Cormorant is a fishing bird used on the Nagara River to catch the Japanese fish named ayu. The fishing itself is called Ukai and takes places place for five months a year. The river is about 160 kilometers long but only the cormorant fishing masters in Gifu and Seki are called Imperial Fishermen of the Royal Household Agency.
It is a local summer tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for over 1,300 years, it is traditionally performed at night. A master fishermen dressed in traditional attire fish for Ayu, a small fish, while two men steer the boat.
The Ayu are fished with the help of a flock of trained birds, who are prevented from swallowing the fish they catch by a ring tied round the neck. The flickering flames of the fishing lanterns and the cries of the fishermen give the night an other air and make for a unique boating experience.
Ayu is considered a sweet fish but when eaten whole it is bitter so make sure to bring your own food and drinks. Fishing is cancelled on the evening of the harvest moon and on days when it cannot be performed due to high water levels.
Fishing viewing is from May 11 through to October 15 and starts around 19h45.
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