The Green Pheasant - Japan's National Bird

Bird-watching in Kumano

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Did you know that the Green Pheasant is Japan's National Bird?

The Green Pheasant, an omnivorous bird, is endemic to Japan. The bird featured in these photos is the "resident pheasant' behind my house. It is a colorful male bird and I enjoy watching it from my window.

If you walk the Kumano Kodo trails, you might catch a glimpse of a Green Pheasant. They can be seen roaming around in unattended meadows and abandoned paddy fields in the Hongu area, near the ancient pilgrimage trails.

I live in Kumano and bird-watching near my home has become a recent interest as traveling is restricted now. I enjoy looking at scenes of nature, and I find watching flowers and birds very calming and relaxing.

Truth to be told, finally there is time to engage in such activities, which gives me a chance to study the flora and fauna of Kumano. When I am walking the Kumano Kodo trails with visitors, I am often asked about wildlife, trees, flowers and herbs.

There is so much to experience in Kumano for those who walk slowly and who engage all senses.

In a recent article, written by Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and published in Fujingaho Magazine in March 2020, it is stated that the Green Pheasant was mentioned in Japan's oldest history books, in both the Nihonshoki and the Kojiki, both published in the 8th century! The bird was even mentioned in the Manyoshu, an ancient collection of poems also dating back to the 8th century.

This might not be widely known but almost everyone, Japanese and foreigners alike, know the folk tale of Momotaro, the Peach Boy. A pheasant, together with a dog and a monkey, become Momotaro's friends and help him in his quest against evil.

The three animal friends of Momotaro remind me of the German fairy tale of the "Town Musicians of Bremen" (Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten) which features four animals: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a roster. While the moral of the stories is different, the characteristics of the animals and their combined strength to fight for the greater good provides some encouragement and amusement in these times of worry and anxiety.

More info

Find out more about Kumano Kodo.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Kim B 4 months ago
What a beautiful bird!
Bonson Lam 5 months ago
It is actually very hard to take a photo of the green pheasant close up. Well done. I saw one in the fields once, but it got away from me.
Bonson Lam 4 months ago
Too funny! I didn't know they had such complex personalities! Glad you have lots of opportunities to see them. I only saw one in Kumamoto, though I have been in the same field multiple times.