• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Quick Birding in Tokyo (1 Viewer)

Charles Harper

Régisseur
Easy-Access Tokyo Area Birding Locations

From time to time I have been contacted by BF members or guests who are coming to Japan and are seeking birding information. Many are coming to Tokyo on business or other non-birding matters, and have little time to indulge their hobby here and no way of getting out into the countryside. Since both the English-language field guide and birdfinding guides are out of print and difficult to locate or expensive to purchase, here is a brief overview of the most easily accessible birding sites within the metropolitan Tokyo area, all of which may be reached within an hour by train. There is no claim to originality or completeness, but it is a place to start if you have only a free day or a few free hours here.

The metropolitan train system is complicated but efficient, and a visitor who remains calm and observant will be able to make his way through the maze. The station names and directions are given in Japanese kanji, Japanese kana, Roman letters, and, latterly, in Korean characters, but not all are on every sign: series of signs tend to alternate scripts. Nevertheless, patience in following the arrows and indicators will reward you with success. The basic scheme is that the Yamanote Line is a circular loop surrounding downtown, with major stations Ueno, Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku spread along it, and 25 other stations between them. From the Yamanote Line, other train and subway lines radiate out in all directions. Some you can transfer to without buying a new ticket; others require you to exit one line and re-enter another. (It depends on ownership.) Another important basic is that express trains have red or green characters in their destination panels, while locals are in black-and-white. That should be enough to get you started.

Winter (December to March) is the best birding season, with many winterers from farther north. There are few breeders that are not residents. Migration in the metropolitan area is noticeable primarily as shorebirds along Tokyo Bay; small passerines pass through quickly and quietly and are seldom seen in the city.

1. Meijijingu Koen (Park) is large and right downtown. It contains an important Shinto shrine, sports and recreation facilities, and areas of deep mixed woodland and open parkland, the residence mostly of Large-billed and Carrion Crows, but also of the most common residents (Great Tit, Japanese White-eye, Oriental Turtle Dove, Brown-eared Bulbul, Grey Starling) and wintering species (Dusky, Brown and Pale Thrushes, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart). It is also a place to find Varied Tit in the city, and its ponds sometimes hold a few wintering Mandarin Duck. The most promising pond is at, and its large trees are visible from, Harajuku Station (Yamanote Line), on the side of the tracks opposite the exit.

2. Yatsu Higata is a Ramsar site, and a phenomenon-- a mudflat completely enclosed by city. A narrow canal leads out to Tokyo Bay far away, and the tide comes in and out about 2 hours after the stated Tokyo tides. There is also a small freshwater pond, some reedbeds, and a bit of parkland. Yatsu has an English website with tide times and recently-sighted species, http://www.city.narashino.chiba.jp/~yatsu-tf/top-english.html, but it is not always current-- in fact, at this writing it is not even operational. It is best near low tide, but if this is your first trip to Japan, there are birds of interest at any time. Best in migration for shorebirds, in most winters it will have a Saunders's Gull among the Black-headed Gulls. You can walk completely around the mudflat, but go at least as far as the Nature House (small admission charge) for exhibits, the day's sightings, and big windows with mounted spotting scopes. It is not visible from the station, but is only a five-minute walk away and easy to find. From Tokyo Station, take the Keiyo Line (Tokyo is the terminal, so you cannot go in the wrong direction) to Minami-Funabashi Station. It is a local station, so either catch a local train at Tokyo Station or change to a local train at Maihama (the Disneyland stop). There is only one exit gate. As you pass out the wickets, a convenience store is in front of you. Turn right and leave the station. Turn right again and take the sidewalk about 100 meters to a pedestrian overpass. Take the overpass (which actually goes under, not over, the elevated freeway) and go down the other side. At the bottom, turn 180 degrees (i.e. walk in the opposite direction from your descent of the steps), cross at the light, and the mudflats begin at that corner, on your left.

3. Kasai Rinkai Koen is a multi-use bayside park. It has picnic grounds, concessions and promenades, but also fresh water ponds and two coastal islets. In the winter there are many species of ducks in the pond, and out on the bay, large rafts of Greater Scaup, Eared and Great Crested Grebes. Long-tailed Duck, Smew occasionally appear. One of the islets is accessible, and is a good viewing point for the other islet, which is inaccessible and consequently has a good variety of shore- and waterbirds in winter and in migration. Rarely, Black-faced Spoonbills overwinter. After scanning the island (a little distant for binoculars alone, unfortunately), cross the bridge back to the mainland, turn right along the path, and you will soon come to a pond on your left. There are several paths through the scrub beyond it, with hides from which you can view both saltwater and freshwater areas. Take the Keiyo Line, the same train line as for Yatsu Higata, but get off earlier, at Kasairinkaikoen (the 5th stop from Tokyo on the local, and it is a local stop). Walk along the broad paved path toward the large glassed building on the skyline; the two islets will be in view beyond it.

