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Published on 03.31.2016
Ukai,or cormorant fishing, is a traditional fishing method that will make use of trained cormorants in order to catch river fish -- without using a line or a rod, now how about that? I suppose it would be the equivalent of those living in North America to use trained grizzly bears to catch salmon for dinner. Most of the fish caught would be "ayu", or sweetfish. Ukai has been around for more than 13 centuries, and is seen most prominently along the Nagaragawa River in Gifu City.
Master fishermen are the ones who practice ukai, riding on long wooden boats. Each fisherman would have around a dozen cormorants with them, being tied to a leash and swim alongside the boat. Each time they sense some fish, they will dive under the water to catch them -- swallowing them whole. All fish are stashed away in a special pouch that is located in the cormorant's throat, and can be retrieved later on. The cormorants do not get to taste the fruit of their labor since a snare around their necks prevent them from swallowing it. An outstanding ukai scene always involves a large fire that hangs from its bow, which is a way of providing light for the boatmen to steer as well as the cormorants to fish.
Ukai in modern times tend to happen during the summer months, where it happens in approximately twelve rivers across Japan. There are different seasons to it as shown below, so do plan your travel itinerary accordingly if you want to catch some ukai action during your trip to Japan.
Nagaragawa River, Gifu City - May 11 to October 15
Hozu River, Arashiyama, Kyoto City - July to mid September
Uji River, Uji City - July to September
You might want to hop aboard one of the special sightseeing cruises that will follow these ukai boats so that you can capture all that goes on from behind. Most of the cruises would last for approximately an hour, with a cost that varies from 1,500 to 3,500 yen per person.
Source: Gifu City
▼岐阜市公式チャンネル - Youtube