Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Japan birding tour explores this fascinating archipelago at the best time of year for a birdwatching tour focusing on Japan's many endemics. Our Japan tour has the most comprehensive itinerary available, taking in everything between the southernmost Ryukyus and cool-temperate Hokkaido in the far north, so we record many more of the specialities as a result.
Tuesday 21st May —
Tuesday 4th June 2019
Hokkaido Extension: Tuesday 4th June — Sunday 9th June (6 days)
Leaders: a Birdquest leader and Chikara Otani
Group Size Limit: 12
Tour Category: Easy walking and mostly comfortable accommodations
At the opposite end of the vast continent of Eurasia from the British Isles lies another archipelago – the islands of Japan. Westernized and yet profoundly Oriental, Japan remains an enigmatic land to westerners, few of whom know much about it beyond its shiny consumer exports.
Stretching from the sub-tropics in the Ryukyus to the cool temperate latitudes in Hokkaido, these beautiful islands with their jagged and broken coastlines possess some of the most striking scenery in East Asia. We are used to thinking of Japan as densely populated, but this is true only of the coastal lowlands. Over four fifths of the land surface is hilly or mountainous and there is a much greater percentage of forest cover than in western Europe. To this day, away from the large cities, Japan remains an essentially rural country, despite the population of nearly 130 million. Nowhere in Japan is far from the sea and this has an immeasurable influence on the landscape and the people.
Japan’s avifauna shows a number of parallels with that of the British Isles, not least the great number of vagrants which each attracts. However, due to its greater distance from the mainland, its many islands and its wider range of climatic conditions, it has a richer avifauna and, in particular, a considerable number of fascinating endemic and near-endemic species ranging from the beautiful Japanese Robin to the relatively recently-discovered Okinawa Rail. It is these endemics which appeal most to the visitor and this tour is specifically designed to find as many of them as possible. Our travels will also show us many other exciting East Asian birds ranging from the stunning Fairy Pitta to the secretive Malayan Night Heron. This unusual tour provides a unique opportunity to see the best that Japan has to offer in late spring and early summer and is an essential trip for anyone seriously interested in Palearctic birds.
A visit to upcountry Japan (the ‘real’ Japan) is an experience in itself and one that requires of the traveller a spirit of adventure and a willingness to adapt to new ways of doing things. Simple things like eating Japanese food, sleeping on futons and bathing in an ‘ofuro’ are very different from back home, but will be great fun if you are tolerant of cultural differences. The difficulty of travelling around in a country where few people speak a foreign language of any kind is the main reason why only a few non-Japanese birdwatchers have explored the islands. A superb travel infrastructure, mostly comfortable accommodations, interesting food and friendly, helpful people make travelling through Japan a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
We will begin our adventure on the main island of Honshu where we will first explore the lakes and marshes of the Pacific coastal lowlands in search of the uncommon Japanese Marsh Warbler and attractive Japanese Reed Bunting. Leaving the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo behind, we will then travel into the scenic forested mountains of the central part of the island, looking for a suite of breeding passerines including the localized Japanese Yellow Bunting and Japanese Thrush before turning our attentions to famous Mount Fuji. We will search the slopes of the perfectly shaped volcano that epitomizes Japan for another of Japan’s specialities, Japanese Accentor, as well as White-bellied Green Pigeon.
The next leg of our journey will see us travelling southwards to the Izu Islands, in search of its island endemics, which include Izu Islands Thrush and Ijima’s Leaf Warbler, as well as the localized Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler. We will then travel back to Tokyo by ferry, hoping to see Tristram’s Storm-Petrel among the thousands of Streaked Shearwaters and other seabirds during the exciting voyage.
We then fly southwards along the chain of the Ryukyu Islands, visiting Amami-Oshima, Okinawa and Ishigaki-jima. On these verdant islands we will search for enigmatic endemics such as Ryukyu Serpent Eagle, the amazing Okinawa Rail, the secretive Amami Woodcock, Pryer’s and Amami Woodpeckers, Amami and Okinawa Robins, Amami Thrush, Ishigaki Tit and the beautiful Lidth’s Jay, as well as other interesting species including Malayan Night Heron.
During the optional extension we will visit the northern Island of Hokkaido. On this dramatically scenic island we will seek out a selection of northern breeders including Hazel Grouse, Black Woodpecker, the spectacular Siberian Rubythroat, and Lanceolated, Middendorff’s and Gray’s Grasshopper Warblers, as well as breeding Red-crowned Cranes, Spectacled Guillemots and the world’s largest owl, the huge Blakiston’s Fish Owl.
Birdquest has operated tours to Japan since 1987.
Bonin Islands Option: The remote and seldom visited Bonin Islands house another endemic, the Bonin Islands White-eye (formerly mistakenly placed with the honeyeaters, as Bonin Islands Honeyeater). There are also endemic forms of Japanese Woodpigeon and Japanese Bush Warbler that may in the future be split. In addition, the long ferry journey to and from the islands, or between the islands, offers an excellent chance for additional seabirds including, amongst others, Bonin Petrel, Bannerman’s Shearwater, Matsudaira’s Storm-petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern. If we are very lucky we will even see the rare Short-tailed Albatross or White-necked Petrel! Due to an infrequent ferry schedule, a visit will add up to a week to the holiday and the price will depend on the number of participants and the extension duration. Please indicate when booking this tour if you are interested in this optional extension and we will let you know the potential cost once the number of interested participants is known.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The western-style and Japanese-style hotels are mostly of good standard. At Miyake-jima we will be staying in a Japanese-style guesthouse (minshuku). The minshuku will be spotlessly clean and quite comfortable, but it should be appreciated minshuku are quite simple establishments with Japanese-style futons to sleep on rather than conventional beds and bathroom facilities are shared. Accommodation on the overnight ferry outbound to Miyake-jima is in twin-berth cabins. At Rausu, where we spend one night, the minshuku is very small, so there may be several people in each room and bathroom facilities are shared. Road transport is by minibus and roads are good.
Walking etc: The walking effort is easy throughout, but the long daylight hours in the northern islands tend to result in some long days in the field.
Climate: It will be warm or hot in most areas, but will range from cool to warm in upland areas on Honshu and on Hokkaido. There will be a mixture of dry and sunny and wet and overcast conditions, with rather high humidity in the south.
Bird Photography: Opportunities will be worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £5250, €6200, $6880 Tokyo/Tokyo. Hokkaido Extension: £1850, €2180, $2420.
Price includes all transportation (including all flights inside Japan, which add up to a very considerable cost), all accommodations, all meals, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services. Tipping is not customary in Japan.
Kindly note that, to have the internal flights included at this price level, your international flights to and from Japan must be with a Oneworld alliance carrier so that you qualify for a Japan Airlines internal airpass. If you are obtaining your international flight tickets yourself you will need to liaise with our office to ensure that we have the qualifying flight details for issue of the airpass. You may, however, opt to pay the price difference applicable for using another international carrier if you wish.
Single Room Supplement: £364, €430, $477 (excluding the night on the Miyake-jima ferry). Hokkaido Extension: £120, €142, $157.
Deposit: £650, €780, $850. Extension: £250, €300, $330.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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