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The REAL Red-Crowned Cranes of Hokkaido

JAPAN | Tuesday, 10 September 2019 | Views [24]

Red-Crowned Cranes — Till Death Do Us Part

Red-Crowned Cranes — Till Death Do Us Part

ONSEN IS JAPANESE FOR A HOT SPRING but it can also be a spa.  Or in the case of Akan Onsen, an entire town.  Akan Onsen sits on a lake which was formerly the caldera of a volcano and where Connie hoped to see Japanese waxwings.  We passed on the lake cruise and instead hiked around on lovely trails.  But we saw no birds, waxwings or otherwise, just a few bubbling mud pots and a stench of sulphur hinting at its volcanic origin.  Another detour on the road from Abashiri took us even farther afield to an overview of Lake Mashu with a caldera that reminds us of Crater Lake, Oregon, right down to the island in the center, but without the snow.  Until winter I suspect.

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  Akan Onsen, the Town

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                     Lake Mashu

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                                     Geo-thermal Mud Pots

There are only three places to stay in Nakashibetsu and one is a female-only dormitory.  Another has Japanese-style rooms with futons on tatami floors.  By default that left Pension Formen, where we have lighted.  From the outside it is luscious, inside rather spartan with shared bathrooms and no air-conditioning.  No fridge, either.  Slipper etiquette is strictly enforced, even to special “toilet slippers.”  Most frustrating, our host speaks no English.  But the wifi works and it’s only for 3 nights. 

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             Pension Formen                             

Pension Formen is also the nearest lodging to the Nemuro Peninsula, the finger pointing accusingly to the Russian controlled Habomai Islands and the eastern-most point in Japan.  We have no plans to mediate the dispute between Japan and Russia that has been on-going since 1951.  We come in peace, only hoping to see truly wild Red-Crowned Cranes.  Our plans could be quashed by Typhoon Faxai, which is heading northeast after dumping on Tokyo.  Unless Donnie ensnares us with his Sharpie® we should be OK.  

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         Red-Crowned Crane with Great Gray Heron

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                      Red-Crowned Crane

The cranes that we saw when the Maasdam stopped in Kushiro may — or may not — have been wild.  They were certainly habituated to human contact and regular feeding.  The ones we saw today at the Shunkunitai Wild Bird Sanctuary were definitely some of the 1000 or so wild birds in Japan.  We saw them fly and everything!  At least one pair is so wild that they haven’t even been fitted with i.d. bands.  Red-crowned cranes are huge, dwarfing the dozens of gray herons (not to be confused with “gray nomads”).  We saw many other species from the mile-long boardwalk, the prize being the (not photographed) Latham’s snipe.  Maybe tomorrow.

 

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