Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan travel guide including a guide to bird watching in Karuizawa.
Karuizawa is a well known mountain resort town located in the prefecture of Nagano-ken in the foothills of the Japanese Alps. Anyone who has ever contemplated birding in Japan will undoubtedly be aware that the area is renowned for its excellent bird watching. It certainly is a beautiful area with some gorgeous temperate evergreen forest. Rumour has it that in recent years there has been a decrease in bird numbers and we did find it slow going at times - this may have had more to do with timing on our part though. A lot of birds were obviously sitting tight on their nests in late June!
Getting there: this is easy, of course (it is Japan, after all!). Just get the Nagano-bound Shinkansen from Tokyo Station and get off at Karuizawa, from there you can catch the local train to Naka-Karuizawa or take a more expensive taxi.
Where to stay: there are lots of places. We stayed at Cocotte Pension but if you don't speak Japanese this may be problematic. Try the Naka-Karuizawa Onsen, which is rather more expensive, however.
Birding: The best birding was in the Yacho-no-mori (Wild Bird Forest). The slopes of the nearby Asama-yama volcano are also very worthwhile. (Copper Pheasant is apparently easy to see at times but not when we were there!) Some of the best birds we saw at Yacho-no-mori were Ural Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Japanese Grosbeak (fabulous song), Yellow Bunting, Brown Dipper, lots of Narcissus and Blue-and-white Flycatchers and Siberian Blue Robin. The birding on Asama-yama was quiet due to poor weather but the walk is worth it for the forest and scenery and the chance of Copper Pheasant, of course. We also had super looks at Winter Wren - a real troglodyte!
with permission from Susan Myers.