Japan's Kabukiri Wetlands, a Ramsar site, hopes birders return

Not too far from the Fukishima Daichi nuclear power mess, the Kabukiri Wetlands is still getting huge numbers of birds passing through–but not so many birders.

This area is a Ramsar Site, one of the world’s key wetlands. It’s within 100 miles of the nuclear plant. Other sites closer to the plant and radiation are lost–at least to humans.  “In fact some bird-watching hot-spots, for example, Gamo-Higata, are completely lost by this disaster,” says Jun Tojima, who helps manage the Kabukuri project. That coastal area was part of the Sendai-wan and Sendai-kaihin, which is considered one of 500 important birding areas in Japan.

In Kabukiri, the attraction is the amazing number of migrating birds, but the human project is impressive, too. Local farmers have a unique cooperative agreement to flood their fields in winter to give the passing birds, mainly ducks and swans, a nice rest stop. About 40,000-100,000 white-fronted geese also rest here in winter, but they like the dry fields.

“About 20-30 farmers [flood their fields for the birds]. But this number is only Ramsar Site area,” says Jun Tojima, who helps manage the project. “Many many farmers do winter flooding by their own will, I can’t count them.”

November is the best time to visit these Izu-Numa marshes, he says. For about  ¥10,000 or $128 you can tour the area, including meals and a visit to the hot spring–though regulations require you also hire a taxi.  “I hope many foreigners come to Japan for bird-watching in some days,”  Tojima says.

Where to See Wildlife in Asia

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