Simple Pleasures of Birdwatching

I have long been a fan of birds in general, which sounds like a silly thing to say but is merely the truth. Being close to birds reveals such cleverness, such expressiveness, that it’s hard not to anthropomorphize them. Yet I have never really taken the time to get the kind of detailed knowledge that would allow me to, say, identify all the wild birds around me by call, or plumage, or flight pattern.

So, when I saw an ad in the local paper for a free birdwatching class at Suo no Mori Lodge, a nearby forest lodge, I signed right up. The class happened last Sunday, the 21st, and it was a hoot (har, har).

I learned the basics of the above, but I also found that simply being in a focused environment where every bird that passed was a subject worthy of scrutiny, that was worth paying close attention to, was a kind of blessing. Birds are all around us here in Hikari, so they often just melt into the background noise, but when you actually try to see them they are a treasure.

For example, I learned that I’ve been using “sparrow” as a kind of catch-all term for “little, round, brown birds in the bushes” but there are several species that all fit that name, and all of which have their own adorable-ness to enjoy.

There’s nothing really profound coming here, but I will say that focusing your awareness on the simple, common natural environment around you is deeply rewarding. If you have the chance, take it.

And now, the pictures, which are what you really want.

  • The silhouette of a bird—perhaps an oriental dove or a brown-eared bulbul—on an electric wire, with trees in the background.
  • Two male mallard ducks are perched on a tree branch projecting out of a river. Another is swimming in front of them. and a female is swimming off to the left among the other branches.
  • Two small birds in silhouette are on the side of a gravel road. They are meadow buntings, which look a lot like sparrows.
  • A small, round, brown bird with white patches on its wings—a female Daurian redstart—sits on a low concrete wall with weeds in the foreground and background.
  • A male Daurian redstart is perched at the very tip of a single tall weed far in the distance, with a green hillside in the background.
  • An overgrown camellia bush in full flower with a small, green warbling white-eye bird perched near a flower.
  • The foreground is filled with camellia blossoms, and a small green warbling white-eye is perched among them.
  • In the far distance, a sandpiper is wading in a green river near a gravel bank.
  • A small, yellow-brown shrike is looking at the camera from its perch on a telephone wire.

My New Year in Pictures

Rather than a tired resolution post or whatever, I thought I’d just post some picture I took over the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. I’m also trying to ensure that I include captions for screen readers, which WordPress seems to struggle with when it comes to galleries. Patience, please.

Locations include Shunan city’s Eigenzan park, Tokuyama Zoo, Nijigahama Beach, Yanai Adeli Hoshi Park, and Mt. Taika in Shunan.

Captions for slide show: 1. A brilliant pink and yellow flower against green leaves. 2. A pale piece of driftwood that resembles some kind of beast’s skull, atop a pine-needle bedding. 3. A small green bird perched on a bare branch, with a bright pink flower nearby. 4. The silhouette of a bird encircled by leafy, flowered branches.


New Newsletter!

Announcing the Ochoko Times! My new newsletter starting from November 15, 2020.

I’m just getting the hang of it, but my plan is to send emails twice monthly, one in the middle and one at the end. The emails will feature western Japan sake news and reviews, event updates and recaps, and also look at some of my non-sake work and interests. I’ll also be including the “sake of the month” in the second email of each month, so look out for that one!

Occasionally, I will also include links and reminders of where you can buy my current translated work, and announce upcoming work as well.

Also, as time goes by, I’ll use the list to announce new projects that I think people might be interested in. I will not be spamming you with marketing, and will never sell your data.

A signup form is also available from my contact page.

Take a look!

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Review – Penguin Highway

ペンギン・ハイウェイ by Tomihiko Morimi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Penguin Highway

This is a coming of age novel, a story of children facing reality bending mystery, and lots of talk about boobs.

Akireta Aoyama is a young boy with an analytical mind and an obsession with breasts. Not exactly in a prurient way, but in the confused way of a young boy on the cusp of puberty who knows he’s interested, but not exactly why.

One day, his small Japanese town is set abuzz by the sudden appearance of penguins… And that is only the beginning of the weirdness.

I read this novel as a bit of exploration of Japanese SF, and I fear it did little to deepen my understanding of the first. This is a shallow, wide ranging look at all kinds of things: friendship, death, reality, love and so on. The topics can be heady, but they’re all destiny with by children, so nothing goes very far-topics are touched on, then left to wander as the children go about their adventures.

The climax mixes utter predictability (there is very heavy foreshadowing of a certain event) and utter nonsense in a vaguely unsatisfying way. The characters are memorable and enjoyable, though, and there is enough going on to keep interest going.

But in the end, this felt like a pretty rote “kids in small Japanese town have weird adventures and grow up a little” kind of story, complete with Summer festival yukatas and the bully who ends up helping the heroes when they need it.

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