First taste of Japan

Yesterday (Jan 18) we boarded a ferry and headed south to the Izu Island chain located south of Tokyo, Japan. Our game plan for the day was to ride the ferry overnight, disembark on Miyakejima island to look for the Izu thrush (a species endemic to the Izu islands) and then catch an afternoon ferry back to Tokyo where we could then look for our other target bird of the day, the Short-tailed albatross. I would mention some fun facts about our destination but I can’t because we never got off of the ferry. The entire eight hour ride there our boat was being tossed around by 25-ft waves. Thanks to the rough seas, the ferry was unable to dock on the port on Miyakejima so instead just kept traveling another 3 hours south to the island of Hachijojima. We scanned from the port at Hachijojima but this was as close as we got to seeing the Izu Thrush:


We were only docked for a couple of minutes before the boat turned around to start on the 11-hour journey back to Tokyo. So essentially we spent the entire day on a pelagic trip watching for sea birds. It was still pretty cool because we got to see three different species of albatross, including several short tailed albatross, one of the rarest sea birds in the world.

Insert crappy picture of a very rare bird here


Golden-headed Gooney Bird from afar

Other highlights from the day included seeing multiple dolphins jumping, seeing Mount Fuji, and being refunded our money because we never made it to our destination.

By the time the ferry docked it was already dark outside so we hopped in our car to get out of downtown Tokyo and headed to the mountain town of Karuizawa. Let me just tell you last night was interesting. I will preface what I’m about to tell you with this, Ross and I saved a lot of money on our trips to other Hawaiian islands by not getting a hotel. Often times we would camp…. In our car. The only thing different about last night was that it was -10 degrees Celsius outside by the time we got to the top of the mountain AKA 14 degrees Farenheit. HAHA. So Ross just pulled over on the side of the road and said “This is where we are sleeping tonight.”

Anyone who knows me knows I can sleep just about anywhere, but I was nervous that I was going to wake up with hypothermia mid-way through the night. (I like to tell Ross he’s a lucky guy because not too many girls I know would be down to spend the night sleeping in the car when it is 14 degrees outside.) But as it turns out, I slept like a baby the whole night and it was just fine. Ross on the other hand woke up freezing just about every hour.


The car on the side of the road and the man who put it there


One of the benefits to sleeping in your car is that you can park it exactly where you want to wake up in the morning. Today (Jan 19) we woke up on the side of a quite forest road in the mountains of central Japan.

We spent the morning trying to hunt down the rare Copper Pheasant. Along the way we saw many different forest birds but never were able to find our main target despite finding plenty of pheasant tracks in the snow.

We followed these around for a bit but had no luck.


Copper Pheasant tracks


In the afternoon we stopped by a random stream and unexpectedly found a pair of Mandarin hanging out with the local spot-billed ducks. The male Mandarin is one sexy bird.


Doesn’t even look real! Definitely one of the coolest birds I’ve ever seen.

Birding around Karuizawa was cold but it was definitely beautiful. Hopefully that whole sleeping in your car while it’s cold outside works again for us tonight because that’s the game plan.


2 thoughts on “First taste of Japan

  1. Oh my goodness. This seems to be my reply to everyone of your logs. You two amaze me. I really have one question and I don’t know how to ask it, but how do you go to the bathroom? What do you eat? You and Ross really are campers!


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