Japan: Advice needed

To: "Helen Larson" <>, <>
Subject: Japan: Advice needed
From: "Jenny Stiles" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:40:21 +1000
Thanks Helen,
It is encouraging to hear from lots of people who have had good experiences in 
Japan! Thank you for all your suggestions. I think quite a bit of the Imperial 
Palace grounds is out of bounds to the general public, but it sounds like it is 
still worth a visit.

>From Jenny

From: Helen Larson 
Sent: Monday, July 14, 2014 12:39 PM
To:  ;  
Subject: Japan: Advice needed

Hello Jenny
   I have visited Japan a number of times but only get to go birding on 
weekends. I agree with Sonja in that the Meiji Shrine park is very good for 
birds as long as you take your time and listen, sometimes there's lots of 
people. And if the Mandarin ducks are still there in the northern pond you may 
have to battle with the photographers. Ueno Park in the middle of the city is 
the best duck place and is also good for other birds as well as 
people-watching. The moat around the Imperial Palace has Spot-billed ducks, 
pochards and others and they are often near the bridge to the main entrance 
gate. The grounds of the Palace have many good birds (robins and shrikes etc) 
but am not sure if all is open to the public (I had visitor access to the 
Imperial fish collection and grounds).
   Nara and Nikko are must-sees - the Cryptomeria forest and buildings at Nara 
are just wonderful, raining or not. Also Mount Takao National Park is worth a 
visit for a scenic walking day - it's a longish train trip but you'll know you 
are nearly there when you realise the remaining passengers are all wearing 
various types of hiking gear. It's crowded in fine weather but great walks up 
and around scenic hills and forest with small shrines and small shops selling 
odd refreshments. And there's even birds there.
   Travelling by trains is easy as long as you know where you want to go as the 
station staff are helpful. Actually everyone is - I once had a lady shut up her 
tiny noodle stall by a train station and take me by the hand to lead me round 
the corner to show me my hotel (she spoke no English but understood the kanji 
version of my hotel name). I always get a station bento box and can of green 
tea from shop or machine before a train ride so am ready for anything.
   As I usually stay in cheap hotels with tiny rooms in Tokyo (but very clean 
and safe) I cannot advise. A minshuku or ryokan (Japanese inn) is a good way to 
stay - you will get breakfast and dinner (you must let them know if you are 
going to eat dinner elsewhere). Plus you get to live and sleep in tatami rooms. 
Have had some very delicious dinners at these places (outside Tokyo); sometimes 
you go to a dining room but usually your dinner is brought to your room (then 
you get to try to identify everything), very restful way to end a day. 
   Do have fun, and enjoy the vending machines. 


> From: 
> Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2014 11:03:43 +1000
> To: 
> CC: 
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Japan: Advice needed
> Hi Jenny,
> My husband and I have been to Japan a couple of times and travelled by train 
> most of the time. It isn't quite as convenient as having a car with drinks 
> etc but the trains run on time and are clean and most have electronic 
> messages near the carriage end alternating between Japanese and English which 
> makes it much easier than the first time we were there.
> We were there in February last time, and I found the parks had birds. In 
> Tokyo, I found the gardens near the Meiji Shrine to be good, and some birds 
> in the Shinjuku Goyen National Garden, both of which have the advantage of 
> not being too far from stations. (My lists are on e-Bird).
> We did go out to see the snow monkeys and it is a bit "unnatural" in that 
> they are fed, and their pool has been obviously purpose built. It also takes 
> a bit of time to get to it from Nagano (can't remember exactly, but think an 
> hour or so). There was snow when we were there which added to it. I didn't 
> see many birds there, but it was winter.
> We enjoyed Nara, and I saw quite a few birds there despite it raining for the 
> time we were there. It is probably a bit less commercial than Kyoto, and 
> there are deer there. 
> If you end up having time, Nikko is an interesting place to visit, although I 
> didn't see a lot of birds there. My husband enjoyed Okayama Castle (and your 
> boys might too) and you could go for a walk in the park across the river 
> where I saw quite a few species. 
> I hope that helps, but feel free to email me if you want to know more.
> Sonja
> On 14/07/2014, at 10:29 AM, "Jenny Stiles" <> wrote:
> > Hi All,
> > I would very much appreciate some advice on travelling to Japan at the end 
> > of October this year after my youngest son finishes the HSC. Normally I 
> > pick the holidays and have very definite goal in mind, but this time my 
> > "men" have chosen but their goals are vague [weird vending machines, cool 
> > castles, weird people, snow monkeys, Mt Fuji, Hiroshima, Kyoto]
> > This will be a family holiday, so the only birding will be incidental or to 
> > a place that everyone will enjoy! Of course I do hope to sneak some [lots?] 
> > in and would also like to see some of the native mammals!! My sons are 23, 
> > 21 [has autism] & 18 and are pretty tolerant of birding stops.
> > So far the rough itinerary is as follows: Tokyo [2 or 3 nights], Nikko [1 
> > night], Nagano (to see the snow monkeys*) [1 night], Hakone [1 night], 
> > Kyoto [3 nights or maybe 2 & 1 night at Nara], Hiroshima [2 nights], Osaka 
> > [1 night] & fly home from there. There is still scope to add in a few more 
> > stops or extend the ones I have selected.
> > 
> > I have found it all a bit overwhelming actually, especially thinking about 
> > travelling by train and bus rather than a car [used to just stashing 
> > suitcases in the hire car, not having them with us!] and I have no idea how 
> > to choose hotels, so any recommendations would be extremely welcome. I 
> > gather there are not going to be rooms that sleep 5, so I assume we will 
> > need 2 rooms? One for my husband and myself & my son with autism & another 
> > for my other 2 sons. I hope there are rooms that fit 3 people?
> > 
> > Has anyone been out to see the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen-koen? We are 
> > really keen to see some Japanese Macaques and it sounds like the scenery is 
> > pretty & I hoped to see some birds too, but there is another monkey park in 
> > easy reach of Kyoto, so wondered if the Jigokudani Yaen-koen park is worth 
> > the extra effort. Lonely Planet gives it a terrible review but visitors 
> > posting on Trip Advisor seems to be very happy on the whole.
> > 
> > Any advice of where in the various Tokyo parks would have the best chance 
> > of birds would be good too. I have looked on Eremaea to get the names of 
> > likely spots, but since I will be dragging non birders about it would be 
> > great to have some specific instructions! For instance, the moat around the 
> > Imperial Palace looks pretty big so it would be great to know if there is a 
> > section that is more likely to have ducks.
> > 
> > Thank you for taking the time to read my email.
> > 
> > From Jenny Stiles, Sydney
> > 
> > 
> > 
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