Wildlife photography is a captivating form of art that allows us to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the natural world. It enables us to capture moments and images of animals that we might not be able to see otherwise and to learn about their behaviors and habitats. Japan is a country with rich and unique wildlife, from the snow monkeys of Nagano to the brown bears of Hokkaido and the marine mammals of Shiretoko National Park. In this blog, we will explore the best wildlife photography locations in Japan and provide tips for capturing stunning images of the animals in their natural habitat. If you are an adventurous type, this guide will help you discover the beauty and wonder of Japan’s wildlife.
Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, is known for its breathtaking natural scenery and diverse wildlife. From the majestic brown bears to the elusive red foxes, Hokkaido offers a wide range of opportunities for wildlife photography.
Some of the best locations for wildlife photography in Hokkaido include Shiretoko National Park, where you can capture Steller’s sea eagles, orcas, and brown bears; Daisetsuzan National Park, where you can find alpine plants and wildlife such as sika deer and Hokkaido squirrels; and the Notsuke Peninsula, which is a paradise for birdwatchers and photographers with a chance to capture endangered species like the spoon-billed sandpiper.
To capture stunning images of Hokkaido’s wildlife, it is essential to have the right equipment, such as a telephoto lens and a sturdy tripod. It is also important to be patient and observe the animals’ behavior before taking photos. If you’re photographing bears, be sure to follow proper safety guidelines and avoid disturbing them.
Nagano is a beautiful prefecture located in central Japan, known for its stunning mountain landscapes and hot springs. But it is also home to a unique and beloved animal – the Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey. These adorable primates have become a symbol of Japan’s natural wonders, attracting visitors from around the world who come to witness their endearing behavior.
One of the best locations for photographing snow monkeys in Nagano is Jigokudani Monkey Park. This park is located in the valley of the Yokoyu River and is home to a large troop of around 200 macaques who spend their days soaking in the natural hot springs, playing, and grooming each other. The park offers visitors the chance to observe and photograph the monkeys up close in their natural habitat, making for a truly memorable wildlife photography experience.
To capture stunning images of snow monkeys, it is important to come prepared with the right equipment, such as a telephoto lens and a sturdy tripod. It is also important to be patient and wait for the right moment, as the monkeys’ behavior can be unpredictable. To avoid disturbing them, it is essential to follow the park’s rules and guidelines. Those include keeping a safe distance, avoiding eye contact, and refraining from touching or feeding the monkeys.
The Kushiro Marshlands is a vast wetland located in eastern Hokkaido, known for its unique and diverse ecosystem. It is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including some of Japan’s most iconic and rare birds. The marshlands offer a picturesque landscape of rolling hills, tall grasses, and winding streams that make for stunning wildlife photography opportunities.
The best location for bird photography in the Kushiro Marshlands is the Kushiro Shitsugen Observatory. This observation deck offers a panoramic view of the wetlands and is a popular spot for bird watchers and photographers. Visitors can see a variety of birds, such as the red-crowned crane, the white-tailed eagle, and the Japanese crane. As well as other wildlife, such as the Hokkaido fox and the Ezo deer.
To capture birds in flight and in their natural habitat, it is essential to come prepared with the right equipment. Such as a telephoto lens, a fast shutter speed, and a tripod or monopod for stability. It is also important to be patient and observe the birds’ behavior to anticipate their movements and capture the perfect shot. Additionally, it is recommended to visit during the early morning or late afternoon when the light is softer and warmer. It will create a more favorable atmosphere for wildlife photography.
Yakushima Island is a lush and enchanting destination located off the southern coast of Kyushu. It is known for its dense forests, ancient trees, and unique wildlife. It makes a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers. The island has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve due to its exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity.
One of the best locations for wildlife photography on Yakushima Island is the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine. This area is famous for its mossy rocks, crystal-clear streams, and stunning waterfalls. It makes a perfect spot for capturing the island’s unique flora and fauna. Visitors can also encounter some of Yakushima’s most iconic species, such as the Yaku monkey, the sika deer, and the Amami rabbit.
