If you are into bird watching, the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park is for you. Formerly Oi Bird Park, it was established in October 1989. It might be surprising to many people that a long time ago, the area was actually covered by Tokyo Bay! As with many areas in the city, it was eventually reclaimed and became the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. Grasslands remained though and attracted wild birds which attracted many people who came to see the value of protecting the area for future generations. This ended with the markets retaining 38.6 hectares of land for its business and the creation of the park, which got almost twenty-five. And now, the city of Tokyo has a fabulous place dedicated to some wonderful animals.
It is an amazing place when you consider it is located on the edge of a busy port. Seriously, from the inside of the park you can see industrial areas outside, closeby. That doesn’t matter because what is inside is so incredible. The ponds (lakes might be a better word in some cases), which are connected directly to Tokyo Bay, are influenced by the tides and therefore attract certain types of birds. And there are also freshwater ponds which attract other types of birds. Then, there are the streams, wooded areas and grassy fields. And to think that this ecosystem and its occupants exist inside a massive port area, is fantastic.
The local population of this bird lover’s paradise is made up of as many as 200 species, including cormorants, egrets, herons, grebes, black-winged stilts and ducks that use it regularly or call it home. And the park is also used by some birds who just drop by while on their annual migration routes. It truly is amazing.
One thing you need to be aware of is that a summer visit to the park can be a trial. For example, when I visited the park for the first time, it was August and extremely hot and humid, typical Tokyo weather. So, after doing the fifteen-minute walk from Ryutsu Center, I was already covered in sweat. And upon entering a wetlands which is what the park is, the “sweat meter” can go up another notch. It wasn’t until I did some reading later, that I found out the best time for birding and any visit to the park was in either spring or autumn, definitely not summer, and especially not the middle of summer. Still, a summer visit wouldn’t be a waste as there is a lot to photograph, even during the heat.
For photography, you need to remember that the grounds are huge (almost twenty-five hectares as I have already mentioned). I went there with two lenses, my 10-24 mm to get some basic wide angle shots to give you an idea of what the area looks like, and my Fujifilm 55-200 mm to shoot the birds. I found the 55-200 to be way too short. The bird photos I have in this article are all severely cropped. At the park, I’ve seen people use 300 and 400 mm lenses plus teleconverters to get some extra range!
The park is great not only for the birds that can be found there but that it is very comfortable just observing them. Each pond has at least one hut (or over-sized blinds if you prefer) from where you can shoot. They aren’t air-conditioned, but they do have chairs, good quality telescopes and benches inside. If you are after more there you need to go to the four-storey Nature Center. Inside, it is cool, comfortable and very spacious. From the big windows you can look out onto a large freshwater pond, browse through bird books, and consult with staff members (mostly in Japanese). One great thing about the park is that all the observation areas have high-quality telescopes that are free to use.
Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park doesn’t have any restaurants or kiosks but there is an open field with well-maintained tables and benches, so if you want to have a picnic or break, that is no problem. There are lots of drink machines and toilets there too. The park does have scheduled events on weekends to attract visitors but most them are in Japanese only, but there are some bilingual events (contact the admin office for full details).
If you love birds, Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park is an incredible place and should be on your bucket list of places to visit in the city. The variety of birdlife there is incredible and well-worth a visit of any photographers. You can see its website here.
How to get to Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park
It is very easy to get there, but you need to walk a bit, about fifteen minutes from Ryutsu Center which is on the monorail line that runs between Hammamatsucho and Haneda airport.
Here is a Google map:
February to October - from 9 am to 5 pm (with last admission at 4:30 pm)
November to January - 9 am to 4:30 pm (with last admission at 4 pm)
Just be aware that the park is closed on Mondays and public holidays. And be further aware that if a public holiday falls the Monday, it will be open but closed the following day (i.e. the Tuesday).
Three hundred yen (￥300)
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