I can think of no other bird gentler or more romantic than the Red-Crowned Cranes, which are one of the main species that I introduce to visiting international photographers on my annual Hokkaido Photo Tour. These gentle giants, also known as the snow ballerinas, show so much grace while performing their courtship dance. Once they have created their union as partners, they bond with those mates throughout their entire lifetime thereafter. Because this bird is monogamous, they represent loyalty a long and fruitful life and bring good fortune.
The Red-Crowned Crane, Tancho in Japanese, stands at 150 to 158 cm (4ft to 5 ft) tall weighing 8 to 11 kg (17 to 25) pounds with an amazingly large wingspan measuring 200 to 260 cm (6.5 ft to 8.5 ft) and live more than 60 years. The Red-Crowned Cranes ritual courtship dance is a masterpiece of impassioned choreography; they bow to one another, then raise their heads towards the sky and call in unison, and as they call, they begin to dance. One pair or the entire flock will leap into the air, at the same time commencing the mating ritual ballet/dance.
The First Nations People of Japan, The Ainu and their Ancient Ceremonial Dance, Akanko Hokkaido, Japan.
The First Nations peoples of Japan, The Ainu are brilliant storytellers, and they tell the story of a variety of animals and spiritual or divine beings who are composed of or possess spiritual energy. At Ainu powwows in Hokkaido, similar to North Americans First Nations Peoples, the Ainu tell the story of one such entity, The Red-Crowned Crane, with human dancers, in which the live birds are considered to be the Kamuy (a diving being) Gods of the Marshes, and spirit dancers. At Hokkaido powwows, the mystical healing energies of the Kamuy (Gods) of the Cranes are nearly tangible as the dancers perform the sacred Ainu dances and pay tribute to other mystical beings.
Below is a rare video I filmed February 2020 while leading my Hokkaido photo tour of a pair consummating their beautiful lifelong commitment. My dry spell of unsuccessful filming the Red-Crowned Cranes mating for several years was finally broken. I have a cottage in Hokkaido, and I am often photographing and filming at one of the many riversides where the cranes roost in the marshlands in the Kussharo, Nemuro, Nakashibetsu and several other regions of Hokkaido. This February, I was at the Otowa Bridge, Tsurui village, and happily, there were about a dozen photographers on the bridge this morning. In February of 2019, I recall it was so crowded with tourists, easily over a hundred in all, and this has been the norm in recent years. Many are just the garden variety tourist without a decent camera. So, there is at least one positive effect of COVID19. It has been effective in preserving wildlife and helping maintain the bond with birding photographer lovers on beautiful and mostly calm Hokkaido. And I hope it will become the new norm that we birders enjoyed twenty years ago, but once the world returns to normal, I fear the bridge will be overcrowded again, but until then, us locals will be enjoying our solitude with The Gods of the Marshlands-Spirit Dancers; with our friends and clients.