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Cormorants on a rock dry their wings in the morning sun.

Text and photos by Yoshimitsu Yagi

Welcome to the Atsumi Peninsula, where summer never ends." That is the sign that you sometimes see posted as you drive along the peninsula's coastal roads. Summer does come to an end, of course, but thanks to the influence of the warm Kuroshio Current of the Pacific Ocean, the Atsumi Peninsula enjoys a mild climate even during winter. Indeed, rape blossoms signaling the coming of spring bloom here as early as February, when the country is still in the dead of winter.

Local people have been farming and fishing this area for centuries. However, the completion of a large irrigation system in 1968 allowed more people to switch from fishing to growing chrysanthemums and vegetables in greenhouses. As a consequence the number of those engaged in fishing has declined.
Ducks that migrate from the north as it gets colder. Mikawa Bay is one of the places where they stop to rest.
To the west of the Atsumi Peninsula is the Chita Peninsula. Together they jut out into the Pacific Ocean to form Mikawa Bay. The southern coast of the peninsula is battered by the waves of the Pacific, but within the bay to the north the water remains calm. A wealth of fish and shellfish inhabit the coastal regions. With seaweed cultivation also flourishing, it is a truly rich marine environment.

It is also an ideal habitat for wild birds. On the tidal flats of the Atsumi Peninsula sedentary birds thrive alongside migratory birds, such as wild ducks coming from the far reaches of Siberia. Throngs of birds can be seen all year round, reaching a peak in the winter, when they number in the tens of thousands.

In autumn, migratory birds that spend their summers and breed in the mountain forests of Japan, like the gray-faced buzzard eagle, use the Atsumi Peninsula as a stopover point en route to Southeast Asia. Photographers from all over Japan gather with their super-telephoto lenses at Cape Irago, on the tip of the peninsula, hoping to get a shot of the buzzard eagle dancing on the air currents high above. Atsumi truly is a crossroads for migrating birds.

Snipes step through the shallow waters pecking at the shellfish and worms of the flats. Gulls pluck fish swimming between the waves or that spill over from fishing boats. In Atsumi, the lives of birds, fish, and people are closely interwoven; and beneath the seemingly calm surface of the ocean, wild creatures here are engaged in a fierce battle for survival.