First-Time Visit at Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary in Hokkaido

Just when I thought that the cultural immersion in Lake Akan and smelt fishing in Lake Abashiri are the spotlights of this winter holiday, there goes another adventure where we get to see firsthand the lush nature and the wildlife conservation in Hokkaido.

Our tour bus in Hokkaido
Our tour bus in Hokkaido

With the rich flora and fauna, Hokkaido is a must-visit place especially if you want to see more animals such as Eurasian-red squirrel, brown bears, sika deers, red fox, fish owl, and of course, our recent encounter with the Red-Crowned Crane, a nationally-protected species in Japan. As a matter of fact, the red-crowned crane appears in a 1000 yen note and as Japan Airlines’ logo.


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Read along for more stories of our next destination at the Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary.

A trip to Tsuri Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary

As we finish our breakfast at Hotel Akanko Sou, I can’t help but admire the beautiful view of the lake from the glass window panel of the restaurant. And although we wanted to stay longer to explore the area, we had to leave to visit other parts of Hokkaido.

View from the window glass panel of the restaurant
View from the window glass panel of the restaurant

Japan is a country rich in biodiversity. The beauty of nature seems to be endless. There is so much to see in it from the trees, grass, bushes, sea, and sand, but the beauty of nature expands and extends to more than just the physical environment of it, the creatures that live in it as well are ones that are undeniably breathtaking to see.

View from our Bus Window
View from our Bus Window

Hokkaido does not fall short in having a lot of breathtaking sites of nature and as well as the living creatures of nature, which makes sightseeing a top-of-mind activity during our visit to Tsuri Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary in Hokkaido.

About Tancho Crane

Tancho Crane or red-crowned crane also called the Manchurian crane or Japanese crane is a large East Asian crane among the rarest cranes in the world. It is the bird that we see in Japan Airlines logo and symbols of love, happiness, marital fidelity and longevity in East Asia.

Red-crowned Cranes honking in Hokkaido photo by Cyberfox via Wikipedia CC
Red-crowned Cranes honking in Hokkaido photo By cyberfox, CC BY 2.1 jp

There was a point that the crane was on the verge of extinction due to overhunting, but due to the conservation efforts, people can now see these beloved bird all-year round.

About the Crane Sanctuary

The Tsuri Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary was built back in 1987 and lies on the northwest of Kushiro Shitsugen Wetland. It was established by the Wild Bird Society of Japan with the hopes of protecting the life of the Red-crowned cranes, and as well as the preserving the habitat they live in. They wanted to create a bird sanctuary in the Tsuruimura village that would be the home of the red-crowned cranes so that they have a safe space to be in. But it was, later on, thought that it can be more than just a place of safety for them, but also as a place of education for us. During the peak season, there are over 300 Red-crowned Cranes that come flying and staying in the sanctuary.

Red-crowned cranes from the Binocular
Red-crowned cranes from the Binocular

The society thought that by making it open to the public, people would come to appreciate and understand the importance of the Red-crowned crane. The story of the establishment of the Tsuri Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary is truly inspiring– the sanctuary was actually built with the numerous and generous cash gifts and donations given by people from across Japan and with the help of Mr. Ito Yoshitaka.

Red-crowned crane sanctuary in Hokkaido Japan
Red-crowned crane sanctuary in Hokkaido Japan

Mr. Ito Yoshitaka is the man who is known to care for the cranes way before many people noticed them. And today, the sanctuary continues to thrive in its purpose thanks to those who donated and as well as to the membership fees paid by the members of the Wild Bird Society of Japan.

The Experience

Upon arriving at the sanctuary, we proceeded to the Nature Center. The Nature Center serves as the information office, coffee shop, and souvenir shop. We also visited the second level of the building to see the art exhibit and watch a short presentation about the history of crane preservation.

Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary
Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary
Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary Art Exhibit
Tsurui Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary Art Exhibit
Tancho Crane Sanctuary Lecture Room
Tancho Crane Sanctuary Lecture Room
Binoculars at the Nature Center
Binoculars at the Nature Center

From the Nature Center, we proceeded towards the sanctuary viewpoint. The viewpoint was already full of bird watchers when we arrived. Most of them are equipped with telephoto lenses specialized for Bird Photography and just like them, we were amazed by the beauty of these birds and the sound they create.

Hundreds of red-crowned cranes in the sanctuary
Hundreds of red-crowned cranes in the sanctuary

Seeing these such majestic creatures is such a unique experience. Watching how they interact and move with each other and their surroundings can teach us a lot about their nature. Make sure to have your cameras ready to take some picture-worthy moments of these birds. But make it a point that you respect the distance provided; remember this is their home during winter. The distance placed for guests and from the crane is good enough to appreciate them.

Japanese crane in Hokkaido
Japanese crane in Hokkaido
Japanese red-crowned crane in Hokkaido
Japanese red-crowned crane in Hokkaido

When visiting the sanctuary, don’t worry about spending extra cash because believe it or not, entrance here is free. However, you can help maintain the sanctuary by donating or by buying items in their souvenir shop. Additionally, if you are worried as well for parking spaces if you bring a car, there are a lot of parking spots available for the visiting guests. There are also clean and tidy bathrooms available in the vicinity.

Hokkaido Crane Nature Center
Hokkaido Crane Nature Center

How to get here

The Sanctuary is located in Tsurui Village to the northwest of Kushiro Shitsugen Wetland. Here are ways on how you can get at the sanctuary:

From Kushiro Airport to Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary

  1. By taxi. For a hassle-free ride going to Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary, you can either ride a taxi which will take about 40 minutes.
  2. By public transportation. If you want to commute like locals do, you can take a bus from Kushiro Airport for JR Kushiro Station, then transfer to another bus for “Tsurui Hoyo Center”. Alight on “Yakuba-mae” bus stop and walk to the Sanctuary which takes about 10 minutes.

From JR Kushiro Station to Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary

  1. By taxi. It takes about 50 min.
  2. By bus. Take a bus for Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary. Get off at “Tsurui Hoyo Center” bus stop, and walk to the Sanctuary for 10 min. View the full schedule and bus fare here.
#TeamPhilippines at the crane sanctuary in Hokkaido
#TeamPhilippines at the crane sanctuary in Hokkaido
Open season: October to March
Open hours: 9:00am to 16:30pm
Closed days: Tuesdays & Wednesdays (except national holidays)
December 26 to December 30
April to September
Admission fee: Free
Address: Aza Nakasetsuri Minami, Tsurui-mura, Akan-gun, Hokkaido 085-1205 Japan
Phone: 0154-64-2620
Fax: 0154-64-2239
E-mail: tancho_sanc@wbsj.org

Up Next: Visiting the Ikeda Wine Castle

Our Hokkaido Japan trip was made possible by Japan AirlinesJNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization) and Havas Media. Japan Airlines offers daily flights to Tokyo Haneda and Narita. From Tokyo, JAL also offers domestic flights to Sapporo, Hakodate, Obihiro, Ozora, Asahikawa, and Kushiro.

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