4. Ueno, or Shinobazu, Pond in winter is a mass of ducks, and sometimes rarities appear-- Lesser Scaup, Baikal Teal, Smew. In summer it is of little or no interest. It is adjacent to the Ueno Zoo, and through the bars you can see a wild colony of Great Cormorants. Ueno Park is nearest Ueno Station on the Yamanote Line, but is more easily reached from the next one, Okachimachi Station, which is much smaller and less confusing. Exit from the north end of the station (the end in the direction of Ueno Station), turn left at the street, right at the next major corner (a very broad avenue) and at the end of the next block you will see a bit of the pond and park on the far left corner, behind the MacDonald's.

5. Mt. Takao is the nearest 'mountain' birding. Although Takao-san is only 600 meters high, you should be able to find Eurasian Jay, Varied Tit, Japanese Green Woodpecker here, and in the winter, buntings. Spring migration may bring you Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Stub-tailed Warbler. It has an English-language website at http://www.city.hachioji.tokyo.jp/HP-english/sightseeing/sight.html . From Shinjuku Station, take the Keio Line or the Keio New Line to Takaosanguchi Station. You can take the cable car or walk the numerous trails or both.

6. Riverine birding is available along the Tamagawa (Tama River). The river mouth, near Kawasaki, is good (best at low tide) for shorebirds and terns in migration (and Least Terns in summer), and gulls and ducks in winter. Take the Keikin Kyuko Line from Shinagawa Station (on the Yamanote Line) to Keikyu-Kawasaki Station (to save time-- take the Express with green characters). Change in the station to the branch line, the Daishi Line, by going downstairs. Take this short line to the last station, Kojimashinden. Walk straight out the station's only exit, past the taxi stand and public toilets, to the cross street and turn left. Walk straight to the end of the road (a few blocks, 5-10 minutes) to its dead end, which is the embankment of the river. Turn right on the path, and bird until it ends at the river mouth.

Birding farther up the river requires a different route from Tokyo. From Shinjuku, take either the Keio Line or Keio New Line (as for Mt. Takao) to Seiseki-sakuragaoka Station or the Odakyu Line to Noborito. These will take you to near different sections of the Tama River, either of which have lengths of riverbank walking paths. The river, however, is not easy to find from the stations, because they are enclosed in a maze of small shops. As you travel from Tokyo, however, you will see the broad riverbed when your train passes over the bridge; then, when you exit the station, find yourself a route back in the direction of the bridge and river, and a bit of wandering should deliver you to its banks within 5 or 10 minutes (in extremis, just say, 'Tama-gawa?'-- it's phonetic-- to a passerby, and they'll point you in the right direction). Residents of interest include Japanese Wagtail, Azure-winged Magpie, and on gravelly islets, Long-billed Plover. Spring brings Oriental Reed Warbler and Zitting Cisticola.

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

TonyC

Well-known member
We enjoyed the Oi Wild Bird Park (Oi Yacho Koen). Take the Yamanote line to Hamamatsu-cho station. Change to the monorail and head towards Haneda airport. Get off at Ryutsu-senta station and cross over the big canal and walk east for about 500 metres under the motorway thing.

This is a little wetland totally surrounded by the docks but there's a visitor centre with very helpful staff and scopes set up looking at a pool where we saw lots of exotic (for Brits !) waders and gulls

A nice half day trip out - probably best in Spring and Autumn with the migrant waders passing through.
 

Charles Harper

Régisseur
Hi Tony,

You're right, Oi is pleasant and very convenient to downtown Tokyo, but after 15 years here, I heavily favor Yatsu Higata, which has all the same birds, plus usually more. Oi is a good place to see Water Rail, however. Since folks cannot see the canal from the station, perhaps I could amend your directions:

At Ryutsu-senta (Ryutsu Center) Station (Monorail Line), take the only exit and turn right outside the ticket gate. Walk a few meters to the road and turn right again (in the direction of "Ota Stadium"). Walk straight-- under the monorail track, over the big canal, under the motorway overpass-- and then you will find the Oi Yacho Koen entrance gate 300 meters farther on your right. Don't go too late-- the gates are locked and Oi becomes inaccessible from 5 p.m. (from 4:30 p.m. in the winter months).
 
