Of Calves and Cranes

Before we started our fifth day, I had the chance to see one of the main points of this trip in the surrounding area of the lodge– the Tancho crane. For some reason, there were two in the outer field near the lodge. It was a great start to the day (and some coffee au lait helped too.) Starting  with a trip to the Kushiro Port to learn more about the Fishery Department and the Fishery Cooperative Associations in Kushiro , we met Shimada-san and Saka-san to hear a lecture about it. In addition to learning about the fishing industry and its fishing methods (one of which used lights to lure fish into nets), we also learned about the types of seafood that they harvested. We paid particular attention to the シシャモ, a fish endemic to Japanese waters. An issue which came up during the lecture is the establishment of the 200 nautical mile EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the United States, Russia and Canada, which restricted the range of Japanese fishing grounds. It seems Japan used to negotiate with Russia every year for the right to fish in Russian waters at a particular limit of catch but as of this year, negotiations broke down and now, fishermen in Hokkaido now have to adjust by focusing on aquaculture on top of maintaining a sustainable kind of fishing industry. Then we went for lunch at the Kushiro Wetland Observatory and for dessert– Tancho ice cream. It wasn’t made of real Tancho, as that would be illegal, but it was in the shape of a tancho, with two wafer wings and a slice of strawberry on top of delicious vanilla milk ice cream.

This was followed by heading to the Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary, where we met Harada-san and Suzuki-san. Harada-san gave us a lecture on the Tancho crane and Suzuki-san presented the life-size model stuffed toy and poster of the Tancho crane. I really wanted to have the baby Tancho stuffed toy but we were so pressed for time that I couldn’t buy one. Suzuki-san then accompanied us to three sites wherein he gave us more information regarding the cranes and their surrounding environment. The first site was the area of the Kushiro wetland where trees were being cut down to make way for development. There were quite a few bugs in that area so we couldn’t stay for very long. The next site was the Fujiwara Ranch, where we met Fujiwara-san, an industrial dairy farmer who has been dealing with the Tancho “invasion” of his farm ever since the crane population began to grow. It has been a common occurrence in Kushiro for the cranes to eat the bent corn seeds that were freshly sown into the ground. Also, accidents involving the cranes being hit by cars, hitting electricity lines and other incidents also happen in the area. Unlike other industrial farmers, Fujiwara-san is quite lenient towards the cranes, even joking that during the winter season, he doesn’t know which species he has more— his cows or the Tancho, who enter the barns and eat the cow’s feed in flocks, with 50 at most. Just this afternoon, there was a crane on top of one of his trucks. Also, I managed to lure out a sweet, young Wagyu calf from his little plastic hut and petted him on the head. (I had to wash my hands with alcohol after because according to Fujiyama-san, there are likely germs that I’m not exposed to in the city so touch the cows at your own risk.)

The last stop of the day was the Kottaro Observatory. To get there, we had to climb three flights of rocky, uneven stairs and a steep, curving upward slope. I am not blessed with a lot of stamina, even though I’ve been walking to and from the station everyday for the past four months. I was hoping that I’d level up my stamina that way but I don’t think it helped much. Anyway, the observatory overlooks the Kushiro wetland and I have to say— it is really beautiful. It was well worth the harrowing climb and certainly well worth all the effort and passion all the people we’ve met so far who want to protect it.

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