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For birdwatchers and nature lovers, Lake Hyoko is one of the top spots in Niigata Prefecture

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By Elizabeth Sok

Attracting thousands each year to its natural beauty and wildlife, Lake Hyoko in Niigata Prefecture makes for a great weekend getaway. From birds to cherry blossoms, not to mention the lake, this site has plenty to soak up all year round.

Despite its name, Lake Hyoko is not a natural lake. The site was a key fixture in the agricultural production of the nearby area. In 1954, Lake Hyoko was designated as a national monument by the Japanese government for its history of attracting swans in the autumn and winter months. In recognition of its importance in preserving nature and wildlife, the lake was granted wetland status by the Ramsar Convention in 2008.

Lake Hyoko Wildlife

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Bask in the morning light at Lake Hyoko. Image: iStock/ koichi

Swans helped to bring national attention to Lake Hyoko in the 1950s. As the first feeding ground for swans in Japan, the lake was awarded a national honor and is protected by the government. Every year beginning in October, swans migrate to the area from Siberia. In the ensuing months through to March, anywhere from 5,000-6,000 swans call the lake home. The best time to see swans resting and gliding above the lake’s surface is early morning and evening.

Be sure to check out the Swan Observation Huts located at the site. These offer great vantage points to watch swans or to soak up the lake and its surroundings. One hut is located near the entrance by the sign welcoming you to Lake Hyoko while the other is further to the left and situated in front of the water. In both huts, you can also take a break from walking around the lake, borrow a pair of binoculars and pick up some food to feed the swans. For a keepsake of your trip, consider buying a souvenir, too.

Seasonal Flowers

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Irises in bloom Image: PIXTA/ Koichi

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