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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

Japan: The Biwa Lake Marsh, an Ideal Ecological Refuge for Photography

Updated: Mar 8

The Biwako Marsh, also known as the "Wetland," refers to a wetland ecosystem located to the north of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Classified as a Ramsar priority site, this marshland area is also a prime location for wildlife and landscape photographers.

Japon: Le marais du lac Biwa, un refuge écologique idéal pour la photographie

It is undoubtedly in winter that I have spent my best moments as a photographer in this region. The morning frost on the branches of submerged trees gives the images a surreal aspect. Although it is difficult to approach the water's edge due to site protection measures, there are still a few hidden spots that defy the rule.

However, the sites arranged for observation are sufficient and allow full appreciation of the wild scenery. Nevertheless, one must be equipped with a telephoto lens, as the area is vast and the subjects quite distant.

Ecological and Environmental Importance

1. Biodiversity: The wetlands of Lake Biwa are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, some of which are rare or endangered. This biodiversity includes migratory birds, fish, insects, and a variety of aquatic plants.

2. Habitat for Migratory Birds: The region is particularly important as a resting and feeding site for many migratory birds. It plays a crucial role in the migratory routes of these birds across Asia.

Equipment: NISI Filter Kit. High-definition circular ND filters, waterproof, stain proof, and anti-scratch. The reference brand for long exposures. Comes with a carrying bag. Check it out here.

Protection and Conservation

1. Ramsar Site

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

As a result, a Ramsar site is a wetland designated as being of international importance under the Convention. This Convention is officially named the "Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat." It was established by an international treaty signed in 1971 by numerous countries in the city of Ramsar, Iran.

A part of Lake Biwa's wetlands was designated as a Ramsar site in 1993.

Ramsar sites can include a variety of wetland habitats, such as marshes, peatlands, lakes, rivers, estuaries, and even coral reef areas and other marine environments. There are over 2300 recognized sites worldwide.

2. Conservation Efforts

Efforts have been underway for several years to preserve this unique habitat of Lake Biwa, particularly by managing water levels and controlling development around the wetlands. Restricted access is necessary for this preservation.

Additionally, several trails and observation posts have been set up in the marsh. They offer excellent opportunities for bird watching, nature photography, and environmental education.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to deviate from these paths, except in a few places where it is possible to get closer to the water. Therefore, one must be content with these observation spots for photographing groves of submerged trees or any other element of photographic interest.

3. Connection with the Local Community

These wetlands are not only important ecologically but are also a vital element of the local culture and history. They reflect the relationship between the inhabitants and Lake Biwa over time, including fishing techniques and other forms of exploitation respectful of the site.

My equipment: GITZO Ball Head S4. The ultra-stable head with friction control. The ultimate in smoothness and precision of movement. A reference for landscape photography and long exposures. Check it out here.

The Final Word

The marshland of Lake Biwa constitutes a rich and vital ecosystem, representing an exceptional example of Japan's aquatic biodiversity and playing an important role in global wetland conservation efforts.

For visitors interested in nature, ecology, or photography, it is a must-visit destination to discover and appreciate the natural richness of Japan.

Less typically "Japanese" than other sites around Lake Biwa, the Wetland is nevertheless a very rich site for minimalist photography. Curiously, I often found myself alone there during my winter travels along the shores of the lake.

Yet, in my opinion, it is the most interesting time of the year to capture the richness and uniqueness of these trees clustered in places in shallow water. In contrast, during the other seasons, you will be greeted by hordes of wildlife photographers who spend their days observing the endemic fauna and chatting, often leading to passionate conversations.

My book: Water Mirrors from Léman to Biwa. Glénat Editions. Available on this site.

My book: Water Mirrors from Léman to Biwa. Glénat Editions. Available on this site.



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