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Red-crowned Cranes.JAPAN!
February 4 - 15, 2024

Cranes, Eagles, Owls,
& Snow Monkeys

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Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

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To visit Japan in winter is a unique and wonderful experience. Tens of thousands of Cranes of at least 5 species can be seen dancing and displaying on the snowy fields or flying into roost against the backdrop of glorious sunsets. As well as the highlight of seeing these cranes, we will also get to see the awesome Steller’s Sea-Eagles and hordes of seabirds, and winter ducks on Hokkaido.  Our stay at Rausu will give us opportunities to see the highly sought after Blakiston’s Fish-Owl right from our bedroom windows. We will take the famous Bullet Train to see the ever popular and famous Snow Monkeys (Japanese Macaques) of Jigokudani as they entertain us in their hot thermal pools. Among the many special birds here we will look for Japanese Accentor, Baikal Teal, the very difficult Copper Pheasant, plus a short boat trip to see Japanese Murrelet near their Steller's Sea-Eaglebreeding grounds. This trip will be filled with stunning scenery, and many photographic opportunities, which will include several very special birds.

It’s with great delight that once again we have used the expert knowledge of our friends at Birdquest to set up this amazing itinerary which will focus on seeing an amazing variety of winter specialties. Their years of experience in running numerous successful tours to this country will see us in good hands and our guide Dave Farrow (Birdquest) has led many tours, including our 2017 tour to this fascinating country.


Japan is a very expensive country to visit and we are very happy that our tour costs represent great value, especially as they include all of the internal flights.

Join us on a Sunrise Birding tour to experience the winter wonders of Japan!



Snow Monkeys! Day 1 • Arrive Tokyo, Japan
Please plan on an arrival day of the 4th Feb to Haneda International Airport, Tokyo.( Airport code: HND). Note that this is purely an arrival day and no activities are planned. The official start of the tour will be meeting at the lobby of the Royal Park Hotel which is adjacent to Haneda Airport. Time will be advised once we have our train tickets reserved. Note the tour starts with breakfast (tomorrow) on Feb 05th.
Night Royal Park Hotel, Haneda Airport International.


Day 2 • Bullet train to Karuizawa
We will meet up in the lobby of the Royal Park Hotel (time to be advised) and then transfer by shuttle to the train station. We will then take the famous Bullet Train to the City of Karuizawa approx 1hr. On arrival we will transfer to our minibuses and make a few birding stops along the way to Yudanaka which is close the famous Snow Monkey reserve. We should get to see our first birds which could include Rustic, Meadow and Black-faced Buntings, Dusky Thrush, White-cheeked Starling, Varied Tit, Brown-eared Bulbul, Gray-capped Greenfinch, Oriental Crow, Japanese Wagtail, Bull-headed Shrike, Oriental Turtle Dove, and with luck maybe Green Pheasant or Azure-winged Magpie. Night Yudanaka.

