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Kushiro Shitsugen (Kushiro Marsh)
Kushiro Shitsugen (Kushiro Marsh) Review
Graceful red-crested cranes preen and breed in protected Kushiro Marsh, which constitutes 60% of Japan's remaining marshlands. These rare cranes, whose feathers were thought to bring good luck, were ruthlessly hunted at the beginning of the 20th century and were even believed extinct until a handful of survivors were discovered in 1924. They have slowly regenerated and now number about 650. The crane—long-legged, long-billed, with a white body trimmed in black and a scarlet cap on its head—is a symbol of long life and happiness. Legends hold that the birds live 1,000 years, and indeed, in captivity some have made it to a rather impressive 80 years of age. They pair for life, making them the symbol of an ideal couple and are frequently alluded to in Japanese wedding speeches.
November to March is the best season for wild-crane watching, because this is when the birds fly in from Russia, China, and Korea and gather at feeding stations such as Tsurumidai, off Route 53. In summer, nesting birds retreat deep into the swamps to raise their chicks, and can only be spotted with binoculars.
Canoe paddlers on the Kushiro River have a chance to see cranes and other birds: canoe rental companies are at Lake Toro, off Route 391, and by the Norroko-go, a slow sightseeing train from Kushiro (July and August only). The marshland comprises 71 square mi and viewing areas with wooden walkways and observation towers are located off Routes 53 and 359.
The Akan Rando Tanchono Sato is about one hour south of Lake Akan, near the Tancho-zuru bus stop on the Akan-kohan-Kushiro bus route. Here you can watch a feeding and visit the center's units for egg hatching, chick rearing, and bird medical care. 23-40 Akan-cho, 085-0245. 0154/66-4011.
- Address: Shiretoko National Park
- Location: Akan National Park
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