VENTflash #147 October 23, 2012

Posted by Victor Emanuel


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 69 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Ari...

Dear friends,

Sometimes I am asked where VENT finds the remarkable local leaders that we use on many of our tours. The answer is that they come to us in a variety of ways. Some are people I have personally met through my travels; some are discovered by our full-time leaders; and others come through recommendations from our clients. Longtime VENT travelers Paul and Betty Rae Davis of Midland, Texas are an example of the latter. Over a year ago Paul told me about a Japanese birding guide named Kaz Shinoda who he thought would be a good local leader for our Japan tours. Paul and VENT leader Bob Sundstrom went to Japan to bird with Kaz. Then, this past spring, Kaz traveled to the U.S. as a participant on a High Island Migration tour that Bob co-led with David Wolf. After the tour ended, I had dinner with Kaz just before he returned to Japan. Right away I knew he would make an excellent co-leader for our Japan tours. We then went into action and made plans to offer a Japan in Winter tour in January 2013 that Kaz will co-lead with Bob.

Red-crowned Cranes, Kushiro, Japan

Red-crowned Cranes, Kushiro, Japan — Photo: JNTO

About ten years ago I visited Hokkaido with my friend Peter Matthiessen to see the Red-crowned Cranes in the winter. We had a marvelous time and enjoyed wonderful experiences watching these magnificent cranes dancing in the snow. Peter wrote about this event in his superb book, The Birds of Heaven (2001).

Our Japan in Winter tour will visit Hokkaido as well as two other islands. Aside from the beautiful Red-crowned Crane, which happens to be Japan's national bird, we'll see the world's largest eagle, the Steller's Sea-Eagle, and the world's largest owl, the Blakiston's Fish-Owl. The tour also includes a visit to the Arasaki Crane Reserve on the island of Kyushu where over 10,000 Hooded and White-naped cranes winter. Common, Demoiselle, and Siberian cranes are also possible at this reserve.

During our travels we'll encounter many other exciting winter birds. Japan plays host to large numbers of waterfowl in the winter including Whooper Swan and Tufted Duck; other birds of prey such as White-tailed Sea-Eagle; and a wonderful collection of woodland birds. Two days in the vicinity of Karuizawa in the foothills of the Japanese Alps will add some superb possibilities among Japanese birds, such as Baikal Teal, Smew, Long-billed Plover, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Crested Kingfisher, Japanese Pygmy-Woodpecker, Elegant Bunting, Pallas's Rosefinch, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Japanese Waxwing, and Brown Dipper.

Steller's Sea-Eagle

Steller's Sea-Eagle — Photo: Peter Harrison

A birding and natural history trip to Japan in the wintertime is an amazing experience. I hope you will consider joining us on this departure. We have offered wintertime trips to Japan in the past, but this year we are especially excited, thanks to our discovery of Kaz Shinoda who brings us a new and completely updated itinerary.

Japan in Winter: A Crane & Sea-Eagle Spectacle, January 12-24, 2013 with Bob Sundstrom and Kaz Shinoda; $6,995 in double occupancy from Tokyo. 3 spaces remain!


In closing, I want to introduce you to our man in Japan, Kaz Shinoda, who has led a remarkably diverse and interesting  life:

Kaz Shinoda

Kaz Shinoda

Kaz Shinoda was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1957. From age 11 to 14 he lived in South Africa with his family and often went on safari where he learned about the fascinating world of wildlife. He later became a birdwatcher, and has now been a keen birder for nearly 20 years. Kaz graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo, and then taught English to high school students for more than two decades before dedicating himself to guiding visiting birders in the Tokyo area and around Japan. As a birding guide with more than a decade of experience, he has led birders throughout the Japanese Archipelago. As a nationally licensed English-speaking Tour Guide, Kaz is knowledgeable not only about birding in Japan, but also about Japanese geography, history, and especially culture, important subjects that help enhance a birding trip to this culturally unique country. His guiding experience has taken him throughout the country from Hokkaido to Okinawa and many places in between including Tobishima, Karuizawa, Hachijo-jima, Kyushu, and Amami. Kaz's considerable organizational and logistical skills are key to the success of our winter tour in Japan, while his philosophy of providing travelers an enjoyable and rewarding birding experience makes him an extremely popular guide.

I can't imagine a better way to bird Japan in the winter than with Kaz Shinoda and Bob Sundstrom.

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel