These majestic birds are red crowned cranes, a symbol of peace and longevity in Japanese culture. Standing around 150 to 158cm (4ft 11in to 5ft 2in) tall, they are impressive creatures, and on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, their prehistoric calls and renowned dancing attracts tourists from all over the globe.
The cranes were once thought to be extinct due to hunting and loss of their marsh and wetland habitats, but approximately 20 birds were discovered in 1926. There are now an estimated 2,750 total in the wilds of Japan, China, and Korea, and thanks to care and conservation efforts, Hokkaido’s red crowned crane population has increased to around 1,000 birds. In this clip from the BBC’s Wild Japan, local farmers feed the cranes to help increase their numbers.
Speaking of 1,000, according to lore folding 1,000 origami cranes will grant you eternal good luck, a traditional gift for weddings, babies, those who are ill, and those for whom you wish health and prosperity. Learn how to fold your first one…Bonus video: Orizuru, a remote controlled origami crane that can fly.