What is Japan’s National Bird?

I recently stumbled upon an intriguing question that left me wondering: what is Japan’s national bird? As I embarked on a delightful journey to uncover the answer, I came across fascinating facts about the diverse avian species inhabiting this beautiful land. Join me as we soar through the captivating world of Japan’s feathered friends and unveil the mystery surrounding their national symbol.

What is Japans National Bird?

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When it comes to symbols of national identity, countries often choose a representative creature to embody their unique culture and heritage. In this article, I will explore the cultural significance of national birds, with a particular focus on Japan’s cherished avian representative. Japan’s national bird holds a special place in the hearts of its people, symbolizing their deep-rooted traditions, natural beauty, and historical legends. Join me as we delve into the enchanting world of Japan’s beloved winged symbol, the Japanese Crane, or Tancho.

The Cultural Significance of National Birds

Significance in Japan

For centuries, birds have held a special place in Japanese culture, symbolizing various qualities and characteristics. These feathered creatures are revered for their beauty, grace, and resilience, and are often associated with nature and spiritual values. In Japan, birds are deeply ingrained in folklore, art, and literature, and have become an integral part of the nation’s cultural identity. It is no wonder, then, that Japan has chosen a national bird to represent its rich heritage and traditions.

National Bird as a Symbol

A national bird serves as a powerful symbol of a country’s identity, representing its unique qualities, values, and natural beauty. It not only showcases the country’s rich biodiversity but also reflects the deep connection its people have with nature. Japan’s national bird, the Japanese Crane, embodies these values, presenting itself as a graceful and iconic representation of the country’s cultural and natural heritage.

What is Japans National Bird?

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Heralding the Japanese National Bird

Selection Process

The selection of Japan’s national bird was not a decision taken lightly. The process involved careful consideration of various factors, including cultural significance, symbolism, and the bird’s representation of the country. With input from experts in the field of ornithology, history, and cultural studies, the Japanese government conducted an extensive research and consultation process to determine the ideal representative bird.

Criteria for National Bird

The criteria for selecting Japan’s national bird were not limited to mere aesthetic appeal. The bird needed to possess qualities that resonated deeply with the Japanese people and their cultural values. The national bird had to exhibit beauty, grace, resilience, represent Japan’s unique natural habitats, and have a rich history and cultural symbolism. After careful evaluation, the Japanese Crane emerged as the perfect candidate to fulfill these criteria.

The Japanese Crane (Tancho) – An Iconic Bird

Physical Appearance

The Japanese Crane, also known as the Tancho, is a majestic bird that stands tall at around 150 centimeters and possesses a striking appearance. Adorned with a white plumage, the Tancho captures the eyes with its vibrant red crown, contrasting beautifully against its elegant plumage. Its slender body and graceful neck further enhance its regal and enchanting aura.


The Tancho primarily inhabits the marshlands and wetland areas of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. These pristine habitats with their cool climate and abundant food sources provide the perfect sanctuary for the Tancho’s survival. It is in these marshes that this national bird finds its true home, blending seamlessly with the lush green surroundings.


Known for their captivating courtship displays and complex dances, Japanese Cranes exhibit a unique behavior that further endears them to the Japanese people. These dances, characterized by elegant leaps, graceful wing flapping, and synchronized movements, symbolize harmony, fidelity, and eternal love. These behaviors have become deeply ingrained in Japanese folklore and art, capturing the imagination of the nation’s people for centuries.

Cultural Beliefs and Symbolism

The Tancho holds significant cultural beliefs and symbolism in Japan. It is believed to bring good luck, longevity, and happiness. In Japanese folklore, the crane is a symbol of devotion, fidelity, and love, often associated with deep emotional connections and lasting relationships. This symbolism is reflected in traditional Japanese weddings, where the crane motif is used in various ceremonies and decorations, signifying eternal bonds between loved ones.

What is Japans National Bird?

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The Mythical Legends of the Red-Crowned Crane

Longevity and Immortality

One of the most alluring aspects of the Tancho is its association with longevity and immortality. According to Japanese legends, cranes are said to live for a thousand years. This belief has captured the imagination of the Japanese people, who regard the crane with reverence and awe. The sighting of a Tancho is considered an auspicious sign and is believed to bring good fortune and blessings to those who witness it.

Association with Emperors

The Tancho has long been associated with Japanese emperors and the imperial court. In ancient Japanese history, cranes were regarded as sacred birds and were considered a symbol of power, grace, and wisdom. It is said that Emperor Temmu, who reigned from 673 to 686, had a profound appreciation for cranes and considered them to be a divine bird with a direct connection to the gods.

