Japanese falconry group launches crowdfunding campaign to preserve culture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Noriko Otsuka holds a peregrine falcon in Ome, Tokyo.

A traditional falconry preservation group has launched a crowdfunding campaign to acquire hawks and falcons after losing four of the five birds it was raising to wild Japanese martens in Ome, Tokyo.

The Suwa Falconry Preservation Society teaches Suwa-school falconry techniques that date back more than 1,650 years. The tragic loss of the raptors puts the group at risk as it cannot train students who are aspiring to become falconers.

The organization is affiliated with the descendants of falconers who served Tokugawa Ieyasu, the leader of the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century during the Edo period (1603-1867). In 2006, the late Zenjiro Tagomori, the 17th-generation head of the group, moved the group’s activity base from Hachioji, Tokyo, to Ome. Since then, the organization has been working near the foot of Mt. Mitake even after Tagomori’s death last year. Noriko Otsuka, 50, became the 18th-generation head of the group in 2015.

The first marten incident occurred in early March in an aviary where the five birds — one northern goshawk, two peregrine falcons and two Harris’s hawks — were kept. One Harris’s hawk was found dead, and it appeared as if something had gotten inside through a hole in the ground. Otsuka then saw a Japanese marten and was convinced that it killed the bird. The attacks continued even after she moved the remaining four birds to the main house, leaving only one peregrine falcon alive.

The organization teaches falconry through demonstrations, lectures and appearances at various events, and workshops. Recently, more people are aspiring to become falconers. According to Suwa Falconry Preservation Society, it has 24 students of various ages, including an elementary school student and a person in their 60s.

The loss of the four raptors has made it uncertain whether the organization can host its demonstrations it has scheduled from October. As the pandemic has limited the group’s ability to hold demonstrations and lectures, it does not have the funds to repair the aviary or acquire more birds.

“At first, I was hesitant to make this embarrassing situation public,” Otsuka said.

However, after an acquaintance suggested the idea, she decided to start the crowdfunding project and hopes to reach her goal of ¥3.5 million. The donations will be mostly used to acquire three birds and repair the aviary.

“I will dedicate the rest of my life to training successors and making sure Japan’s falconry culture is known both at home and abroad,” Otsuka said.

Donations to help Suwa Falconry Preservation Society can be made through the crowdfunding site Campfire (https://camp-fire.jp/) until July 28.