Uso, or Eurasian Bullfinch, is the size of a swallow with characteristic short beak and, in case of a male bullfinch, a light pink color in his cheeks.
The Japanese name, uso, came from “usobuku” which means “to pretend not to know”. The bird’s short beak and pink cheeks must have reminded ancient people of people who whistle when they feign ignorance.
Uso, utilizing their short, wide beaks, eat leaves and nuts as well as insects and spiders. They are especially fond of eating flower buds just when cherry and plum trees start shooting out the new season’s growth.
Uso was regarded as a useful bird and is protected by many farmers because by eating the buds of fruit trees they play a role thinning out excess buds thereby helping others grow bigger.
However, more recently some fruit trees eaten by uso don’t grow any fruit at all. It can cause serious damage to the crop and uso may be considered a harmful bird when this happens.
Dazaifu Tenmanguu Shrine in Fukuoka, Kyuushuu, which is famous for its plum trees, still protects uso and preserves a special place for the birds. The shrine holds a religious event called “Usokae” in which visitors bring their own wooden uso birds and exchange them with one another. It is said that the person who receives a golden uso will be blessed with happiness.
Izunuma and Uchinuma are lakes in Senhoku Plain in Miyagi Prefecture. Covering a total area of 4 square meters, the majority of the surfaces of these shallow lakes is covered with water plants such as lotuses and reeds and provides precious habitat for insects and fish. They were designated as a registered wetland under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as a Waterfowl Habitat, known as the Ramsar Site in 1985.
Located in the northernmost area of the warm-temperate zone, the surfaces of Izunuma and Uchinuma rarely freeze, even during the coldest seasons. This makes them a popular wintering area for such waterfowl as whooper swans, white-fronted geese and Aleutian Canada goose. At the sunrise, you can see 30,000 goose and ducks flapping their wings all at once. This sound was designated as one of Japan’s 100 Landscapes with Sounds by the Ministry of Environment.
Visitors can enjoy viewing wild birds all through the year from observation deck at Izunuma Uchinuma Visitors Center.
Fireflies used to be seen everywhere in the country, but now we only have few opportunities to see this delightful insect due to the drastic changes in our environment. Fireflies, which fly around emitting pale light, are beetles of the family Lampyridae in the order Coleoptera. Although the larva may overwinter for two or three seasons before metamorphosing into adults, it lives for only ten days after reaching adulthood.
The activities to protect and preserve firefly habitats have been done in many areas in Kagawa Prefecture. The water ways dedicated to the protection of fireflies are constructed in some area. Therefore, you can see Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata) and Heike-botaru (Luciola lateralis) in many places. Some of the famous firefly viewing places include Kandani Shrine in Sakaide City and the area around the Koto River in Takamatsu City. Some towns hold Firefly Festival in June.
Hideaki Tokita, born in 1979, Tokyo, is a rising star in the world of “netsuke”. There are said to be less than a hundred netsuke artists left in Japan.
Netsuke, which became popular during Edo period, is a small accessory which serves as a toggle on a crafted box called “inrou”, or money pouch both of which hang from obi sash. Today, there are more netsuke collectors abroad than in Japan. Mr. Hideaki was exposed to netsuke for the first time while studying in New Zeeland which also led him to start learning jade sculpture
He met with Mr. Mick, a sculptor, who later became his teacher. Under Mr. Mick’s guidance, Mr. Tokita started carving and soon attracted attention and praise from world leading netsuke collectors. In 2007, he received a Newcomer Award from Japan Ivory Sculpture Association.
“Time spent observing is the same as time spent learning. Even for a piece of leaf, if you make an effort to learn something, you will be rewarded”.
His work, born from his ethos in which he pushes himself to the edge in order to sharpen and polish his artistic intuition, releases a powerful presence which is unique in the world.
In the dome-shaped Maruyama hill, 226 meters above sea level, in the western suburbs of Sapporo spread Maruyama Park. This huge 60,000 square meter area contains a virgin forest, which was designated as a Natural Monument in 1921.
In the old times, the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, called this hill “moiwa,” which means “a small mountain.” However, in the Meiji period (1868-1912), when Wajin (ethnic Japanese) immigrated to this place, they called the hill “Maruyama (literally meaning “a round mountain)” because of its shape.
The area around the top of the hill is clustered with trees like oak and Japanese lime, while the area at the foot is with Japanese Judas and Castor-Aralia. There are also a variety of flowers, birds, insects and alpine plants in the hill.
From the rocky hill top, you can command a magnificent view of Mt. Moiwa (a Natural Monument) and Mt. Eniwadake in the distance. Located near the central part of the city, Maruyama Park is a popular recreational spot for residents of Sapporo and visitors to the city.
Mt. Asahidake located in the center of Hokkaido is the main peak of the Daisetsu mountain range. Although it is 2,290 m above sea level, the ecological conditions of the mountain is similar to those of 3,000-meter-class mountains in Honshu. This is because the mountain is located at high latitude.
Swamp plants grow in Tennyogahara Field and over 40 species of alpine plants can be seen in Sugatami-no-ike Pond and its surrounding area. The area is known as a habitat of rare species of insects such as Eversmann's Parnassian, which is a national Natural Monument and can be found only in the Daisetsu mountain range, and 6 other species of alpine butterflies as well as of wild animals such as northern pikas (Ochotona hyperborea yesoensis) and Ezo deer.
As the aerial tramway service is provided from Asahidake Hot Spring in Higashikawa-cho to Sugatami-no-ike Pond, a lot of visitors come to enjoy hiking without much difficulty.
Various flowers come into bloom in summer, which look like a huge flowerbed in the garden of grand nature. Covered with crimson foliage, it displays magnificent scenery in fall; while it looks breathtakingly beautiful when covered with white snow in winter.
Takanabe Wetland is located in Takanabe-cho, Koyu-gun, Miyazaki Pref. In 1968, when Takanabe Disaster-Prevention Dam construction was completed, spring water in the mountain forest pooled into the place where sediment was brought out for the construction and formed the wetland. The wetland area was arranged into a park and open to public in 1998. The wetland is composed of the two parts; the eastern wetland and the western wetland. The promenades of the both wetland part are connected by a hanging bridge named Tonbo-no-hashi (the Dragonfly Bridge).
The wetland is the habitat of a variety of flora and fauna including insects, especially dragonflies, and over 300 species of plants such as Habenaria radiata, which reminds us of an elegant egret, bladderwort, which looks like an ear pick, and a very rare species of barberry that can only be found in the area around Ise Bay and this area of Takanabe and Kawanami towns. Although it is less than 40 years since the wetland was formed, its vegetation has begun to be well-established and attract the attention of the ecologists.
Flower Bird Painting is a general term for East Asian paintings featuring flowers, birds and insects. this category forms one of three major painting subjects, the others being figures and landscape ('mountain-water').
Flower Bird Painting became an established genre in the Tang Dynasty in China, and reached heights of excellence in the Northern Song Dynasty.
In the Heian period, ink painting was introduced to Japan and by the Edo period the art of Flower Bird Painting had spread among samurai as pictures painted on folding screens and sliding paper fusuma doors at temples, shrines and castles. After that, because of the principles of civilian government, they also became popular among commoners.
In China, realistic painting was popular but in Japan, flowers and birds of the four seasons were painted more abstractly, more like painted haiku poems.
Flower Bird Painting is very popular not only in Japan but in China, Korea and elsewhere in the world!