The Gyotoku Bird Sanctuary is a wonderful getaway spot that you can reach using the Tokyo Subway. It’s home to a huge variety of birds, including herons, egrets, and cormorants.
The sanctuary used to be part of a huge expanse of tidal flat that contained lotus ponds, reeds, and paddy fields until the 1960s. It was known for the large number and vairety of waterfowl, and when the land was going to be reclaimed and developed, there was a dispute between local nature lovers and the authorities. The land got developed, but the Gyotoku Bird Observatory was set up as a compromise.
It has a bird hospital filled with hawks, owls, and other varieties of birds, and there is a great observatory filled with 25 X telescopes that you can use to watch the birds for free.
If you’d like to go in and see the birds close up, there are tours every Sunday that start at 2:00 PM. At Gyotoku, birds come before people’s convenience, and except for the observatory, there are few places that you can see them well, so it would be really worth your while to show up on a Sunday. The tours can be cancelled in case of rain, and it’s recommended that you phone ahead. (See contact information below.)
If you’re a photographer, you’ll probably want at least a 300 mm lens to shoot from the observatory.
The whole place is free, remarkably uncrowded, and is just 30 minutes or so by subway from central Tokyo. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a nature lover.
The sanctuary is accessible from both Gyotoku and Minami Gyotoku Stations on the subway Tozai Line. The fare is 230 yen from Otemachi Station and it takes about 20 minutes. From the subway station, it’s a seven-minute bus ride or a 20-minute walk to the sanctuary.
Take the Keisei bus bound for High Town Shiohama/Shin Urayasu Station. Get off at Gyotoku Ko-ko (high school) and walk 10 minutes.
From Gyotoku Station, go out the South Exit. Walk south to the third stoplight, where you’ll see a 7-11 on the corner. Turn right here and walk to the fourth stoplight, going past the Eki Mae Koen. There should be a Family Mart on the corner. Turn left here, and walk seven blocks until you come to a big road. Turn right and walk to the first stoplight. This road takes you into the sanctuary. There may be a better way, but this is how I did it.
Opening hours: Open every day except Monday (if Monday is a national holiday, it will be closed on Tuesday), the last Friday of every month and Dec. 28-Jan. 3.
Bird watching tour – every Sunday, every national holiday, last Saturday of each month.
Here’s a link to a Google Map of the area (Japanese only): http://www.google.co.jp/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=ja&geocode=&q=%E5%8D%97%E8%A1%8C%E5%BE%B3&sll=35.605411,139.661023&sspn=0.050663,0.06918&ie=UTF8&ll=35.677117,139.913614&spn=0.012654,0.02547&z=16
Address: 4-22-11 Fukuei, Ichikawa, Chiba 272-0137
Official Site: http://www.city.ichikawa.lg.jp/english/guide/0089.html (English)
Friends of the Gyōtoku Wild Bird Observatory NPO: http://gyotokubird.wixsite.com/npofgbo （Japanese/English）