Another great location for wildlife photography on Yakushima Island is Yakusugi Land. A nature reserve that is home to some of the oldest and largest cedar trees in the world. The reserve offers visitors the chance to explore the forest’s winding trails, hidden waterfalls, and serene ponds while encountering the island’s rich wildlife. This location is particularly popular for photographing the island’s resident macaques, who are known for their curious and playful behavior.
To capture stunning images of Yakushima Island’s wildlife, it is important to come prepared with the right equipment, such as a telephoto lens, a polarizing filter, and a sturdy tripod. Additionally, it is important to be respectful of the wildlife’s natural habitat and observe from a safe distance. Visitors should also be mindful of the island’s weather conditions, which can be unpredictable, and dress accordingly. With a little patience and preparation, Yakushima Island offers a stunning and unique backdrop for wildlife photography.
Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park is located on the northeastern tip of Hokkaido. It is known for its rugged wilderness, pristine coastline, and diverse wildlife. The park is home to a variety of land and marine mammals. Including Steller’s sea eagles, orcas, brown bears, and red foxes. The park’s unique environment offers an ideal setting for wildlife photography.
One of the best locations for wildlife photography in Shiretoko National Park is Kamuiwakka Falls. This waterfall is known for its turquoise-blue water, which is a result of the minerals in the surrounding rocks. The falls are also home to a variety of fish, which attract a variety of birds, including Steller’s sea eagles. Visitors can capture these majestic birds in flight as they hunt for fish in the waterfall’s pools.
Another great location for wildlife photography in Shiretoko National Park is Furepe Waterfall. This waterfall is located on the coast. It offers visitors the chance to capture images of orcas and other marine mammals as they swim and hunt in the surrounding waters. Visitors can also capture images of brown bears as they fish for salmon in the nearby streams.
When photographing wildlife in Shiretoko National Park, it is important to be mindful of the wildlife’s natural habitat and behavior. Visitors should observe from a safe distance and avoid disturbing the animals. Additionally, it is important to take precautions when traveling in bear country. Visitors should carry bear spray, make noise while hiking, and avoid traveling alone. By following these guidelines, visitors can safely capture stunning images of Shiretoko National Park’s unique and diverse wildlife.
Gear recommended for wildlife photography
- Camera Body: Look for a camera with fast autofocus and a high frame rate. A full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or the Nikon D850 would be great choices. But a crop sensors camera like the Canon EOS 7D Mark II or the Nikon D500 can also work well and provide extra reach when paired with a telephoto lens.
- Telephoto Lens: A telephoto lens will allow you to get closer to your subject without disturbing it. A 300mm or 400mm lens is a good starting point. But if you can afford it, a 500mm or 600mm lens will give you even more reach. Some popular options include the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR, or the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports.
- Tripod: A sturdy tripod will help you keep your camera steady and reduce camera shake. Look for a tripod with a high weight capacity and a ball head that can you can easily adjust. The Gitzo GT3543LS Systematic Series 3 Tripod or the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 are both great options.
- Teleconverter: A teleconverter can be attached to your telephoto lens to extend its reach even further. A 1.4x or 2x teleconverter can be a useful addition to your kit. The Canon Extender EF 1.4X III or the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III are both good choices.
- Camera Bag: A good camera bag will protect your gear and make it easier to carry around. Look for a bag with plenty of padding, adjustable compartments, and water-resistant materials. The Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II or the Think Tank Photo Airport Security V3.0 are both popular choices.
- Flash: Depending on the type of wildlife photography you’re doing, a flash can be a useful addition to your kit. Look for a flash with a high guide number and TTL capabilities. The Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT or the Nikon SB-5000 are both great options.
Capture Japan’s stunning wildlife through your lens
Japan’s diverse and unique wildlife makes it an ideal destination for wildlife photography tours. With the right equipment and techniques, you can capture stunning photos of everything from tiny birds to majestic bears. By choosing a reputable tour operator and taking the time to plan your trip, you can have a truly unforgettable experience in Japan that combines wildlife photography with cultural exploration. So, whether you’re an experienced photographer or just starting out, consider planning your own wildlife photography tour in Japan and discover the incredible beauty of its natural world.