Published On: Tue, Dec 9th, 2014

Interesting Facts on Ukai, Japanese Traditional Fishing Technique



Ukai or also known as cormorant fishing is a Japanese traditional fishing technique that utilizes trained cormorants to catch different types of river fish such as ayu (sweetfish). This kind of fishing technique has been used for more than 1300 years, most popular used by fishermen along Nagaragawa River in the Gifu City, Japan, where their master fishermen have the official patronage of the emperor.



As mentioned earlier, the most popular location of ukai is the Gifu, Gifu Prefecture, which is home to cormorant fishing along the the Nagara River. For the last 1,300 years, this particular fishing site has continued uninterrupted. Beside Gifu, Seki is another cormorant fishing site that also located along the Nagara River. This place is even called the Oze Ukai or Oze cormorant fishing. In both Gifu and Seki, only the masters are employed by the Japanese emperor and they are known as the Imperial Fishermen for the Royal Household Agency.


Beside Gifu and Seki, ukai are actually taking place in 13 different cities of Japan;

  1. Fuefuki, Fuefuki River, Yamanashi Prefecture
  2. Gifu, Nagara River, Gifu Prefecture
  3. Seki, Nagara River, Gifu Prefecture
  4. Inuyama, Kiso River, Aichi Prefecture
  5. Uji, Uji River, Kyoto Prefecture
  6. Kyoto, Oi River, Kyoto Prefecture
  7. Arida, Arida River, Wakayama Prefecture
  8. Miyoshi, Basen River, Hiroshima Prefecture
  9. Masuda, Takatsu River, Shimane Prefecture
  10. Iwakuni, Nishiki River, Yamaguchi Prefecture
  11. Ōzu, Hiji River, Ehime Prefecture
  12. Hita, Mikuma River, Ōita Prefecture
  13. Asakura, Chikugo RiverFukuoka Prefecture



These days, ukai will be taking place in the summer at several rivers all across Japan, including;

  • Gifu City, Nagaragawa River, takes place in May 11 – October 15
  • Kyoto City, Hozu River, Arashiyama, takes place in July – mid September
  • Uji City, Uji River, which takes place in mid June – late September.


Ukai is mainly practiced by master fishermen working of their long boats made of wood. Each of these fishermen leads around a dozen cormorants on the leashes that commonly swim alongside their boat and then dive under water catching fish by swallowing it in whole. The fish they catch are kept and saved in a special pouch within the cormorant’s throat and would be retrieved later while prevented of being swallowed by the snare around the bird’s neck. Each fisherman boat has this large fire that hangs of its bow to provide some light for the fishermen to steer also the birds to fish.


A Cormorant

A Cormorant


Tourist Attraction

Nowadays, the ukai is held primarily as a tourist attraction. There are many special sightseeing cruises shadowing the ukai boats offered for tourists so they can get a closer look of the action. The sightseeing details are depending on each site, yet these boats normally operate on daily basis during the ukai season except if the rivers are having high water levels. The cruises usually for an hour and cost from 1500 – 3500 yen for one person.. Tourists may also enjoy dinner cruises which are also available at several of the fishing locations and offer a popular and unique way of experiencing the ukai.


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- the man who love japan , culture, people ^_^

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