Day 3 • Jigokudani Snow Monkeys / Karuizawa
Green PheasantToday we head to Jigokudani the world-renowned place to see Japans famous Snow Monkeys. More correctly named they are Japanese Macaques and we will be able to enjoy these very photogenic creatures lounging around up to their chests in the hot natural pools. It’s obviously a bit of a tourist attraction but well worth a visit and a very unique mammal experience, as family groups sit around the pools, or if its cold in the hot pools, diving underwater and playing and offering wonderful photo opportunities. There will be a few birds around such as Eurasian Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Eurasian Jay and possibly Alpine Accentor. After our encounter with the wonderful Snow Monkeys we may have time to check a small lake for ducks which could include Chinese Spot-billed Duck, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Goosander and sometimes the gorgeous looking Smew or Baikal Teal. We could also see Little Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Great Cormorant and the Black-backed race of White Wagtail (M.f lugens). We will then return to Karuizawa for an overnight stay. Night Karuizawa.
Day 4 • Karuizawa
Japanese Serow. Today we will seek out all of the special birds of this beautiful and fascinating area. Our hotel has a bird feeder and hopefully visitors will include Japanese Tit, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Gray-capped Greenfinch, Brambling, Hawfinch and sometimes Japanese Accentor and in invasion years even Japanese Grosbeak. Nearby we will check woodland trails that pass fast tumbling streams where we will concentrate our efforts to try and locate one of Japans most difficult birds the elusive Copper Pheasant. We will need some luck as this species is still hunted and as such very wary and not easily seen. If we do not find it here we will slowly drive the mountain roads to try and locate one. Elegant BuntingHere we also have chances to see the strange goat like mammal called the Japanese Serow. There will be plenty of other bird species to keep us busy with Japanese Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed and with luck the erratic Pallas’s Rosefinches, Japanese Pygmy and Japanese Green Woodpeckers, Japanese Grosbeak, Red-flanked Bluetail, Brown Dipper, Hawfinch, Pale and Dusky Thrushes, Varied Tit, Brambling, Gray-bellied Bullfinch and Chinese Hwamei. A nearby lake and surrounding fields will produce a few different species and we could soon pick up buntings such as the superb Elegant, Rustic and Meadow Buntings, Black-backed and Japanese Wagtails, Daurian Redstart, White-cheeked Starling and some commoner ducks. With luck we could also find Japanese Accentor or Solitary Snipe. Night Karuizawa.


Day 5 • Karuizawa / Haneda / Hyuga
Today will mostly be a travel day. After some early morning birding around Karuizawa to try and see anything we may have missed we will then take the Bullet train back to Haneda, where we catch a flight to Kagoshima, and from there we will drive to Hyuga. Depending on our flight times we may or may not get chances to make short stops along the way. Night Hyuga.
Day 6  • Hyuga / Arasaki
Japanese Murrelet.This morning we will go in search of one of Japans more difficult birds the globally threatened and endangered Japanese Murrelet. We have several small harbors we can check as well as viewpoints along the rugged coast, and because we are near its largest known breeding colony which is on a offshore island and because this is a good time of year to find them, our chances are high. Depending on the weather we may also take a boat trip a short distance out to try and get closer views of this sought after species. We can also expect to see Black-tailed Gulls and possible Japanese Cormorant, Pacific Reef Heron, Black-faced Spoonbill and Blue Rock Thrush of the red-bellied philippensis subspecies. Hopefully after a successful morning we will make our way toward the crane capitol of Japan and arguably the world, Arasakai. If we have time we may make a few stops along the way to look for select species such as Long-billed Plover, Crested Kingfisher and if we have any news of Scaly-sided Mergansers we will of course detour to try and see this enigmatic bird. Night Arasaki.


Day 7  • Arasaki
cranesThe big attraction of Arasaki is its huge winter gathering of cranes which can peak with numbers in excess of over 10,000 birds. We shall be woken by the bugling calls of huge flocks of Hooded Cranes right outside our perfectly situated Guesthouse, and enjoy our first views through the windows of our rooms or from the breakfast table. Because we are staying in the heart of the reserve we will be able to witness huge gatherings of cranes that include mostly Hooded, followed by the elegant White-naped and then a few Common and Sandhill Cranes. This is truly one of the world’s great birding spectacles with sights and sounds never to be forgotten. These birds come to feed on the maize and fish put out for them by the reserve warden and this provides great opportunities to get close up photos of Japans famous dancing cranes. The odd rarity sometimes occurs and we may be lucky to find a Demoiselle or even Siberian Crane. The Arasakai area also holds a huge diversity of habitats and as such it offers one of the richest places for winter birding in Japan. Amongst rice fields, rivers, mudflats, canals, reed beds, scrub, and woodland we will search for a wealth of wildfowl that could include the very smart Mandarin Duck and sometimes Baikal Teal, plus species like Chinese Penduline Tit, Russet Sparrow, Buff-bellied and Olive-backed Pipit, Black-faced Bunting (of the yellow-bellied form, personata), Chestnut-eared and Common Reed Buntings, Bull-headed Shrike, Daurian Jackdaw, White-cheeked Starling, Dusky and Pale Thrushes, Eastern Buzzard (split from Common), Eastern Marsh Harrier, Asian House Martin, Brown-cheeked Rail, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Red-throated Pipit, and if we are lucky Japanese Quail. Night Arasaki.


