Japan Nature Guides
Japan Nature Guides was founded in 2011 with the aim of providing accessible information on the natural history of Japan, on when and where to go to watch birds and mammals in Japan, and to facilitate guided or un-guided visits to Japan.
We offer guide-book information, contacts, and a personal guiding service to make your visit to Japan all the more memorable. We can also introduce you to local travel agents who can make all the necessary booking arrangements for your tour.
Japan is a fantastic country in which to watch birds and mammals against a backdrop of some spectacular scenery. Come and enjoy it, with Japan Nature Guides.
If your primary interest is in the birds of the archipelago then you will find our online guide to birdwatching sites of interest, which will build steadily to cover all areas of Japan. If your interest is in the mammals then scroll further down to find the Mammals section. Whether your interest is in watching or photographing birds or mammals or both, we can help you visit sites to enjoy your visit.
The Japanese archipelago, stretching from Hokkaido in the north to Yonaguni in the southwest, supports astonishing biodiversity. Roughly comparable in size to both the British Isles and New Zealand, and somewhat similarly located in a largely temperate region situated off a major continent, Japan nevertheless supports very much more biodiversity than either Britain or New Zealand. Some species are restricted just to Japan, such as the endemic Pryer's Woodpecker, Okinawa Rail, Japanese Squirrel and Japanese Serow, others, such as the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Eurasian Red Squirrel, range all the way from Britain to Japan.
A wonderful country with a rich and ancient culture, it is also a marvelous place for naturalists. Throughout the year the range of species to look for is quite astonishing, from endemic birds and mammals of the main islands to endemic species of the Nansei Shoto, Izu and Bonin islands, alongside a tremendous diversity of Palaearctic and Oriental species.
Behind the façade of development, outside the bounds of the metropolitan areas, and beyond the supposed homogeneity of the Japanese people there is another wilder Japan. Common images of Japan involve shiny cars, the latest electronic goods, and regimented ranks of commuters in business suits. Japan is, after all, an intensely developed country with a population pushing 127 million. The Japanese people's belief in their homogeneity is an interesting one, not supported by observation, and their reputation as "loving nature" is a surprising one when one travels the length and breadth of an archipelago showing few signs of that "love". Yet, behind the facade of development, outside the bounds of the metropolitan areas, and beyond the supposed homogeneity there is another wilder Japan.
Wild Japan is astonishingly diverse, and the reasons, though apparent, are little known amongst those who travel the standard tourist circuit of this ancient country. Another myth is that Japan is a small country. It is, in fact, larger than either Britain or New Zealand, and almost exactly the same size as Germany. But Japan's most significant feature is that it is not just an island country, but a country of islands. Situated where the Oriental and the Temperate regions meet, Japan is situated on a significant natural history cross-roads.
The northern island of Hokkaido has a sub-Arctic feel, while in the far south, the Nansei Islands are decidely sub-tropical. In the past the islands were connected to the north to the Asian continent via Sakhalin, to the west via the Korean Peninsula and to the south via Taiwan.
These land bridges allowed mammals to cross into what later became islands as the sea levels rose again. As a result, some of Japan's more than 150 mammal species, such as the Asiatic Black Bear and the Eurasian Badger, are widespread across Asia, while others, such as the Japanese Dormouse, are unique to these islands.
In April 1982, Mark began writing a column for The Japan Times newspaper, it was to be about the natural history, the wildlife, of this fascinating archipelago. He called that column about wild Japan Wild Watch. Thirty years later, he continues to write the column and continues to cover topics relating to natural history and the environment here in Japan. His column is reportedly the longest published natural history column in any newspaper worldwide.
Over a period of three decades, Mark has written several hundred newspaper and magazine articles, various scientific papers and several popular books on a wide range of natural history, birding and travel topics relating to Japan and Asia.
Mark is perhaps best known for his handbook entitled The Birds of Japan (1991), and most recently for his Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia (2009), which describes and illustrates all of the species you can see in this exciting region of the world, including all of the Japanese Archipelago. It is the most inclusive guide for Japan. For more about this book, and for updates to it, click on this link: Birds of East Asia.
Mark's latest book, The Nature of Japan: From Dancing Cranes to Flying Fish, is a collection of essays on the natural history of the Japanese archipelago arranged seasonally. It runs to over 370 pages and has more than 75 illustrations by Masuda Hisashi. It was published in November 2013 for distribution to subscribers and supporters, and went on general release in May 2014.
Mark is now at work on the Birds of East Asia eBook version, and a new field guide, Field Guide to the Birds of Japan, due out in the next few years.
Last updated: 20140625
Recent updatesLatest News: The Nature of Japan is now available!
Japan's Birding Year