Role in Folklore and Art

The captivating presence of the Tancho in Japanese folklore and art cannot be overstated. From ancient legends to contemporary literature and paintings, the crane has inspired countless stories, poems, and artistic expressions. The tale of “Tsuru no Ongaeshi” or “Crane’s Return of a Favor” is one such folklore, which tells a heartwarming story of a crane repaying the kindness of a compassionate man. This story of gratitude and selflessness embodies the values deeply embedded in Japanese culture.

Conservation Efforts and Threats to the National Bird

Conservation Initiatives

Recognizing the importance of preserving their national bird, the Japanese government, along with various organizations and researchers, has implemented comprehensive conservation initiatives. These efforts focus on protecting the Tancho’s natural habitat, monitoring and studying their population, and raising awareness about the importance of preserving this iconic species. Conservation centers and reserves have been established to provide a safe environment for breeding, rehabilitation, and reintroduction of the Japanese Crane into the wild.

Challenges Faced by Japanese Cranes

Despite the efforts to protect the Tancho, they face several threats to their survival. Habitat loss due to human activities, including agriculture and urbanization, poses a significant challenge. Pollution, climate change, and the spread of invasive species also endanger the delicate balance of the crane’s ecosystem. These factors require continued vigilance and proactive measures to ensure the long-term survival of this cherished national bird.

What is Japans National Bird?

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Other Birds Signifying Japan’s Natural Beauty

The Japanese Crane is not the only bird that signifies Japan’s natural beauty. A diverse array of avian species exists within the country’s borders that captivate birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Let’s explore a few other notable birds that contribute to Japan’s rich avian tapestry:

The Green Pheasant (Kiji)

The Green Pheasant, known as Kiji in Japanese, is an elegant and colorful bird found across Japan. With its vibrant plumage and striking appearance, this bird adds an element of majesty to Japan’s natural landscape. It has become a beloved symbol of rural Japan, featuring prominently in traditional art and folklore.

The Japanese Bush Warbler (Uguisu)

The Uguisu, known in English as the Japanese Bush Warbler, holds a special place in Japanese culture. Its melodic and enchanting song signifies the arrival of spring and is often associated with rejuvenation and new beginnings. The Uguisu’s subtle beauty and sweet song have made it a cherished bird among the Japanese people.

The Common Kingfisher (Kawasemi)

With its vibrant blue and orange plumage, the Common Kingfisher, or Kawasemi, is a breathtaking sight commonly found near freshwater streams and rivers in Japan. Renowned for its spectacular diving and fishing skills, this tiny bird has captivated the hearts of birdwatchers worldwide and symbolizes resilience in the face of adversity.

Birdwatching and Ecotourism in Japan

Popular Birdwatching Destinations

Japan offers a treasure trove of birdwatching opportunities for enthusiasts. From the extensive marshes of Kushiro in Hokkaido, home to the Japanese Crane, to the picturesque shores of Lake Biwa, which hosts a variety of migratory birds, the country boasts diverse habitats and ecosystems that attract birdwatchers from around the globe.

Opportunities for Ecotourism

The love and appreciation for Japan’s national bird extend beyond the country’s borders. Many ecotourism operators offer specialized tours that allow visitors to observe the Japanese Crane in its natural habitat. These tours not only provide an unforgettable experience for bird enthusiasts but also contribute to the local economy and raise awareness about the need for conservation.

What is Japans National Bird?

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The National Bird Beyond Borders

Recognition and Influence Abroad

Japan’s national bird, the Japanese Crane, has garnered recognition and admiration from people worldwide. Its stunning appearance, rich symbolism, and extraordinary cultural significance have captured the imagination of individuals far beyond Japan’s borders. This iconic avian representation has become a symbol of Japan’s uniqueness and allure, generating interest and appreciation from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

International Connections

Birds have a remarkable way of connecting people across different cultures, and the Japanese Crane is no exception. With its migratory nature, the Tancho connects Japan to other countries, serving as a bridge of shared appreciation for birds and nature. Collaborative research, conservation efforts, and cultural exchanges centered around the Japanese Crane strengthen the bonds between nations and promote global awareness of the importance of biodiversity preservation.


The Japanese Crane, with its elegant beauty and deep cultural significance, takes flight as Japan’s national bird. It embodies the country’s profound connection to nature, its rich history, and its enduring traditions. The Tancho serves as a symbol of grace, resilience, and everlasting love, captivating the hearts of the Japanese people for generations. As we navigate the complex world of cultural symbols, the Japanese Crane reminds us of the invaluable role that birds play, not only in representing a nation’s identity but also in forging connections that transcend borders. So, next time you catch sight of a majestic crane or hear the melodic song of a warbler, remember the profound significance these birds hold in our shared human experience.





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