January 2, 2005
With less than 5 hours of daylight left, we were hard-pressed for time to see the marshlands and the cranes at the Tsurumidai feeding ground. Fortunately, we met a quick-thinking guide at the tourist information booth who mapped up our itinerary for the day, right down to the train/bus departure times.
We hopped onto the local JR Senmo train and headed for the marshlands. At JR Kushiro Shitsugen station (a cute little wooden cabin), we alighted on a wooden platform and made our way to the Hosooka observatory point for a spectacular panoramic view of the marshlands. Many pictures and 40 minutes later, we hopped back onto the train to Kushiro station, where we ran for the Akan bus that was departing in less than 10 minutes for the Tsuru-mura Tancho Sanctuary.
The bus journey took 1 hour and went through the town and into the farming areas at the outskirts of town. The feeding ground is located at the right side of the road; look for the Tsurui-mura signs posted along the way.
The Tancho (Japanese red crane) is regarded as a bird of good omen by the Ainu people. Due to indiscriminate hunting in the early 1900s, the cranes were almost extinct. It is now protected and designated as a natural heritage by the government.
The Tancho is a magnificent bird at 1.6m tall with a wing span of 2m and body weight of 7 to 12kg. We were awestruck at the majestic sight of the cranes. This is a must-see sight for nature- and bird-lovers.
Across the feeding ground is a country-styled souvenir shop. It has a viewing gallery on the first and second floor for visitors to view the cranes while sipping their tea or coffee.
From journal Hokkaido, the JR Express Experience