Kushiro, Japan - Monday 20 Aug, 2007

A warm and sunny morning greeted us as we came alongside in Kushiro Port, a welcome treat after the cooler weather of the Kurils. Japanese officials came onboard and following breakfast we were checked into the country with a quick and painless passport and customs check.

We then boarded our coaches, meeting our local guides who outlined our morning's activities. First was a visit to the Kushiro City Museum, a fantastic museum with displays of local wildlife, Ainu culture, and early Hokkaido culture. We were all amazed at the quality of the displays and how everything was so carefully set out. The building itself was uniquely shaped in the form of a crane with its wings outspread.

The next stop was the Kushiro Crane Nature Park where we were able to see the endangered redcrowned cranes (Tancho-zuru) in a captive breeding facility. Although we hoped to see wild birds a bit later in the morning, this was an excellent opportunity to get close up views of this beautiful bird. The red crown is actually a bald piece of skin that becomes redder when the birds are excited, and not a patch of red feathers. Half of the birds in the facility are tame captive birds, whilst the other half are actually wild birds that have come into the area on their own.

We then drove out to the Kushiro Wetland Observatory where we hoped to see wild cranes. A walk through forest on the boardwalk revealed a few birds with the best being the Japanese pygmy woodpecker, sooty flycatcher, marsh tit and eastern crowned warbler. Searching from the lookout over the wetland sadly didn't reveal any cranes. Many of us also visited the observatory and checked out the displays. It was then time to depart and head back to the ship‚?¶‚?¶but luckily Brent managed to spot a pair of wild red-crowned cranes in a field on the side of the road, and both coaches were able to pull up for a quick look at these spectacular birds. Yipee!

Back on board the ship we had lunch and then spent a relaxing afternoon cruising through the calm warm waters of the Pacific Ocean as we headed south to Hakodate. Captain Mike Taylor hosted the Captain's farewell dinner and cocktail party. It is hard to believe the cruise is over!

Hakodate Japan - Tuesday 21 Aug, 2007

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