Japan has one of the richest biodiversities in the world, with a higher percentage of endemic species compared to other countries. Strict wildlife protection laws and rigorous conservation efforts create a sanctuary for migrant birds and wildlife, making Japan one of the top destinations for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
There are 190 designated Important Bird Areas in Japan. Among the most notable are the Izu Islands, Ogasawara Islands, and the Nansei Islands. Izu Islands feature the Hachijojima and Miyakejima Islands with birds like Izu Thrush, Iijima Warblers, Owston’s Tits, Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers, and Eurasian Wrens. Meanwhile, Ogasawara Islands is popularly known as the Galapagos of the Orient and also as a UNESCO World Heritage with endemic birds such as Brown Boobys, Bonin Honeyeater and the rare Bryan’s Shearwater. It is a deeply remote area that can only be reached via a ferry which travels only four times a month as part of the efforts to preserve the wildlife. Lastly, the Nansei Islands is made up of 200 islands spanning from Kyushu towards Taiwan. The subtropical climate makes it an ideal home to rare birds such as the Cinnamon Bittern, Amami Woodcock, and Okinawa’s extremely rare Pryer’s Woodpecker.
Our next stop, northwest of Kyoto in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture, is where you’ll find the Oriental White Stork which faced near extinction. These storks, locally known as kounotori, disappeared in Japan in 1971. Thanks to the valiant efforts of breeding, they had been successfully reintroduced into the wild in 2005. Now, you’ll be able to witness them soar through the skies of Toyooka.
Tokyo also has notable birds to watch out for, like the Tokyo Mandarin Duck, Warbling White-eye, Black Kites, Japanese Waxwing, and Siberian Blue Robin. If you want to go further south, Kochi and Miyazaki provide you the chance to witness the famous Fairy pitta.
One cannot deny that Japan is home to one of the most diverse and sometimes peculiar wildlife. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to wildlife in Japan is the Snow Monkeys leisurely bathing in the hot springs in Nagano. It is an adorable display of cuteness that will make you temporarily forget about the cold in winter. Another hidden gem that should not be missed is the Shiretoko Peninsula. It is a national park recognized as a World Heritage site teeming with life, including the Ussuri Brown Bear that’s unique to Japan.
If sea creatures are more of your likings, then look no further than the Land of the Rising Sun! Behold Mikurajima Island, called the Miracle Island, features pristine coastlines, lush forests, and hiking trails. Locals pride themselves on preserving the environment both on land and sea. The main highlight of this hot spot is the wild dolphins. Tour guides ensure that interaction with the dolphins is safe while protecting their well-being and natural habitat. Whale watching is another exciting activity that you can enjoy. In Okinawa, humpback whales can easily be spotted along the Kerama Islands from January to March. Most tours surrounding Zamami and Tokashiki Islands have around 98% chance of sighting the whales. Whichever you prefer, the options in Japan are limitless.