I would hope it’s pretty obvious by now, but the view of the sunset from Lake Shinji is pretty famous for being spectacular, especially around the Shimane Art Museum.














It’s also well known for wild swans, called “Hakucho” (白鳥, literally “white bird”) in Japanese.


Not that Hakucho! Though I suppose that can be a wild ride on a very windy day. I meant these hakucho:


Someone sure looks happy to be in paradise.

One of the things that makes me sad about my current lifestyle is that there are not that many opportunities to interact with animals. I can’t have any pets at my apartment, and most of my friends don’t have pets, and although I love seeing the wide array of wild birds that call Matsue their home for all or part of the year, it’s not quite the same as getting to interact with them. Bird feeders are not particularly common here, and when it comes down to it, many people–though certainly all–people raised in Japan are not comfortable interacting with animals, especially birds.

When I studied abroad in the Kansai region many years ago, I was a little starved of animal contact then, too. On a trip to an amusement part with my host mother and 5-year-old host brother I dragged them along to the petting zoo, and they didn’t seem to have much of an idea how to pet the furry critters. They both refused to go through the hallway of birds with me, seeing as she was afraid of them and that fear had spread to him. As I walked through, a parrot squawked at me, and that made the two of them scream on the other side of the wall. Even just now, as I was going through some of these photos of me taking advantage of every chance to interact with the birds at the Matsue Vogel Park, one of my supervisors noticed and asked, “Buri-chan, you weren’t afraid? Not at all??”

Nope! Not at all. And I’m really glad there is a place like the Vogel Park to give people a chance to give birds–and animals in general–a chance.

When I first came to Matsue it was the first outing I took while getting to know the city, and since then when I’ve had people come to visit and just want to hang out with them somewhere, I take them here. It had been a while since the last time I was there, and I had been pining for some animal interaction all winter, so once my schedule opened up, I took a Wednesday off from work to go spend the day there.

I distinctly wanted to go on a weekday as early as I could, because it can get very crowded on weekends and the ibises get sleepy in the afternoon. I love feeding the ibises, and they certainly enjoy being fed, so it worked out well. Not well enough to get a photo of them crowded at my feet and honking (or beeping, more like it?) at me, but I did stand around and drawing them later.

It felt so good to take the day to work on art, too! Birds are so much fun to draw, and the kachou (“flowers and birds”) themed Japanese paintings at the Adachi Museum of Art always make me want to go home and draw birds. Ahhh, but flowers. That’s something people come here for too. There begonias, fuchsia, and other flowers make the center greenhouse a paradise all year round.

On a Wednesday in February, it just happens to be a paradise with no people… which might or might not be a good thing?

It was still a little chilly in the greenhouses, but warm enough to fit in a lot of live sketches throughout the day. Usually, you can take a leisurely walk through the park in about an hour, but I took lots and lots of extra time, and made it to all the daily shows and events this time instead of just one or two. Instead of walking you through each part of the park, it’s probably faster just to see the new and improved English website. I skipped the observation tower overlooking Lake Shinji because it was an overcast day, but I fully enjoyed listening to the birds in the forest while walking between greenhouse and observing the birds.

It was especially fun to take my time while drawing the Banana the Toucan because his cage while right across from the cockatoo whose name I can’t quite remember. She’s usually not very interested in talking to me when I’m there on more crowded days, but today she was really bored, and constantly called out to me with “Hello!” and “Arigatou,” especially while I was facing Banana. When I would face her and interact with her instead, young Banana would start complaining until I’d go back over to him, and he’d quiet down and start hopping around the structures in his enclosure like the show-off he is.

The penguins, although they are one of the most popular attractions, are not quite as interesting to me. Besides their daily march in differing costumes, Sakura-chan has also captured the hearts of millions with this viral video in which she chases her beloved keeper.

For as nervous as many people around birds, the keepers obviously loved them, and birds are generally pretty affectionate with them, too. Seeing as it was a slow day between the waves of kindergartners on school excursions, the keepers were also pretty happy to chat with me about the birds as well, telling me everything from their names to how old they were to their personalities and which ones were raised at the park from the time they hatched. They were also very happy to indulge me in my question get some animal interaction–for 100~200 yen at select times, you can hold and pet many of the birds (and enormous rabbits, but I stuck with birds today). So I did. Let me interact with all the birds!

Owls are really, really, really soft.

This old call duck was enthusiastic and didn’t want to stay still.

This falcon was disappointed that it was a rainy day so she didn’t get to do her usual outdoor flying show at that hour.

The turacos are some of my favorites.

One of these toucans was named “Puri.” We’re a pair.

That was a good bird fix for a while, I suppose I could always go to Mt. Daisen to hang out with cows if I need a wider variety of mammals in my life. In the meantime, there is still a wide variety of birds to look at and listen to on my usual routes around this City of Water (and waterfowl).