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Photo By: PIXTA/ Y.BLUE
Region
Kyushu
Island
Kyushu
Largest City
Kagoshima
Population
1,786,214

Izumi Crane Observation Center

As regions northern of Japan get colder, thousands of cranes head to the area surrounding the Crane Observation Center.

By Elizabeth Sok

This winter, head to Izumi in Kagoshima Prefecture along with thousands of migratory cranes. For visitors of all ages, it’ll be a sight of a lifetime.

Cranes have a long history of cultural significance in Japan. Mythologically, they are considered to be closely tied to Shinto deities and are thought to represent longevity and good fortune. Most famously, Sasaki Sadako developed leukemia from the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and aimed to fold 1,000 cranes after hearing that one’s wish would be granted. Ultimately, however, she passed away at the age of 12.

Wintering in Izumi

Izumi Crane Observation Center

Photo by: PIXTA/ taka The Center is perfectly constructed to offer fantastic views of the migratory grounds.

As regions north of Japan get colder as autumn transitions to winter, thousands of cranes head to the area surrounding the Crane Observation Center. While they begin to populate the migratory grounds between November and March, cranes are best seen in December and January. The Center is perfectly constructed to offer fantastic views of the migratory grounds. On the second floor of the building, you’ll have a variety of vantage points to take advantage of and sets of binoculars to use. Outside, you’ll see a signboard updated regularly tallying the number of cranes that have visited on a given day or year.

On one day in early December 2021, for example, over 16,000 cranes were sighted, an incredible increase from the 5,000 seen in 1982 and 8,000 in 1987. Visitors will often see cranes traveling solo, in pairs, threes or fours. As animals that mate for life, those traveling alone are usually looking for a mate, while couples with one or two tagging along form a family.

Types of Cranes

Izumi Crane Observation Center

Photo by: PIXTA/ 清十郎 Hooded and white-naped cranes make up the majority of the cranes you’ll see here.

Out of the 15 types of cranes that exist in the world, seven winters in Kagoshima. Hooded and white-naped cranes make up the majority of the cranes you’ll see here, while Siberian, common, sandhill, demoiselle and red-crowned cranes round out the group. Hooded cranes are relatively small at about a meter tall and have white heads and necks that contrast with their dark gray bodies. White-naped cranes grow to about a meter and a half and are known for a distinctive red patch on their cheeks, a unique feature amongst Asian cranes. Although it is possible to see the other varieties, they are usually seen every few years instead of annually.

Things To Know

HOURS AND FEES

The observation center is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. during the migration season from November to March.

Entrance fees for high school students and older costs ¥220 and junior high and elementary school students tickets are priced at ¥110

How To Get There

Address

By car

20-minute drive from JR Izumi station

Where To Stay

Hotel Wing International Izumi
  • 48-5 Showamachi, Izumi-shi, Kagoshima, 899-0202 Japan
  • ¥6,223 - ¥28,001
  • 3.88/5 (1,163 reviews)
  • 7.8 km
Rita Izumifumoto
  • 18-35 Fumotocho, Izumi-shi, Kagoshima, 899-0204 Japan
  • ¥36,300 - ¥165,165
  • 5/5 (10 reviews)
  • 8.5 km

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