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Photo By: PIXTA/Sand
Largest City

Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary

A natural habitat for over 100 species of wild birds both resident and migratory.

By Laura Payne

Yonago, the largest city in western Tottori Prefecture, is a nature lover’s paradise with convenient access to Mount Daisen, the Sea of Japan and Nakaumi—the fifth-largest lake in the country.

Nakaumi’s brackish waters support a rich ecosystem that includes hundreds of species of birds. Encompassing about 28 hectares of lakeside wetlands, the Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary is the best place to observe the most famous of these birds in their natural habitat.

From Development Site to Sanctuary

Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary

Photo by: PIXTA/Nobutaka The Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary, which opened in 1995, sits on a stretch of artificial land.

In the 1960s, a plan was unveiled for reclaiming land around Nakaumi—developing lakeside areas into farmland and changing the lake’s composition from brackish to freshwater. Residents strongly opposed this plan, and their voices helped to put an end to the development and garner support for conservation.

The Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary, which opened in 1995, sits on a stretch of artificial land that was created when the reclamation project was in effect. Now, the sanctuary and Nakaumi as a whole are officially recognized as a vital wintering area for migratory birds.

The sanctuary maintains outdoor trails, a large pond and a nature center, which features floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the water. The nature center also provides birdwatching telescopes and educational displays and occasionally hosts special events such as craft workshops and a “first sunrise” gathering for New Year’s Day. The sanctuary’s walking trails, meanwhile, are quiet spaces where one can be immersed in Tottori’s nature, observing the seasonal birds and a prominent view of Mount Daisen.

Birds of the Sanctuary

Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary

Photo by: PIXTA/ NorthTail Capturing a photo of the birds in flight is a coveted accomplishment.

The sanctuary’s most famous visitors are tundra swans, which migrate in numbers nearing 1,000 from about mid-October to the end of March. Early in the morning—before they fly to nearby fields—and dusk when they return to Nakaumi is the best time to see these swans at the sanctuary. Photographers can often be found at the sanctuary during swan migration season as capturing a photo of the birds in flight is a coveted accomplishment.

In the spring and summer, it is possible to see spot-billed ducks and little grebes caring for eggs and newly hatched chicks. The nests of little grebes are especially interesting to observe because they are built to float on the water.

Other resident and migratory birds that may appear at the sanctuary include white-tailed eagles, herons, greater white-fronted geese and the rare black-faced spoonbill.

Things To Know


Open from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays or the following day if Tuesday is a national holiday. The sanctuary operates on a limited schedule around the New Year’s holidays.

Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from November to March offer extended hours (7:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.)

Outdoor areas can be accessed free of charge. Admission to the nature center is ¥310. (Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more and international visitors. Children of junior high school age and below, seniors and other qualifying visitors can enter for free.)

Information on events, volunteer activities and live streams of the sanctuary pond can be found on the sanctuary’s website.

How To Get There


By train

Take a bus from Yonago station and alight at Yonago Mizutori Koen Iriguchi. The sanctuary is a short walk from here. The Yonago City Tourist Information Center located inside Yonago station can provide the most accurate timetables and transportation information.

If traveling from outside the region, Yonago station is accessible via the Yakumo Express departing from Okayama station.

Alternatively, the sanctuary is accessible by car and parking is available on-site.

Where To Stay

Green Rich Hotel Yonago Ekimae Futamata Yunohana
  • 175 Meijicho, Yonago-shi, Tottori, 683-0053 Japan
  • ¥7,645 - ¥31,790
  • 4.21/5 (349 reviews)
  • 5.0 km
Smile Hotel Yonago
  • 1-1-55 Nishifukubara, Yonago-shi, Tottori, 683-0805 Japan
  • ¥4,600 - ¥20,200
  • 3.77/5 (449 reviews)
  • 5.1 km
Washington Hotel Plaza Yonago
  • 125 Meijicho, Yonago-shi, Tottori, 683-0053 Japan
  • ¥5,600 - ¥15,800
  • 3.86/5 (1,295 reviews)
  • 5.2 km
Kaike Onsen Kaike Grand Hotel Tensui
  • 4-18-45 Kaikeonsen, Yonago-shi, Tottori, 683-0001 Japan
  • ¥6,600 - ¥30,360
  • 6.7 km
Kaike Onsen Kasuitei
  • 4-19-10 Kaikeonsen, Yonago-shi, Tottori, 683-0001 Japan
  • ¥9,350 - ¥66,000
  • 4.28/5 (453 reviews)
  • 6.8 km

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