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Cormorant Fishing on the Kiso River

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Experience the ancient traditional methods of cormorant fishing on the Kiso River from the tour boats that gently flow on the river near Inuyama Castle.

Cormorant fishing in Inuyama City is an ancient traditional fishing method dating back over 1,300 years, in which fishermen use cormorants from the sea and train to catch freshwater ayu fish from the Kiso River.

In Japanese, this fishing method is called ukai (鵜飼), a traditional method that is currently no longer profitable and is now only used as a tourist attraction, where tourists from all over Japan come to know and appreciate this ancient tradition.

The fishing for tourist cormorants is a daily activity carried out every year, from June 1st to October 15th, available to any tourist on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays it is for groups above 20 people.

From the tourist boat you will see this traditional and beautiful show up close where the fisherman in traditional costume demonstrates the traditional method by handling 10 cormorants that dive into the water to catch the fish and when they come up the fisherman pulls the rope to bring the cormorant into the boat and forcing the crow to spit out the fish, an incredible feeling.

Cormorant fishing demonstration stop

At night you can enjoy the same show, but with a different and spectacular scenery where you will feel the heat of the boat’s fire that serves to light up the fishing, leaving the surface of the water with a reddish color.

In addition, you can enjoy the scenery of the imposing Inuyama Castle from the boat on the Kiso River day or night.

From the 1st to the 10th of August, you can watch the fireworks show from the tourist boat with Inuyama Castle lit up in the background, the fireworks are launched from the Kiso River from another boat.

  • Location: Ukai departure area, Inuyama.
  • Period: Every day from June 1st to October 15th.
  • Fireworks Period: August 1st to August 10th.
  • For People: On Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • For Groups: On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • Daytime: 12:30 pm at the Ukai departure area.
  • Evening hours (June to August): 7:00 pm at the Ukai departure area.
  • Evening hours (September to October): 6:30 pm at the Ukai departure area.
  • Day Sightseeing Boat Fee: Adult ¥3,000 / Child ¥1,500 (over 4 years old).
  • Night Sightseeing Boat Fee: Adult ¥3,000 / Child ¥1,500 (over 4 years old).
  • WC: Available.
  • Parking: Free (capacity 25 cars).

Cormorants

The cormorants used in fishing are wild birds, caught at sea with a length between 84 and 82 centimeters and a weight between 2 and 3 kilograms with a wingspan of about 150 centimeters. The fisherman has to maintain a strong bond with his birds, for this they massage the head, neck and stomach.

Fishermen should bathe their cormorants daily for two weeks so that they get used to the fresh water. During this period, they also have to feed the crows by hand, as crows do not yet feed on fresh water. In captivity, these cormorants typically live between 14 and 15 years, with a record lifespan of 26 years.

Cormorant feeding schedule

Ukai Fishing (Training)

The fisherman trains the cormorants every day to get used to the ropes and handling, to control the birds the fisherman ties a rope around the neck with a knot near the base of the throat to prevent the birds from swallowing the fish, which is stuck in the throat, then the fishing begins, the fisherman takes the cormorants to dive in the fresh water of the Kiso River to catch the fish, when catching a fish the fisherman pulls the bird back to the boat and makes the cormorant spit the fish , repeating this process several times. Although once a successful industry, today cormorant fishing is primarily a tourist attraction.

Fishing Boat

In the fishing boat, in addition to the fisherman, there is the pilot and a helper (中 乗 り – nakanori). These three people work in unison to control the boats and the birds, creating a pleasant harmony.

Tourist Boat

The main boat is a traditional tatami boat with a red roof with capacity for 35 people. And in June 2022, a new exclusive boat was built with chairs and a table that seats 16 people and has the black roof that matches the tiled roof of Inuyama Castle.

Traditional Cormorant Fishing Clothes

The fisherman’s clothing is made of black or dark blue cotton so as not to frighten the birds and his hat is made of linen to protect his hair from the bonfire.

Japanese Emperors

It is said that Oda Nobunaga took the Ukai fishermen under his official patronage and created for them the official position and title of Usho (Cormoran Fisherman). And the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, loved to see the cormorants and also gave his patronage and protection to the fishermen.

History

According to the History of Inuyama City, the 3rd lord of Inuyama Castle invited cormorant fishermen from his hometown to fish in Inuyama they were from Mikawa Prefecture, and thus began to fish cormorant from the shogunate in 1660. However, when the 6th lord of the castle, Masanori Naruse, retired, he converted to Buddhism, disliked killing and kicked out the cormorant fishermen.

And in the Meiji period, a movement to revive the cormorant fishery in Inuyama began, and the cormorant fishery was revived thanks to the efforts of Kamajiro Ukai. And in 1914, the Inuyama Tsusen Company, devoting itself to the development of cormorant tourism.

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