James pounding cooked rice with a mallet in order to make mochi (pounded rice) for rice cakes at the Kabukuri-numa KODOMO Biodiversity event in 2009.

Before the reporting trip for the PWW website, it had been almost 10 years since I had last visited Kabukuri-numa as an assistant facilitator in a KODOMO (children’s) Biodiversity event conducted by Ramsar Center Japan. I still have pleasant memories of my first visit, although, to be honest, I hadn’t expected much. Kabukuri-numa is fairly isolated, and in winter the only scenery on the drive to the marsh is a series of brownish, post-harvest rice fields extending out as far as the eye can see.

Also, as I mentioned in the article, the walk from the parking lot to the marsh is a bit of a slog. The narrow path is uneven, littered with broken twigs, and is either half-frozen or covered in snow. Not being a birdwatcher, it was the first time in my life I had gone anywhere for the express purpose of watching birds return to or take off from their roosting areas.

Thus, I was totally prepared for what I experienced. I was amazed by the sheer numbers of birds flying in formation and returning from all directions: sometimes swooping down just overhead, and the rising chorus of bird calls. I was also surprised by the beauty of the marsh and the contrast between the vivid dark blue and orange-tinted dusk sky and the surrounding drab fields. I knew I had come to a special place. For a few moments, I even forgot how cold I was! 😊

James McGill