Picchio (meaning woodpecker in Italian) has been operating “Nature Tours” and conducting “Asian Black Bear Conservation” in the thriving resort town of Karuizawa since its establishment in 1992.
As an advocate for responsible tourism, our expertly guided nature watching tours provide visitors with the opportunity to get closer to nature and all its wonders without doing any harm to the surrounding environment.
We believe that, through interacting with our guides, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation of the local wildlife and nature in general, all the while immersing themselves in the beautiful surroundings of Karuizawa’s bird sanctuary forest.
Our tours also help to fund our conservation efforts as, in addition to our nature tours, we have been working closely with Karuizawa town council over the past twenty years to manage and protect the local population of Asian black bears. Our “Asian Black Bear Conservation” system focuses on the management of each individual bear using radio collars and trained bear dogs. Since 1998, the town has been successful in reducing the damage caused by bears despite a challenging situation where human residential areas and bear habitat overlap. This endeavour to co-exist with wild bears has been attracting worldwide attention in recent years due to our distinctive and effective methods.
We are not just a tour operator but a wildlife conservation organisation which makes us unique. Picchio hopes that by bringing more people closer to nature and generating a worldwide interest in Japan’s wildlife, we can better protect the local species and spread the importance of preserving natural habitats. We ultimately hope to strike a balance between people and nature through allying ecologically-responsible tourism with focused conservation efforts, keeping education and preservation at the forefront of our minds.
Picchio was born in 1992 following the philosophies of its predecessors who loved nature. From then on, Picchio has continued to welcome nature lovers from all over the world.
- The first bear dogs to be successfully bred in Japan are born.
- Japan’s first “bear dog breeding project” is started.
- Picchio visitor centre opens next to Kera pond.
- The Wind River Bear Institute welcomes its second generation of bear dogs including our own “Tama” and”Nanuq”.
- There are zero cases of public trash can damages by black bears.
- The 17th International Bear Conference is held in Karuizawa.
- Picchio is awarded the ”1st Eco-tourism Award” Grand Prize by the Ministry of the Environment.
- NPO Picchio is established and Japan’s first bear dog is brought in from the Wind River Bear Institute.
- The Picchio company is officially established.
- Carrie Hunt of the Wind River Bear Institute (WRBI) visits from the USA.
- Implementation of black bear control measures, in cooperation with Karuizawa town – to present.
- Management of Karuizawa’s Asian black bear population commences.
- “Wild Bird Research Centre” is renamed to “Picchio” and the first “Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel Watching” tour takes place.
Over the years Picchio has received several awards for our different approach to tourism and for our efforts towards preserving biodiversity. These include the 2nd Aeon Japan Award for Biodiversity awarded by the Aeon Environmental Foundation in 2011 and the 4th Japan Tourism Award for Responsible Tourism in collaboration with UNWTO awarded by Tourism Expo Japan in 2018.
We have also gained international attention having been featured on the BBC Travel Show in 2019 and French (Winds films) documentary “A night on Earth: Japan” in 2020.