Day 8  • Arasaki
Saunder's Gull.We have another full day in this wonderful area, so depending on what we have already seen and what we want to see we will mix our time between here and a visit to the west coast. Along the rivers and estuary we will search for the delightful Saunder’s Gull, plus other gulls species such as Vega Gulls, Black-tailed Gulls and a few taimyrensis Heuglin’s Gulls. Brown Boobies could be seen circling offshore, while rocky outcrops could hold a few Japanese Cormorants. We will search amongst the common shorebirds and herons to see if we can get looks at Black-faced Spoonbill, and then a search amongst the many waterfowl will hopefully reveal a few Baikal Teal. Reed-beds could produce small groups of Chinese Penduline Tits and we could try again for Brown-cheeked Rail and Ruddy-breasted Crake if we missed them yesterday. A stony river could give us a chance to see Long-billed Plover and with luck the Crested Kingfisher as well as Black-backed and Japanese Wagtails. All in all we will have a busy two days based right in the middle of one of the worlds greatest Crane spectacles. Night Arasaki
Days 9 - 10  • Arasaki / Kagoshima / Kushiro
Red-crowned CraneThis morning we will leave behind the sight and sounds of the thousands of cranes of Arasakai and set off towards our next destination. This and the following day will be quite a bit of traveling as we first drive to Kagoshima and then take a flight to Kushiro arriving in the afternoon. From here we may go looking for Ural Owl if there are any recent sightings in the area, and then make our way to Kushiro hopefully in time for our first look at the stunning Red-crowned Cranes. The next morning we will have more time to enjoy these fabulous cranes as they fly in from their roosting sites along the misty rivers to be fed by local farmers. We have great opportunities to witness these iconic birds in flight and hopefully dancing in the early morning light. Get your cameras ready! Later we will set off on our drive to Rausu with impromptu stops along the way to look for birds such as Pallas’s Rosefinch, Bohemian and Japanese Waxwings if any have been reported. We should also see Marsh Tit, Japanese Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Hawfinch, Black-faced Bunting and the white bellied race of Eurasian Nuthatch asiatica. Whooper Swans should be encountered along the way and then as we head toward the east coast we will start to encounter our first White-tailed Eagles, Goosander and wintering ducks, grebes and an assortment of gulls. We will continue along the coast to arrive at our guest house around dusk, just in time to start our vigil from our rooms or the restaurant for the most magnificent of all the worlds owls the huge Blakiston’s Fish Owl. We have two nights to try and see this almost mythical owl, and we have good chances as a pair regularly come to feed in a small pond in the stream that runs just in front of the guest house. The pool is floodlit at night and no one is allowed outside the building so as to not disturb the birds while they are fishing. We cannot predict what time the birds will show which is why we stay here allowing us to be warm and relaxed while awaiting this special event. Night Rausu.


