When I first began living in Japan, I was acutely aware of the lack of birds. I couldn’t hear bird calls out my window and I rarely saw any birds besides crows and the fierce kites which prey on unsuspecting picnickers. I almost always depict colourful birds, especially parrots, in my artwork and often Japanese people comment that surely those birds are not real or that the colours must be taken from my imagination. I proudly correct them that no, they are indeed all depicted as true to life as I can and in fact, these birds are a normal part if daily life. They are everywhere!


No doubt these guys are circling above some tourists ready to ruin their picnic. おにぎりを盗むのが大好きなトンビたち。
Clever crows making a mess on garbage day. ゴミの収集日が大好きなずるいカラスたち。
Well, returning home recently for a holiday, I experienced some kind of reverse culture-shock at the abundance of wildlife. I travelled to Byron Bay, Canberra and Melbourne as well as many smaller places in between and everywhere I went I heard and saw parrots and cockatoos and just generally birds! I enjoyed seeing Kookaburras, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rosellas, Corellas, Galahs, Black Cockatoos, Lorikeets and even Emus in the wild. It was sort of gratifying to see that when I tell Japanese people that birds are everywhere, I really am telling the truth!


歌う中のカササギフエガラス Australian Magpie warbling away
Juvenile Crimson Rosella hunting out a nest spot in a Eucalyptus. ユーカリに巣を作る穴を探していた幼いアカクサインコ
Waddling Superb Parrot at a bird enclosure in Canberra
Even saw a wild Emu and her two chicks! Maybe only the 2nd or 3rd time I have ever seen an Emu in the wild.
Cute little Musk Lorikeet at a walk in Aviary in Canberra. ジャコウインコも可愛かった!
Whilst in Canberra I went to see the huge exhibition Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia” at the National Library of Australia. There were all kinds of amazing maps and voyage records on show from the 1400’s onwards. They traced the gradual discovery of pieces of Australia’s coastline by European explorers and the way that Australia had once been a great, mysterious southern land-mass; undiscovered and unfamiliar. See an overview video of the exhibition here.

今キャンベラにあるオーストラリア国立図書館で開催している「Mapping Our World」という展覧会を見に行きました。色々な素晴らしい地図や大航海時代の書類が展示されていました。オーストラリアがまだ知られていない時代から、海岸の形ががどんどん地図に載っていた時代への歴史が見えました。

A reproduction similar to Ortelius’ 1564 Map of the “New World”

Most interesting was a map from 1564 by Flemish mapmaker Abraham Ortelius called the “New world Map”. It shows the mysterious undiscovered southern continent as a large piece of land connected to the southern tip of South America and conglomerating Australia and Antarctica. One inscription in Latin describes the region as Psittacorum Regio: Land of Parrots. The inscription reads: psitacorum regio sic a Lusitanis appellata ob incredible earum avium ibidem magnitudinem

気になった地図の一つのはフラマン人のオルテリウスに制作された世界の地図でした。まだ発見されていなかったオーストラリアの一位に大きな大陸が見えます。あそこにラテン語で書いてあるの一つは「Psittacorum Regio」です。

Detail from a different version of Ortelius’ Map reads “Psitacorum Regio”

Sounds cool doesn’t it? If only I could read Latin! With some help from the Internet it seems to translate as something like: Region of Parrots. So named by the Portuguese for the incredible size of the birds there.

Since this land mass on the map is in an odd location it’s not clear whether Psittacorum Regio is refering to Australia but some suspect it is describing the West Coast of Australia. Which is curious because most history books tell us that the Dutch were the first to sight Western Australia in the 1600’s. I’m interested to do some more digging on where this “Land of Parrots” description came from but for now I am proud to say that Australia really is still just that; Psittacorum Regio.