I was not planning on shooting wildlife in Japan, and with only an 85mm and a 135mm for
telephoto lenses, wildlife shots would not be of much value unless I got very close. Who knew?

There is of course plenty of wildlife in Japan. Much of the wildlife you encounter in the areas which
I visited is so used to people that you don’t approach them... they approach you. No stealth is required.
An 85mm or a 135mm lens is fine. Frankly, in some situations, either would have been too much lens. Wild.

Well... they do call it “wildlife”, after all.

As always, click an image for a larger version,
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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection


Nara Park Deer 9773

Now, who could resist that face?
Especially when it’s right in yours...

This guy is in Nara Park, which is literally swarming with thundering herds of Sika deer.
The deer walk up to people and either give them the forlorn look this fellow has practiced
oh so well, or they bow to the target, knowing they will be fed shika senbei (deer crackers).

These deer are so smart (at least about this), that they watch for someone going over to
a cracker vendor, then after he buys crackers, the deer swarm the hapless individual.
Once the crackers are gone, the fickle ungulates wander off, looking for the next
unsuspecting tourist. They are sort of like little waifs. You can’t resist them.

Deer in the Nara Park area have been considered sacred for more
than a thousand years... the Sika Deer have roamed the Kasuga
Hills since at least the Neolithic period. Legend says that a
Shinto deity (Takenomikazuchi-no-mikoto) was invited
 to Kasuga Shrine from Kashima and rode a deer.
Since then the deer have been considered
to be the messengers of the gods.

The deer were protected by the local authorities, and
killing one was a capital offense until 1637. After WWII
the deer lost their sacred status and became protected as
National Treasures. There are 1200 deer roaming in Nara Park.


Nara Park Deer Crackers 9749

The cracker routine: the deer come up to you and bow, then you bow back to the deer and hand over a cracker...


Nara Park Deer Crackers 9750

Soon, you’ve got two more...


Nara Park Deer Crackers 9754

... and then two more...


Tamukeyama Deer 9870

Eventually, you run out of crackers, and then they scoot over and swarm a two-year old.


Nara Park Sika Deer Portrait 9914


Nara Park Sika Deer Close Portrait 9770

In case you were wondering what it looked like when they
come in close like that... here are some visual examples.

Now, imagine you’re a two-year old. Scarred for life.   :^)


Nara Park Deer Close Portrait 9802

All I can say is: You had better have some crackers.


Nara Park Fawn 9803

A youngster, just learning the cracker routine.


Nara Park Deer 9911

A detail crop from a shot like 9910 below.


Nara Park Deer 9797


Nara Park Deer 9910

Resting up after a long hard day of cadging crackers.

Think about it. You’ve got to stay on your game.
You’ve got to keep your cute look on all the time.
You’ve got to chase down tourists and two-year olds.

It’s tough being a Nara Park Deer.



Nara Park Fawn 9880


Nara Park Sika Deer Portrait 9882

I was approached in the woods above Kasuga Shrine
by this mother and fawn. Mom has taught the baby the
cute look already. It looks as if the baby has had lots
of crackers too. That cute look works, doesn’t it?

Kasuga Shrine Deer Closeup 9907

Speaking (as we were) about closeups...

I was down on one knee taking a low-angle shot of
the Kasuga Shrine Torii, when I sensed something.
I turned around... and I’ve got a deer in my ear.

Keep in mind that I’ve been shooting a low-angle
wide-angle shot of a Torii gate. I’ve got a 28mm
lens on the camera. I turned around and took
this picture, filling the frame at 28mm.

This is a young deer. Just past fawn stage.
They are not all that big. This is a closeup, folks.

I remember once in Yellowstone when I was taking
an early evening shot of the Roosevelt Arch and
was approached closely by a young elk with
his very first set of sticks. I got a head shot
with a 28mm. That was close (and exciting).

This was a lot closer.

This little guy had his cold wet nose right in my ear.