Last edited:

mthorup

New member
Hi Charles,

Thanks for your intro to birding Tokyo. I am Danish and visiting Tokyo
in connection with work, and have now tried out a couple of your things,
with good success.

One little comment concerning 1. Meijijingu Koen (Park). I didn't see any
mandarin ducks in the lake you suggested, but ended up
finding 30+ in a small lake to the east of the main shrine, so you may
want to suggest checking out the other lakes in the park as well.
It was really cool seeing these ducks. I also found varied tit in the park.

One question concerning 2. Yatsu Higata. I saw a couple of smallish black legged stints, and I wander if they are pretty sure to be red-necked at
this time of the year? Somehow I had this wishful feeling that they
were a little different from little stint: lower longer body, perfectly round
towards the front, perfectly round head with short thin straight bill,
but the main direct comparison was dunlin. The place also had
a single saunders's gull and pygmy woodpecker.

Best, Mikkel
 

Charles Harper

Régisseur
.
Hi, Mikkel,

Thanks for the feedback. I'll make repairs. Emendations are always welcome. As for the stints-- little chance of anything but Red-necked. A few overwinter. Any other stint would have been surrounded by photographers.
.
 

stuart white

Well-known member
Had a couple of enjoyable trips to Mt. Takao in the last week. Transport wise, the first train from Shinjuku leaves at 6am on the keio line. Narcissus flycatchers were in full song and several showed very well. Blue & White Flycatchers seemed slightly less common but at least 2 males were seen. Several Asian Stubtails were calling but not seen. A probable eastern crowned warbler was seen briefly. Very pleasing was the good views of several Japanese Grosbeaks, located by hearing them cracking seed pods/nuts ? I took trail 6 and the ridge trail that runs parallel to it. Walking up and down each. Japanese Green Woodpeckers seemed thin on the ground, I had a pair very briefly quite high up. Varied Tit was very numerous along with long-tailed, coal and Great. A group of Hwamei were seen from trail 6 as well.
 

Charles Harper

Régisseur
Hi &,

There are some more open areas. You should be able to take decent photos along the track at spots. HERE are descriptions of the trails.

PS: To all readers-- I notice that some of the links I provided earlier have now been changed, and I cannot get into those posts to edit them now. Updated links are included in the very similar text on our relocated BIRDS OF JAPAN website.
 
Last edited:

darth bangkok

Well-known member
Hi Charles,

Thank you for this information. I am going to print it out and take it with me to Japan. I will be spending a few weeks in Bangkok with my wife's family, then on the way back to NY we are going to stop in Tokyo at a friend from New York's place in Yokohama. I will have 5 days there. I hope to spend a few birding. I thought going in the winter might not be great, but from what you wrote, I am looking forward to it now. I was considering taking the ferry to Hokkaido to try to see some pelagic birds from the boat, but I think that might take 3 days total. I will try to get a schedule and see if I can do it in two.

Cheers!
 

Birds 4ever

Is it just me or do non-birders see rare birds you
Hello - I'm Japanese and am from Japan, came to UK when I was 8, got addicted to birding so eventhough I know most BRITISH birds, I only know about a dozen of Japanese birds!
It's really surprising how many birds there are in Tokyo - most people would imagine really crowded, nature-less place when they hear the word Japan - but I'm already looking forward to going back to Japan!
 

mthorup

New member
Baikal teal at mote of imperial palace

Today, Mon Nov 29, 2010, I had a drake baikal teal in the
moat of the imperial palace. It was together with a good
group of other ducks, including about 10 falcated ducks.
 

dustybunter

New member
New to the forum and found this thread in a search so thought I'd bump it as there is a great source of info.

I found Ueno Park a great spot for heron and egret.

My favourite park is probably Inokashira Park in Kichijoji.
There are mandarin ducks, Japanese white eye and, if you're lucky, kingfishers amongst others.
 

dacoj3

Well-known member
My favourite is Yatsu Higata

New to the forum and found this thread in a search so thought I'd bump it as there is a great source of info.

I found Ueno Park a great spot for heron and egret.

My favourite park is probably Inokashira Park in Kichijoji.
There are mandarin ducks, Japanese white eye and, if you're lucky, kingfishers amongst others.

Yatsu Higata - see http://collinge.dk/Japan 2011/day3_Yatsu_Higata.htm

David
 

flapity

New member
Thank you very much for this informative thread. I am planning a business trip to Tokyo very soon, and hope to do some birding while there. This thread will be very helpful to me, and serve as my guide.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top