Witness nearly 12,000 hooded and white-naped cranes in Arasaki, Kyushu—the stirring sights and sounds of these elegant birds are among the most memorable wildlife experiences anywhere in the Far East.
Visit the enchanting, snow-enveloped village of Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the tall, gable-roofed Gassho-Zukuri architecture, which literally means “hands folded in prayer,” is unique in Japan.
Observe the celebrated spectacle of the snow monkeys that visit and soak in the thermal baths of Kambayashi Onsen in central Honshu, and enjoy the therapeutic properties of the hot springs at our lodge.
Bento boxes hail from Japan and first hit the scene around the 16th century, used by travelers and working folks who didn't have time for meals. A typical bento box is divided into several compartments and the container itself can range from disposable plastic to a gorgeously decorated set of lacquered boxes.
By any standards, winters in the Gifu and Toyama Prefectures of Japan can be severe. Here in the Japanese Alps, snow falls most days between the end of November and early April, more than 20 inches annually, and temperatures often drop into the single digits. Given such harsh conditions, it would seem that 18th-century farmers in the region could only survive on a prayer.
We kicked off our 2011 Snow Monkeys & Cranes expedition (our 14th!) with a bang. Within minutes of our flight arriving into Kagoshima Airport February 4, and just as I was pointing out its modest plume of steam and ash, Mt. Shinmoe erupted in spectacular fashion sending a billowing ash cloud high into the sky right before our eyes (and with our ANA plane in the foreground!).
Because of the remoteness of our overland adventures, we don’t always hear from our field leaders until a trip is almost concluded. So we eagerly await news and are always excited to hear the details. Since so many land expeditions are happening at this time of year, we thought we’d share some of the enthusiasm expressed by our leaders via phone calls and quick emails to our office...
As a child I dreamed of watching wild creatures, especially mammals, but with no one to learn from, I was left to my own devices to find ways to do so. Youthful interests tend toward the energetic, so it was by bicycle that I explored my home county of Worcestershire in central England.
Mark's interest in wildlife took root at an early age when, as a young boy, he was fascinated by the natural world and inspired by his early reading and early natural history documentaries on BBC TV. Mark's first focus was on mammals, and he originally hoped to become a mammalogist, but that was a hobby he soon abandoned for good reason.