Japan Atlas: Nature 
Tancho and Kushiro Marshland

Location: Kushiro City, Hokkaido Prefecture 

Area: 269 sq km (104 sq mi) 
Designated on July 31, 1987 
Number of visitors: 790,000 (1995) 

Area: 77 sq km (30 sq mi) 
Registration: June 1980 

 Other Ramsar Sites in Japan: 


Lakes Izunuma and Uchinuma, Miyagi Pref (September 1985) 
Lake Kuccharo, Hokkaido (July 1989) 
Lake Utonai, Hokkaido (December 1991) 
Kiritappu Marsh, Hokkaido (June 1993) 
Lake Akkeshi and Bekanbeushi Marsh, Hokakido (June 1993) 
Yatsu Tideland, Chiba Pref. (June 1993) 
Katano Kamoike, Ishikawa Pref. (June 1993) 
Lake Biwa, Shiga Pref. (June 1993) 
Sakata Lagoon, Niigata Pref. (March 1996) 

Elegance in the Wetland  

The Tancho (Japanese Crane) is regarded as the most majestic and elegant birds in Japan with its slender figure, well-balanced contrast of black and white feathers on its body, and a crown-like red spot on its heads. The sight of the cranes dancing on the boundless, snow-covered land is breath-taking. Kushiro Marsh where many of the tancho congregate was registered on the Ramsar Convention list by the Japanese government in 1980, immediately after the nation became a signatory of the Convention, which is officially called "Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat." The marsh was designated as a National Park (Kushiro Shitsugen National Park) in 1987 to help protect the land and its inhabitants.  

From its beautiful appearance and a legend that cranes live to thousand years old, the Japanese people have long considered tancho as a symbol of longevity and auspiciousness. In 1890s, as Hokkaido was rapidly being developed, tancho were once thought to have become extinct. However, the discovery of about a dozen surviving tancho in Kushiro Marsh in 1924 caused a movement for their protection. In the winter of 1952, some cranes were found almost starving, unable to feed themselves because of a heavy snowstorm. The local people started feeding them with corn and buckwheat, and have continued to do so every winter thereafter. Their simple but steady protection activities have greatly contributed to saving the species from extinction, and, according to a recent survey, approximately 600 cranes now live in the Kushiro area.  

Photos: (Top) A pair of tancho dancing on the snow (Ministry of Foreign Affairs); (middle) Kushiro Marsh (Hokkaido Tourist Association).  

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited. 

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