Japan: Getting to Kushiro to Observe the Tanchozuru Cranes (Part 2)
Updated: Oct 13
Japanese cranes are undoubtedly among the most represented animals in traditional Japanese painting. Any photographer who goes to Hokkaido in winter must go observe them in the village of Tsurui. It's a striking and emotionally rich spectacle. How can one get to Kushiro, the only region where it is now possible to see them?
© O. Robert
The Japanese cranes, also known as Tanchozuru in Japanese, are one of the most precious symbols of Japan's wildlife. This endemic species is primarily found on the island of Hokkaido. The Japanese crane is one of the largest birds in the world, and its image is widely used in Japanese culture for the values it symbolizes.
They can only be observed from specific locations around the city of Kushiro. Several spots have been set up at this location to accommodate tourists as well as photographers, who gather at dawn for the arrival of these majestic waders. To get to Kushiro, here are some useful tips (I hope).
© O. Robert
Getting to Kushiro
As is always the case in Japan, there are multiple ways to reach a tourist destination. Their flawless sense of organization offers various means of transportation depending on your expectations or personal interests.
You can therefore get to Kushiro City from Sapporo Chitose Airport either by air or by road. Both methods have their advantages, but I recommend taking a flight to Kushiro if you are coming from Tokyo, Osaka, or any other major city in Japan. You will likely be eager to get to the location as quickly as possible. Also, it's better to save the return trip by road to fully enjoy the landscapes of Hokkaido.
Noren - Tancho
You will find a multitude of hotels in Kushiro City. By taking a taxi directly from the airport, you will be certain to get to your hotel in the most direct and safest way possible. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the region to be swept by snowstorms that make visibility and travel by road quite difficult or even impossible. It is also not uncommon to see some flights canceled or delayed. Despite this, flying to Kushiro remains the most efficient means.
And walking in 20 cm of snow in the middle of a storm upon arriving in the evening with luggage is not the easiest thing. Having tested it myself, I can confirm this.
© O. Robert
The next day, you will need to pick up the rental car that you booked online before leaving. I recommend the rental company Orix, which is present throughout the country and offers attractive rates. I only work with them for vehicle rentals now. They offer the convenient advantage of being able to return the car in a different prefecture (for a slight additional cost).
The road from Kushiro to the sanctuary and observatory located in the village of Tsurui is very easy and direct. Tsurui is the most well-known location for observing the cranes. This is where you will go daily if you have planned multiple days in the region.
Gitzo Mountaineer S3: The Ultimate Carbon Tripod for Landscape Photography
Note, however, that it is also possible to find hotels on the road from Kushiro to Tsurui. While these allow you to save some time on your morning and evening commutes, they are located in somewhat remote places. From experience, I prefer to get up early and stay in Kushiro rather than spend the night in the villages during winter. Additionally, in Kushiro, you will have an array of choices when it comes to restaurants, cafes, or shops. This is very pleasant after a day spent in the cold without moving much.
Part 2: Getting to Kushiro to Observe the Tanchozuru Cranes
Hokkaido - The Ultimate Guide to Japan's Great Northern Island
If you liked this post, feel free to leave a comment below and share it on social media. This helps me continue my work. Thank you in advance for your support.