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The Guide

February 28th, 2005

YachowebWell, since I started up birdwatching again, I figured I’d need a guide book. There’s always some field guide to the birds of whatever, so I started the search–and found something disappointing: there’s no field guide to Japanese birds in English. There are English guides to just about every other country in the region, though–China, Korea, India, Singapore, the Philippines, you name it, there are English guides, even on sale here in Japan. But not a guide to Japanese birds. What’s with that?

Now, there was an English printing of the “gold standard” guide put out by the Wild Bird Society of Japan (日本野鳥の会, call them JWBD) in 1982, in hardcover–but the book has been out of print for years, and has become somewhat the collector’s edition–I’ve seen them on sale between $200 and $400 apiece. Ouch.
So I figured the Japanese-language version, pictured at right, would have to do. I went to the JWBS store, located near Shinjuku, just out of Hatsudai Station on the Keio/Shinjuku Line. A nice store, that–I didn’t have time to browse, but will go there again. And when I saw the JWBD Field Guide, I thought it was OK–very similar to the North American field guide I had as a kid–but was disappointed that there was not even an English translation of the names of the birds–just the Latin. When I asked, I was pointed to a more recent book: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan (lower left), which features photographs rather than painted illustrations–good or bad depending on your preferences–but they also have the English names of the birds.

The standard Field Guide has one advantage: the maps showing the birds’ ranges are zoomed in more on the Asian region, with Japan at center; the Photographic Guide features world maps, on which Japan is almost too small to make out (though the map zooms in nicely when the birds are native solely to Japan).

In the end, it was a close thing–but I decided to go for the Photographic Guide. They did a pretty good job providing a variety of views of each bird, and the maps were sufficient; the kicker was the English names. I still might buy the Field Guide–both books cost about ¥3000, a bit too much to buy all at once–but for now, the photo book will do quite fine.

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  1. March 2nd, 2005 at 00:15 | #1

    Just thought I’d note that you listed the date on this entry as March 28, 2005!

  2. Luis
    March 2nd, 2005 at 00:25 | #2

    Oops! It’s now corrected. I sometimes backdate the posts by an hour or two, and this one caught me on a month change… Thanks for the catch! Though I would have noticed it eventually, as my subsequent posts would have sunk behind it!

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