10 Things I Didn’t Think I Would Need in Nanae, Japan (Part 2)

By Ben Mirin, CIR

2. A fly rod

I did not expect to see salmon jumping in the Europe River at this time of year.

A week ago, I was awake at a time I only reserve for two activities: bird watching and fishing.  The former was on my agenda, and I had leapt out of bed after a long night of karaoke to meet my friend Tanaka-san for an expedition to find White-tailed and Stellar’s Sea Eagles near Yakumo, a coastal town roughly 1 hour from Nanae by car.

Together with Tanaka-san’s daughter, Miu, we spent the morning cramped in the car, driving among different lookout points that Tanaka-san had memorized.  At each stop, we lowered our windows and peered through the freezing rain to scan treetops and shorelines for birds.  The name Yakumo has a meaning: 1 week and 8 days of rain.  I wondered what could attract eagles to such a place.

The answer became clear when the rain let up.  Stepping outside momentarily, I walked to the edge of a nearby bridge and looked out over the river.  Hundreds of spawning salmon were tailing and splashing all along the shore.

Almost on cue, eagles began to cry in the cold morning air.  Looking up I saw dozens of them circling over the water in search of the fish. Dozens more were clearly visible in clouds of black and white plumage that peppered the surrounding hillsides.  I had never seen so many of these huge raptors in one place.

A White-tailed Eagle in flight

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