COLUMN: Wildlife observed during summer in Toyokoro

Summer at last! I have been in Japan for one full year, and I honoured my little anniversary with a visit to the wild roses and yellow lilies, a walk on the beach, and coincidentally the traditional Canada Day sunburn.

The areas near the mouth of the Tokachi River, with Otsu fishing village, the nearby ocean beach, and the land locked lagoon of Lake Chobushi, have remained my “go to” destinations for a free Sunday afternoon.

This week was hot and hazy, with young families taking advantage of the cooler breezes by the sea. The sand is such a dark grey as to be almost black, and I didn’t test its temperature without shoes although little ones were running, digging and rolling in it.

Despite the tempting air temperature, I didn’t see anyone actually swimming in the waters, even on the lagoon side.

When I talk to my students about swimming in lakes or the ocean, I am always met by shocked or puzzled looks.

While bathing in natural hot springs is immensely popular here, swimming seems to take place only in indoor pools.

Toyokoro’s town pool is an attractive windowed building, accessible free of charge to the whole community but with a limited season from June through September. Similarly small towns I have visited also have community pools.

The municipal facilities in Japan continue to amaze me.

My weekend wandering included a heron sighting and got me thinking about the Hokkaido wildlife, some very similar to home and some quite different.

I have seen a few deer, and heard about an occasional bear. I spotted a raccoon dog once, similar markings to our Canadian raccoons but with a rounder less-humped shape.

What I notice most are spectacular large birds: swans and hawks and herons and cranes. And every once in a while, I am fortunate to catch a glimpse of a fox.

I never have much luck with my camera phone, but my English teaching colleague in the nearby town of Urahoro has the patience, diligence and photographic equipment for much better results, which she has given me permission to share.

Janet Jory is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.

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