In Japan’s nature-worshipping Shinto religion, the crane has traditionally been a revered bird.
Among other things, it denotes longevity, and is commonly used symbolically in Japanese baptism and wedding ceremonies. An ancient legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami (Japanese paper art) cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury.
In the hierarchy of Japanese cranes, one stands out from all the rest, and – like all good things in this country – it lives in Hokkaido.
It is the Red Crested Crane, or tanchozuru – which has been designated officially as a living Japanese monument. Until very recently it was adopted by Japan Airlines as its company logo, appearing in stylised form on the tail fin of JAL commercial planes and perhaps providing comfort to nervous Japanese air travellers.
Snowy white, with black tipped wings and throat and a bright red cap, it is a magnificent creature, growing to a height of 1.5 metres, with a wingspan of 2.5 metres. It dances – bobbing, weaving and leaping spectacularly in courtship and other communication rituals.
TEXT: KRISTIAN LUND
PHOTOS: DENISE IPPOLITO
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