Birdwatching on the Kamogawa

Herons, Egrets and Salarymen

By Bonson Lam    - 2 min read

Birds like Great Egrets have been part of Japanese folklore for centuries. Noted for their grace, their large wings flap slowly, giving them strength and dignity. Many kinds of applied arts, from screens to textile designs, take their cues from Egrets, Herons, and of course the Crane, a symbol of long life.

Have you ever wanted to fly like a bird, soaring over the skies of Kyoto? Or find out the secret of their speed and stability? When the designers of the Shinkansen train looked for inspiration, they found it in the form of the Kingfisher bird. Its long streamlined beak breaks the pressure of diving into water, giving it silence and stability, two traits that the trains require as it exits tunnels at high speed. If it wasn’t for the kingfisher design, the train’s sonic boom could be heard for miles.

Repeat visitors and residents of Kyoto may have seen more birds like the Egret return recently, especially on the grass reed shores of the Kamo River. Compared with other species, Egrets are often among the first species to settle and nest, so seeing them is a sign that birdlife is seeing renewed confidence in Kyoto. Like many Salarymen, the male Egret builds the nest first before starting a family with his partner. He also likes to change his nest each year, though the decoration may be left for the fairer sex to decide.

During the warmer months, many young people like to sit on the shores, watching nature and humanity take their cue from each other in the seasons of life. Whether you are just listening to the gentle stream, or hopping across the stone laden causeway, the river is a celebration of life. It is like you can forget about your worries and be a child again.

In nearby Kiyamachi on the Takase canal, you can grab a window seat at the Ryoriya Otaya Restaurant, and watch these birds at play. It is a sublime sight in the evening, and sometimes you wonder whether you are watching Japanese theater or not, such is the beauty of this interaction between nature and the graceful lantern lit wooden houses that line the canal.

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Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us. 

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Bonson Lam Author 5 years ago
I hope you can head north from Kyoto City towards Amanohashidate and Maizuru one day! Even more birds, especially eagles which you can see from close range. I wouldn't try to feed them though! Thank you for your comments, Justin, James and KansaiKate!
Cathy Cawood 5 years ago
Great article, Bonson! I love the photo of the kingfisher.
James Forest 5 years ago
I have to agree with Justin, the photos you have done are fantastic. Good work!
Justin Velgus 5 years ago
Great article and amazing pictures, Bonson! I know you have wanted to do a bird watching article for awhile, and this certainly does a fine job =) Great work.