Cranes at Sunrise in Izumi, Kagoshima

Izumi City in Kagoshima Prefecture is situated next to the Yatsushiro Sea in the south-east of Kyushu.

Far from the big cities, this countryside region is void of large buildings and busy streets. Instead, flat, sprawling farm fields fill the landscape.

Other than being a stop on Kyushu’s Shinkansen line, Izumi is unknown to many travelers.

Nature enthusiasts and birders, however, will want to take note of this location since it happens to be Japan’s number one spot for viewing migrating cranes in the winter.

From mid-October to March, over ten thousand birds make the temperate fields of Izumi their home.

In the early morning and again around sunset, the birds take flight all at once, making for a wondrous sight to behold.

Read on to see what it’s like to see Izumi’s winter cranes!

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Seeing Izumi’s Winter Cranes

My alarm went off at 5:30 am. It was the earliest I had woken up in a long time, but I couldn’t be late – I had an early morning date with nature.

After putting on layers of clothes, I was out of the guesthouse by 5:45 am.

For half an hour, I walked briskly in the dark towards the Crane Observation Center.

The air was cold, but my body warmed along the way.

Before the darkness lifted

Arriving at a road perpendicular to the Crane Observation Center, I set up my tripod next to the fence. Excitedly, I waited for the darkness to lift.

Soon, the dark silhouettes of the sleeping birds could be seen and a cacophony of loud squawking filled the morning air.

The magic began at 6:45 am when a mass of cranes took flight at all at once. The frenzy of flapping wings created a whooshing noise that vibrated throughout the air.

The birds soared above in small groups, dancing in the dawn light.

izumi-kagoshima-winter-cranes-sunrise-group-flying

The sun peeking from behind the distant mountains with the birds flying overhead was a sight to behold.

At around 7 am, a truck rolled into the field. By this time, most of the birds had already flown away to begin their days at other nearby fields.

Fingers and legs numb with cold, it was time to head home.

Seeing such a cool morning sight had me thinking, maybe I should wake up more often to see the sunrise…

Notes for viewing the cranes

  • Wear many layers! The winter is quite chilly especially once you stop moving.
  • If you walk to the crane viewing area, approach quietly and refrain from using a light to avoid waking the birds.
  • Another place to view the cranes is from the Observation Center platform. To watch from there, you are asked to donate 1,000 yen. With this donation, you can borrow binoculars, a camera, and other viewing equipment.
  • If you travel to the Crane Observation Center by taxi the car tires will be disinfected.

How to Get to Izumi

From Hakata Station, the ride to Izumi on the Shinkansen takes just over an hour. If you plan to travel a lot around Kyushu, I recommend picking up the JR All Kyushu Rail Pass.

Other Things to Do in the Area

Fans of biking can rent city bikes and cross bikes from Izumi Station. By bike, you can easily visit the Izumi-Fumoto Samurai Residences, Hakozaki Hachiman Shrine, and ride along the Komenotsu River.

Hakozaki Hachiman Shrine

Hikers can become one with nature on Izumi’s Olle hike. Learn more about the route here.

Olle hike next to the Komenotsu River

For those who want to learn more about the cranes, visit the Izumi City Crane Museum which is full of fascinating information about the birds. (Mostly in Japanese).

Farm stay experience

Travelers looking to get their hands dirty can partake in a farm stay experience! Learn what it’s like to farm in Kagoshima and interact with the locals. Learn more and sign up for a farm stay experience here.

Visitors who are itching to taste Kagoshima shochu can learn how it’s made and try a blind tasting at Izumi Syuzou.

Kagoshima-bike-sakurajima

Since Kagoshima-chuo is just 23 minutes away on the Shinkansen route, you can easily travel there for more shops and activities. Take the ferry to Sakurajima and experience biking around the region’s famous volcano or bury yourself in one of Ibuski’s sandbaths. Don’t forget to try the local specialties like black pork shabu shabu and tonkatsu!

Where to Stay in Izumi

Pension Warabi no Oka

For a cozy stay next to the water, I recommend Pension Warabi no Oka. This renovated guest house can hold two parties, one on each of the two floors. The room I stayed in was very small and simple, but the communal dining space and large deck that opened to a large garden were very nice. (Only the second-floor room had a view of the ocean). You can add dinner and breakfast plans to your stay.

From Izumi station, a taxi to Pension Warabi no Oka takes about 25 minutes (approximately 4,000-4,500 yen). Note that taxis are expensive and infrequent in this area so reservations are recommended.

It’s about a 30-minute walk from the guesthouse to the Crane Observation Center.

Hotel Wing International Izumi

For a simple, modest stay, Hotel Wing International Izumi is a business hotel located conveniently next to Izumi Station. (My only problem was that loud noises from the hallway could enter the rooms easily). There is a restaurant downstairs as well as several restaurants nearby including Gorilla Kitchen (good burgers) and an izakaya.

It’s about a 25-minute taxi ride from Hotel Wing International Izumi to the Crane Observation Center.

Final Thoughts

While there isn’t an overwhelming amount of things to do in Izumi yet, if you can get up, the view of thousands of flying cranes in the sunrise is a sight worth seeing!


Love nature? Check out these other activities to do in Kyushu!

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