Izumi: Crane Bicycle Tour

Izumi crane bike tour

With a four hour drive ahead of us and a 1030 start, the four of us arose in the dark, and dutiful loaded into the car…

Thankfully, Mary, Megan and Roberta had arrived at my place the previous night, and turned my living room into one giant futon!

Unfortunatley for us, Mount Aso had recently become more active, and so by the end of the journey the car had begun to collect a delightful layer of ash.

We parked up, and look for the others. We met some new JETs from the neighbouring prefectures, but the main party was missing. As it turned out, during their break, they had manage to reset the sat-nav, and spent the best part of an hour heading in the wrong direction!

I want to ride my bicycle!

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Outside the museum

 

Despite this set back, the rest of us met our guide, chose bikes and cycled along the river to the crane museum.

Though entirely in Japanese, the museum was quite interesting. A post-modern building, its architecture was cool, and the exhibitions inside showcased the Izumi area and the migration paths of the local cranes, developing into a larger exhibition on cranes around the world and their biology.

Soon we were back on the bikes! As it would turn out, the cycling was nowhere near as hard as we’d feared – my heattech top and leggings really only overheating me – jeans would have been more than adequate!

We cycled along the streets, which in time gave way to winding roads through paddy fields, until at least we hit the main road leading down to the crane fields, hidden behind blackout netting to prevent the cars from impacting on the cranes.

Crane History 101

Way back in the 1600s cranes were first observed in the Izumi area. Over time their numbers rose and fell in accordance to various hunting laws and wars, but have remained a famous spectacle in Japan since the 1920s, and the areas in which the feed are largely protected.

So much so these days, the birds no longer migrate to other parts of Western Japan, and work is being done to remedy this!

As we reached the black netting, hundreds of birds were having a jolly gay old time, feeding, walking and knattering about on the scrubby looking paddy fields. We circled along the fence slowly, observing the birds.

It was at this point I realised, I’m no ornithologists, twitcher or birdwatcher, and so from this point on was mostly just enjoying being in the winter sun (very mild winters in the day here on Kyushu!).

Further up the road we reached the Crane Observation Center, next to which was a jolly wee café in which we consumed our lunch – a udon affair – before heading up to the roof to observe more cranes.

A somewhat folly endeavour, since our next stop was 10 minutes away, the Observation center that not only boasted a an indoor observation level, but a considerably higher outdoor platform as well! And gee whiz, cranes are noisey!

After stocking up on our share of the sights of cranes, we went for a nice cycle around the area; a nice ride mostly owing to the areas incredible flatness.

We went right out to the sea wall, and cycled along next to the sea, taking a pause to look out over the bay, before regrouping and posing for photos.

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What do you mean? This is how I always pose!

 

One last look at the cranes as we cycled back through the fields right into the centre of the town, and the old samurai village.

Pretending to be Samurai

Here we were able to view a couple of different ‘original’ properties – the marks denoting that it was the original layout, and style, but as with Japanese buildings, it had been destroyed, taken down and replace many times.

It was interesting to explore the many rooms, most divided as per expectation with paper sliding doors, and we learnt that house design is all centred on keeping the house cool in summer, since traditionally, you could always make a home warmer in winter, but never cooling in summer.

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What was cool about the area, is that the streets are still as designed by the original builders, with each plot marked out and raised behind stone walls, behind which sit tall trees that serve to give the houses privacy, even when the doors are all open in summer.

Coming to the end of our tour, we dropped of our bikes, bought pizza, and then hunkered down for the 4 hours drive back to Mie.

By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.