Global Voices

Springtime in Japan means the return of the country's beloved swallows

For many Japanese people, the return of the swallows is something to look forward to, and an experience to treasure.
Swallows in Umeda Station

Swallows in Umeda Station, Osaka. By Flickr user muzina_shanghai. License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Each spring Japan welcomes the return of cherry blossoms, rice shoots, hay fever and — barn swallows. Barn swallows are a welcome visitor in train stations, schools, shopping arcades or anywhere else they can build a nest.

To mark the start of spring, Fundo, a Japanese website that curates Internet memes, has collected a variety of tweets welcoming swallows back to Japan in April each year.

Sign: Welcome back, swallows!

Tweet: We wanted to the swallows to build a nest, and when we installed this nest and created this poster, sure enough, they decided to nest! The swallows are nesting right near the entrance to our store, so when you stop by, be sure to keep an eye out for them!

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica, known as ‘tsubame’ in Japanese) are migratory birds that winter in the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries before returning to Japan each April to nest. The birds are a welcome sight for commuters:

I'm at Tobu Tojo Shinrinkōen Station right now. Once again, the swallows are working all out to build their nests this year.🐦

Since swallows will nest almost anywhere in Japan, special care is taken to protect any passer-by from their droppings:

(Tama City News) A platform has been installed below a swallow's nest to catch dropping (at Keio Wakabadai Station).

Swallows in Japan

Image: “A message from the swallows at Kori Station, Okutama.” By Flickr user Hajime NAKANO. CC BY 2.0

(translation) From the resident swallows of Kori Station: “We will once again be in your care this year. While our droppings may be annoyance, we hope you will watch over us until we return back to our home islands in the south.”

The birds are friendly and often show little fear of their human hosts:

Hey, swallows! There are humans here! Why aren't you running away, lol? You're too used to us humans! 💦💦

The swallows’ time among humans is short. By late May, the fledglings will have mostly left the nest:

I can no longer hear the chirping of the swallows. Yesterday on the way to school I caught sight of the swallows leaving the nest. Six fledglings successfully flew away…what a relief!

For many Japanese people, the return of the swallows each spring is something to look forward to, and an experience to treasure.

These birds bring with them great happiness. I want to take great care of them

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