Herons are beautiful, elegant birds that are often portrayed in Japanese art. In poetry they are often associated with the cold of winter. They stand motionless for a long time or stalk slowly through the water before catching their prey. When they take flight they utter a cry that is haunting and evocative. This is one of the last sounds heard at the end of Brilliance of the Moon, as the snow begins to fall.
These are two other images that inspired parts of The Harsh Cry of the Heron:
Inuomono the dog chasing game (from Japan A History in Art by Bradley Smith)
A cat demon (from http://www.cat-city.com/museum/ukiyoe/meisho02.html)