New Year's scenes from Hokkaido and Kyoto

Dozens of amateur photographers gathered over the New Year holiday in a village in Hokkaido that is known for its red-crowned cranes. The bird is designated as a special natural monument of Japan.

More than 40 shutterbugs congregated before dawn on Saturday in Tsurui Village, where the temperature had plunged to minus 22 degrees Celsius.

Unlike the Japan Sea side of the prefecture where heavy snow was falling, the photographers in Tsurui Village on the Pacific side were able to snap photos of the birds as they took to the sky against the glow of the rising sun.

A Vietnamese woman who lives in Hokkaido said this was the third time she had come to see the birds. She said they were beautiful against the sunlight.

At a shrine in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, an annual New Year's calligraphy event is being held.

The Kitano Tenmangu shrine is dedicated to the 9th-century scholar Sugawara Michizane, who is said to have been a master of calligraphy.

The number of participants at one time was halved to 30, with social distanced seating as part of anti-infection measures against the coronavirus. The duration for participants to complete their calligraphy work was limited to 15 minutes.

Children and adults brought their own brushes to draw characters that express their New Year hopes. The characters included an ox, this year's zodiac animal, flying skyward and a smile.

A local junior high school student wrote "a new world." She said she came up with the characters as she wants people to overcome the pandemic this year.