clipping of a newspaper, a folding umbrella, a tour flag and a torch, several 1000 yen paper currency, writing tools, a binocular, a cleaning cloth, Band-Aid and more.

I record my scenario written by myself on an IC recorder and hear to make sure what I am talking. 

Eriko Bando
坂東英利子(通訳案内士 英語)

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