Minoh Monkey 0175

I went up Minoh Mountain to visit Katsuoji, the temple with all of the little Daruma dolls.
It was raining, but it stopped after a while, as it always does. The macaques (saru) live
in the forests on the mountain, and after a rainstorm, they come out of the forest and
sit in the open, drying their feet and seeing what’s happening in the world. I took
the opportunity and shot mostly studio style portraits (it’s not very often that
 you get the chance to do that with wildlife, but my longest lens was the
135mm f/2, and I had to get in close). I found a distance that was a
little outside their fear radius and used my hands to draw the
monkey’s attention for the studio-style looks. I also took
candids when a special position presented itself.

Here are a few of those images.


Minoh Monkey 0148

The Japanese Macaque (saru) is also called the Snow Monkey
(in their winter fur, they look like they’re wearing a hooded parka).
Minoh monkeys have learned to steal purses and wallets and use
the coins to buy drinks and snacks from local vending machines.


Minoh Monkey 0152

Near Kasumigaura Lake, on the Tonegawa River east of
Tokyo, two monkeys named Momoko and Lilly entertain
 crowds with waterski antics and by driving power boats.
Momoko (the older of the two) drives the boat while
Lilly water-skis. Then the two monkeys water-ski
side by side while their trainers drive the boat.


Minoh Monkey 0172

Momoko has set a record by staying up on her
water ski for 50 kilometers (31 miles). It took her
4.5 hours to complete this record accomplishment.
Momoko is also a wind-surfer, an alpine skier, and a
scuba diver. Momoko and Lilly are a very big hit on
Japanese television (with well over 100 shows).


Minoh Monkey 0153

Monkeys around the town of Odawara are notorious for sneaking into homes and shops
to steal fruit, sweet potatoes and even candy bars. One lady tried to chase them away
with a mop, but the monkeys chased her instead... all the way to the train station.


Minoh Monkey 0177


Minoh Monkey 0173

They will eat just about anything, and they are very bold.
If they see someone in a store put down a bag and walk
away, they will go to the bag and see what is in it, and if it
looks good and the person is not watching... it is gone.


Minoh Monkey 0151

Snow Monkeys are very fond of hot springs, and will share them with humans.
In Jigokudani Valley (Hell Valley) in Nagano, there is actually a monkey-only hot spring.


Minoh Monkey 0190

In August 2008, a Snow Monkey was seen at Shibuya
Station in one of the busiest parts of Tokyo. It evaded all
attempts to capture it and when last seen it was heading
in the direction of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho red light district.


Minoh Monkey 0194


Minoh Monkey 0176

In Takasakiyama Natural Zoo (natural environment), they have several groups of monkeys.
At the age of nine, Benz (named after the car) became the leader of B-group (a very young age).
At 12 years old he fell in love with a female in C-group and moved to her group, forcing him to restart
at the bottom of the status chain. 21 years later, in 2011, he became leader of C-group’s 816 monkeys.

He displays excellent leadership, and even chased away the largest group (A-group) all by himself. What a guy.


Minoh Monkey 0200


Minoh Monkey 0174

At a restaurant in Tokyo, Snow Monkeys work as waiters,
delivering hot towels and drinks to customers in exchange
for boiled soybeans that they receive as tips. They only
work two hours per day, but they are certified waiters.


Minoh Monkey 0201

The Japanese Macaque is the only animal other than humans and raccoons that will
wash its food before eating it, and plays with snowballs for fun (although they have never
 been observed throwing a snowball, they do occasionally fight over possession of one).
They are very intelligent, and pass new knowledge on to other monkeys in their group.

The Japanese Macaques feature in one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of artwork:
Sansaru (three monkeys): See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil


Three Monkees 8818 clip

Sansaru (or sanzaru, three monkeys), attributed to Hidari Jingoro, carved for the Shinkyo
Sacred Horse Stable at Nikko Toshogu Shrine in 1636, this is one of eight panels telling the
story of the three monkeys, known as Mizaru (who is covering his eyes: See no Evil); Iwazaru
(who is covering his mouth: Speak no Evil); and Kikazaru (covering his ears: Hear no Evil).

