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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Japan in Spring

Southern Japan and Island Endemics

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.    The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING JAPAN: United States citizens should have a passport valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure. A visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days. Citizens of other countries should check with their consulate/embassy for instructions. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour.

A current Yellow Fever vaccination is required of anyone entering Japan within five days of visiting a country where the disease is endemic.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Japan at For entry and exit information please visit the U.S. State Department’s website at :

An online map of Japan can be found

PACE OF THE TOUR: The longest walk will be at Karuizawa, where we will take trails into the forest. There are some inclines as it is a hilly area, though not steep, and we will walk a bit more than a mile (approximately two kilometers, possibly a little further if circumstances warrant) at a very relaxed pace.

Our birding days will normally begin early on many days as sunrise is around 5:00 a.m. at this time of year. We’ll then bird most of the areas until activity declines in the heat of the day, with quick, on the run lunches. Very often we’ll be birding close to the vehicle.

There are some drives of three to four hours, and five internal flights. Most of the driving is on well-surfaced roads.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. They further recommend that some travelers have protection against Hepatitis A.

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.

For further information on health advisories for Japan please visit the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention .

Drinking Water: Unless advised otherwise, all water including tap water is potable and you can safely enjoy the salads, fresh fruit and vegetables.

We recommend participants contact their doctor for advice prior to departure.

Insects and Leeches: Mosquitoes can be present in the forests at this time of year so long sleeves and pants are recommended. Leeches can be a problem at Miike depending on climatic conditions.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

CLIMATEIn late May and early June we’ll encounter a wide range of temperatures with average top temperatures around Tokyo of 23C (about 73 F) and in Okinawa, the furthest south we venture, of 26C (79F). As we head south, temperatures and humidity will increase. There is always a chance of rain at this time of year – it’s estimated that there’s a 30-35% chance in late May through early June. The coldest weather we could possibly encounter will be in Karuizawa in the foothills of the Japan Alps but it is unlikely to drop below 5C (41 F). May is one of the best times to visit Japan, as the vegetation has become lush and the temperatures are still comfortable. .

ACCOMMODATIONS: Our accommodations vary from Western-style hotels to more traditional Japanese inns. Be prepared for more cramped quarters than you are used to, and bathrooms are generally very small, and in some of the inns we stay in, are shared. In all cases privacy is possible.

In Japan it is customary to remove one’s shoes when entering houses, traditional hotels (not Western hotels), temples and many other places and this is not optional. A pair of slip on style shoes will save you a lot of bother. 

We have one night on the ferry to Miyake Island and we will have comfortable 4 berth sleeper cabins. Each cabin has a little area with a table and chairs located next to the window and four beds (two lower and two upper berths), each with a curtain for privacy. Toilets are located down the hallway and there are no showers on board. The ferry departs at 10 pm, arriving on the island at 5 am. On arrival we’ll transfer to our hotel where you can freshen up before we begin our birding for the day.  

FOOD: The food in Japan is a memorable part of this tour. It is varied, fresh, always delicious and often the presentation is a work of art. You may find yourself wanting to photograph many of your meals! One of the specialties of Japan is the seafood. If you don’t like fish however, there are many other choices.

Most meals are served with a meat and a seafood dish, as well as miso soup and a salad. We’ll have a mix of Japanese and western style meals throughout. Lunches may often be eaten on the run to make the most of our birding time and we will buy tasty sandwiches or heated lunchboxes (bento) at local convenience stores. Breakfast usually consists of coffee, toast, and small salads. Vegetarian options are somewhat limited but by no means out of the question. The dinners at our hotels are often huge so we will tend towards lighter lunches.

Black tea is not readily available so if you prefer this to coffee or green tea, it may be worth bringing your own teabags. If you have difficulty using chopsticks we recommend you bring a knife and fork.

TRANSPORTATION: We will be traveling in a 10 seat, air-conditioned mini-bus throughout, driven by your leader. Seating in the vehicle will rotate, and participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.

Our transportation to and from Miyakejima is by ferry, and there are as well a number of internal flights on major internal airlines. The ferry is a large ship with stabilizers and generally the trip is comfortable. 

Updated: 30 May 2019