Snowy Owl, Akihabara, Tokyo
This was one of the Owl No Mori cafe. He had a sign next to him that said he didn’t like to be touched, but photos without flash were OK. You can’t see it in this photo, but he is standing in front of a rotating fan to keep cool. A little while after I took this photo, a cafe employee came by to serve him a few drinks of water in a plastic bottle cap. It cracked me up how accustomed he was to being waited on! I wrote a little more about my trip to the owl cafe on Forbes.
Gray Heron and Mallard Ducks, Kamogawa River, Kyoto
When I was in Kyoto, I rented a riverside villa and ended up doing a lot of birdwatching. I hardly recognized any of the birds I saw, so the Kyoto bird checklist was a big help. This gray heron was outside my window fishing every morning. Even though these birds are fairly large, they were one of the most common species I’d see on the river. Apart from mallards, I also saw a bunch of redhead ducks that look like a color swap (or maybe a shiny Pokemon version) of the same species.
Little Egret, Kamogawa River, Kyoto
Little Egrets don’t look like this year round. Both males and females grow that wispy plumage to attract a mate. With the cherry blossoms mostly fallen and the temperature climbing into the high 70s, we were well into breeding season when I was in Kyoto. I could tell because, on top of the plumage, they were especially noisy, beginning early in the morning! I wish I could have captured this one’s bright yellow feet in this photo, but I’ll settle for that mirror image in the river.
Sika Deer, Nara
Approaching Nara Park, we saw a lot of cutesy deer mascots and photographs of perfectly groomed deer in advertisements, but the deer in the park were unmistakably wild, with thick, unkept fur. On the American East Coast, only baby deer have spotted rumps, but Sika deer have it their whole lives. It makes them look deceptively innocent, but deer like the one I photographed are shrewd old pros who know bowing is a cool trick that helps them get fed. One deer alone will be polite, but when two are upon you, they start to get aggressive, competing for rice crackers. But put up your hands, and they leave you alone—it’s the universal sign for “I am out of food to give you.”
Pond Turtles, Nara
I snapped this sunbathing pair in Nara, but I also saw plenty of the same species in Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo and a few in a pond at Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.We were lucky to get a lot of sunny days, so I saw a bunch, always when they were sunning themselves near a body of water. Their Latin name is nihon ishigame, Japanese stone turtle, and I get it—it looks like a rock. They seem pretty hardy, considering that second one has a crack in its shell.
Calico Cat, Fushimi Inari, Kyoto
We saw a bunch of small, young cats of all different colors but mainly the same size, and concluded they were probably litter mates. All over the mountain they can be seen sunning themselves and begging for food and pets. On our way down the mountain we saw a sign introducing us to the shrine cats, including photos and names for some. I thought there might be a warning not to feed the feral cats, but instead it recommended their favorite foods.
I took more than 700 photos in Japan and didn’t live blog as much as I wanted to—partly because Forbes asked me to stick to pop culture topics only. So I’ll be posting more about the trip here for a while until I get some of it out of my system. What would you like to read about next?