Bird watching in the heart of Tokyo

By Kelly Wetherille

While most people think of Tokyo only as a huge concrete jungle, many don't realize that it actually has many pockets of nature, and that those natural oases may be in unexpected places. Take the gardens at Roppongi Hills or ARK Hills Sengokuyama Mori Tower, for example. While not particularly large, these green areas offer welcome respite from the bustle of the city, and they are also places where, if you know how to look, you can catch some glimpses of wildlife.


As a part of Bird Week, which ran from May 10 to 16, Mori Building arranged two bird-watching sessions, one at Roppongi Hills and one at ARK Hills Sengokuyama Mori Tower. I joined the second one, held at 8 a.m. when the city is still relatively quiet and the birds are easier to find. The event was led by Yoshitsugu Minezaki, a very knowledgeable guide and a Mori Building staff member. After a brief explanation, he took us down to the garden, where we immediately were able to see sparrows flitting about. Closer inspection with our binoculars revealed a white-cheeked starling, and we also heard the call of a brown-cheeked bulbul. But it wasn't just birds who made an appearance; we saw dragonflies including the blue-tailed forest hawk flitting around, and a tiny Japanese tree frog jumped right across our path.


I was impressed by how many species we were able to see, despite being right in the middle of the city. But it turns out it's not by accident; the gardens at Mori Building properties were purposely designed to attract and nurture wildlife. They even include dead trees for the sake of attracting insects, which then feed birds, including the elusive Japanese pygmy woodpecker.

"Most people don't realize that you can see many types of species in Tokyo. We want to bring back the wildlife that used to inhabit this area before, by creating spaces that will support biodiversity and the entire biological pyramid. It's actually much easier to find wildlife in Tokyo than most people think, and we want them to be able to enjoy that," Mr Minezaki said.

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If you want to bird watch then go to mizumoto koen near Kanamachi station

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Several times I've seen a Greater Heron in Hibiya Park in the pond.

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To be frank, the diversity of birdlife in Tokyo is woeful. My late uncle was an ornithologist (an academic one not just a hobbyist) who would sometimes stop over in Japan on the way home from visiting birdwatching friends in Australia and we'd go birdwatching in and around Tokyo. Once went up to Kushiro and managed to see some of the red-crowned cranes in their native habitat. We also had a very good early morning session close to one of the hotels in Narita.

However, birdwatching was nearly always a dead loss in Tokyo, although he developed a fondness for the crows! The only good place we found was Shakuji-koen, a large park in the west of Tokyo.

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Do you mean Grey Heron perhaps, lots of those in Japan

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