Day 11  • Rausu
Blakiston's Fish OwlHopefully the owls put in an early appearance early and didn’t keep us waiting all night. They can make several visits to the pond during the night which gives us several chances, but it is of course wildlife so there is a chance they will not turn up at all. After breakfast and hopefully a celebration of the magnificent Blakiston’s Fish Owl we will head out for a trip we have organized on a boat that will take us just a short distance out of harbor to the nearby ice pack. Here we will be treated to once in a lifetime close-up views of the huge and beautiful Steller’s Sea Eagles that congregate at this time of year. Up to 1,000 eagles fly south from their breeding grounds to spend the winter in this area and a boat trip offers the most incredible views you could ever imagine of these awesome creatures. By feeding them a few tidbits the eagles often come within a few meters offering incredible views and photographic opportunities. If we are lucky it may even be possible to spot a Largha Seal as they sometimes come out and sit on the ice flow. If the weather or ice conditions are not favorable then don’t worry we can still get incredible views of the eagles along the rocky coast and perched in dead trees often around one or two of the nearby river mouths. These huge eagles make White-tailed Eagles seem somewhat small by comparison and indeed we should see plenty of both species side by side. In and around the harbors the gulls gather and we will spend some time picking through the Slaty-backed, Glaucous and Glaucous-winged Gulls to see if any other species are present. The stunningly beautiful Harlequin Duck is often found inside the harbors and can also provide fabulous photo opportunities. On the streams we can look for Brown Dippers and hopefully we will encounter Sika Deer or a Red Fox before heading back and warming up in our cozy guest house ready for another night of owl watching. Night Rausu.


Day 12 • Rausu / Kiritappu
Steller's Sea Eagle.Our last day will see us looking for Brown Dipper outside of our guest house before departing and heading toward the south coast and Kiritappu. We will again pass several rivers where perched Steller’s and White-tailed Eagles will vie for our attention and then the further south we go the more opportunities for short stops present themselves. On several headlands we will scan the sea for alcids such as Ancient Murrelet, Spectacled Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Thick-billed Murre and Crested Auklet, Pacific Loon and Red-necked Grebe. Depending on how much snow cover and ice there is around we may also see Whooper Swans and possibly even Short-eared Owl, Rough-legged Hawk or a Merlin. Back along the coast sea ducks could include flocks of Long-tailed Ducks, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneyes, and both Stejneger’s and Black Scoters. Red-throated Loons, Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants can sometimes be found and then as we get to Cape Kiritappu we have our best chances to find wintering flocks of Asian Rosy Finches. There will be few small birds around but Snow Bunting and Redpoll often occur and if it’s a good year maybe Japanese Waxwing. Finally we will head back to Kushiro and take an evening flight back to Haneda, Tokyo where this tour will conclude after dinner in an airport restaurant. Please see arrival/departure information below.


Photos: Steller’s Sea Eagle in flight, Japanese Murrelet and Asian Rosy Finch by Pete Morris (Birdquest), All other photos by Steve Bird.



Asian Rosy FinchJAPAN!
Winter Specialties
February 4 - 15, 2024

Registration Form>    
Contact [email protected] or [email protected] to reserve your space!

TOUR PRICE: US$6995.00 per person based on double occupancy from Tokyo, Japan (Haneda, airport code: HND). Price based on exchange rates at the time the tour was posted (**see note below).

Single supplement: US $645.00 per person, subject to availability – see below. The single room supplement excludes the nights at the Guest Houses at Arasakai and Rausu. These establishments do not charge extra for single occupancy, but the number of rooms is limited, and depending how busy they are there may not be enough available for everyone wanting single accommodation. So far as is possible, priority will be given to those who have booked earliest. At Rausu and only on request we can try to arrange for single occupancy rooms at another house situated about 10 minutes walk away. Transfer by vehicle after you have finished watching/photographing the Blakiston's Fish Owl in the evening will not be possible because of the rules of the Guest House so you will have to walk. There is no extra charge for this, but we do need to make a special request so be sure to tell our office at the time of booking if you prefer this option.


Deposit: $1000.00 per person per tour. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal. 
Use this link
to make your credit card payment.  Please advise [email protected] when you have made payment. 
A second deposit will be due once the tour is confirmed. Your confirmation packet will have the details.

Included in cost: Accommodation in double / twin en-suite rooms with full board from Breakfast on 5th Feb to Dinner on 15th Feb, group transportation throughout the tour, 2 trips on Bullet Train, 2 internal flights, 2 Boat Trips (weather dependent), entrance to Snow Monkeys and other parks, detailed pre-trip materials and checklists, services of local guide and tour leaders throughout the trip.


