Red-Crowned Cranes (Special Natural Monument of Japan)

Crane is an auspicious bird in Oriental folklore and many specimens were bred in the garden since its construction in the 17th century, especially the graceful red-crowned cranes (Grus japonensis) known for their elegant black and white plumage and peculiar featherless red head.

Unfortunately, after the air raid of 1945 all the cranes disappeared from the garden. Several years later, in 1956, two red-crowned cranes came back to the garden thanks to Guō Mòruò: a former exchange student in Okayama from China during his high school years, back to his motherland Guō became president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and after the war he decided to send the birds as a sign of gratitude to the city which welcomed him. The stele next to the Crane Aviary shows a Chinese poem written by Guō and conveying his feelings:

Korakuen, so dearly beloved since I was a student,
lost the castle during the war and now its landscape is so lonely.
I want at least to donate these birds,
hoping they could become good friends.

Later, in collaboration with crane specialists from Kushiro City, Hokkaidō, the crane keepers of Korakuen succeeded in raising many birds, and their beautiful shapes returned to the garden.

Currently, Okayama is proud to be the prefecture with the highest number of red-crowned cranes bred in captivity in Japan, as several dozens of cranes are carefully kept in various local facilities. Eight cranes are currently at Korakuen: they are usually kept in their aviary, but on specific days and occasions they are released in the garden, especially during New Year’s Day when the birds are free to roam and fly, bringing good luck for the future.

Red-Crowned Cranes of Korakuen

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