The three pages of the Nikko section detail this most exceptional place, the pinnacle
 of Japanese Shrine Architecture. It has some of the most amazing carvings you’ve ever seen.
Nikko One: The Lower Level
Nikko Two: Yomeimon and Kairo
Nikko Three: Upper Level


Sankeien Red Eared Sliders 7831

Sankeien in Yokohama is two side-by-side gardens.
The outer garden is a traditional Japanese garden with
a large pond. In both the Outer and Inner Gardens, Sankei
Hara placed numerous historically significant structures
that he rescued from temples and other areas around
Japan. Some of the wildlife on this page was shot
at the large pond. I have a page on some of the
  architecture here: Sankeien Architecture.


Shitennoji Rokujido Turtle Sanctuary 8940

Outside the Shitennoji Rokujido, there is a stone
pond with a multilevel platform that serves as a
turtle sanctuary. There are hundreds of them.

Apparently, people started abandoning their pet turtles
in the pond outside of the Rokujido, and they just stayed.
The monks feed them and the turtles seem to like the pond.
 There certainly are a lot of them, basking on their steps.


Sankeien Cormorant 7905

A Japanese Cormorant (Temminck’s Cormorant) in Sankeien Garden in Yokohama.
For over 1000 years, Japanese fishermen have trained these Umi-U (the Japanese
name for Sea Cormorants) to fish for them in the ancient tradition known as Ukai.

With only a 135mm lens, I was limited in what I could do with birds on a large pond,
but I was able to get some shots, including this Great Cormorant and the Tufted Ducks.
Japan has birds that are far different than the species that I am used to. I was not equipped
for shooting wildlife, but when a chance presented itself I took it to see some new species.


Sankeien Tufted Ducks 7926

Male Tufted Ducks (note the crest).
A non-breeding young male is in the foreground.


Sankeien Tufted Ducks 7896

The dark body and white patch made these challenging
shots. I opted to slightly overexpose the body patch.


Sankeien Tufted Ducks 7910

The Tufted Duck is a diving duck, similar to the Ring-Necked Duck. The male is easily identified by
the prominent crest on the back of the head. No females were in this group (it was a bachelor party).


Sankeien Tufted Ducks 7913

The female is dark brown with lighter flanks, and looks a lot like other female diving ducks and scaups.


Ueno Park Redhead 7466

As far as I knew, the Redhead (Aythya americana)
was only a North American duck (hence the name).


Ueno Park Redhead 7467

Nobody told this guy, however. He was happily
swimming in Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park, Tokyo.


Ueno Park Redhead 7465

Unlike the North American Redhead, this fellow has a black section at both ends of his bill
(the North American Redhead has a blue bill with a small patch of black at the very tip). The
bill on the North American Redhead looks much like the bill on the Tufted Duck shown below.


Ueno Park Tufted Duck 7437

Here is another Tufted Duck on Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park, Tokyo.


Maiko 9400c

I decided to end this wildlife page with three somewhat different images.

No discussion of the Wildlife of Japan would be complete without one image
of the wild and elusive Japanese Geisha in her native environment. This is actually
a Maiko (apprentice Geisha), presenting herself to a client at an Ochaya in Gion, Kyoto.


Shitennoji Dragon detail 8974c

I tried hard to find the even more wild and far more elusive Dragon, but they were in hiding.
You’ll have to be satisfied with this somewhat bucktoothed representation in bronze at Shitennoji.


Ueno Character 7589

If this isn’t an endangered species, it probably should be. I ran into this fellow twice
when I was in Tokyo... once in Ameyayokocho (Potpourri page) and once in Ueno Park,
surrounded by a sea of people and a wall of violently blooming sakura. Love the hat...

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The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection


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