Not included: International flight, excess luggage charges, passport/visa fees, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.  Also, any and all costs arising from pandemic or Covid-19 related issues are not included in the tour cost and are the sole responsibility of the traveler. These include, among others, the costs of Covid treatment, hospitalization, medical fees, transport, meals and accommodation in case of illness or quarantine, and the costs of any Covid tests needed before, during and after the tour.

Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 4 and maximum 7 with one van/leader. Maximum of 12 with 2 leaders.


NOTE: This tour is being run in association with Bird's Wildilfe & Nature Tours of Plymouth, England.


RESERVATIONS: To reserve your place on this tour:

1) Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected] to confirm availability and hold your place.

2) Review the Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)>

3) Complete the Registration & Release Form (pdf)> and mail it with your deposit of US$1000.00 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC within two weeks to secure your place. 

>Download & print the Registration Form (pdf download).
Instructions are on the form.

Reservations are held with a paid deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.


Once the tour is confirmed to go ahead, we will send you information about booking your flights. Please do not book flights until you receive this information from us and are notified that the trip has sufficient numbers to run. Final payment is due October 4, 2022. Check or bank transfer are preferred but credit card payments are possible (surcharges of up to 5% are added depending on amount to cover credit card company fees). 


Arrival & Departure: This tour begins and ends in Haneda Airport, Tokyo (Airport Code: HND). Timings:
You are free to arrive at any time on the 4th Feb. The entrance of our hotel is located in the Departure Lobby on the 3rd floor of the airport. Note that you will be booked into the Royal Park Hotel, Haneda for the night of 4th Feb. The official tour starts with breakfast the following day and meeting in the lobby of the hotel. Most international flights depart Haneda (HND) late evening or even after midnight and our tour finishes with dinner on the 16th Feb so please ensure you book a flight in accordance with this. If you think this will be a problem then we can help you to book an extra night close to Haneda Airport ready for the finish of this tour. Please note that Tokyo has 2 Airports and we start and end at Haneda (HND), not Narita (NRT). 

Flight Information: When obtaining your international flight tickets yourself you will need to liaise with our office to ensure that we have the qualifying flight details for issue of the internal airpass. Please do not book your flights until we have given you specific information to do so.


Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. No particular strenuous walks are planned but you need to be prepared to be out in cold weather. Birding is mostly from open roads, wide tracks and even boats. To see a good amount of specialties you need to be prepared for full days. We will generally start early and either have an early breakfast or return for breakfast. Lunches will be either picnic or at the lodges depending on our schedule.


**Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in their local currency), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds:
Please review our Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)> prior to registering for this tour. All cancellations must be made in writing. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.

There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour.


Sunrise Birding LLC strongly recommends that you consider purchasing a travel protection plan to protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected in case of delay, injury or illness prior to or during a tour. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Loss and Delay, Emergency Medical Transportation, Pre-existing Conditions, and more. Get started here>


  • Insurance policy requirements vary and the timing of your purchase can affect coverage. Some insurance providers require that for coverage of pre-existing conditions, a policy must be purchased within 7-14 days of booking. Others, like CSA, offer policies that cover pre-existing conditions as long as the policy is purchased prior to making your final payment for the tour.

  • Trip insurance policy premiums may be non-refundable, but they may be able to be amended or transferred. Check with your insurer. It is important to be sure that the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate before you purchase trip insurance.

  • Pay attention to coverages provided by your policy. Be aware of the requirements of country or destination can change, so check often. Some policies are now offering Covid related coverages so check with your insurer.

  • US medical insurance plans (including Medicare) often do not provide coverage outside the US. The US State Department strongly advises Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Consult with your insurer prior to your trip to ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider directly or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Be sure to get and keep all documentation of any expenses incurred.

This tour is being run through – Sunrise Birding LLC – and organized by Steve Bird.
Contact Steve Bird [email protected] for more information.