Excerpts from the Welcome Home Letter written by Expedition Leader Mark Brazil for our January 2008 Snow Monkeys & Cranes of Japan program.
What amazing contrasts we experienced, beginning with our somewhat damp welcome in Nagoya. From the tea plantations and flowering plum trees of southwestern Kyushu, to the light snow followed by sunshine in the forested mountains of Nagano Prefecture. And finally, day after day of glorious sunshine reflecting on packed snow in east Hokkaido.
And what wildlife experiences we had! The spectacle of more than 12,000 Hooded and White-naped Cranes at Arasaki in Kyushu was our southern highlight—but with the added bonus of close encounters with individual Common and Sandhill cranes. Four species of cranes in two days, coupled with delightful glimpses of displays among the White-naped Cranes left us with the ultimate dilemma: which crane is most beautiful? The displays in Kyushu were just a prelude for the magnificent dancing cranes of Hokkaido, which we experienced under so many different conditions, and at sites around Tsurui (the village of the cranes), and Akan Villages.
For some, perhaps the birds will have been knocked into second place by some of our mammal encounters: the highly photogenic Japanese Macaques in superb sunshine at Jigokudani, and brief encounters with Japanese Serow. For me, the sightings of Siberian Weasel and Wild Boar in Kyushu were the big surprises. I carry equally powerful memories of the monkeys lolling in the hot pools, grooming each other, and the youngsters playing boisterously. In Hokkaido, we were treated to repeated sightings of Sika Deer, Red Fox, Red Squirrel, and the show-stealing Sable. Such a treat to be able to watch at length an animal so rarely seen.