when and where to see fall foliage (Japanese version only):

Monday, June 17, 2013

sweetfish fishing season, cormorant fishing

On the 13th, it rained and was cool in Yokohhama due to the season's third typhoon Yagi that weakened to a tropical storm. On the same day, the temperatures in 33 observation points including Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama, Takamatsu, Nara, Gifu, Kobe, Nagoya, Akita went over 35 degrees Celsius due to a foehn phenomenon that the typhoon caused. On the 14th, the temperatures in 16 observation points went over 35 degrees Celsius. In many parts of the country temperatures went down yesterday, but they reached 35 degrees in some points today.

sweetfish fishing in the Hino River in Tottori Prefecture

In most areas, the sweetfish fishing season starts on June 1.
Many anglers pull in sweetfishes while dipping their bodies in the water. One of my former associates took off from work to go sweetfish-fishing this time of year.

P6010029 by atsuginow /flickr
sweetfish fishing in the Sakawa River in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture

We eat salt-broiled sweetfishes dipped in rice vinegar mixed with water pepper juice. I heard that wild sweetfish have a flavor of watermelon.

On the Tama River in Tokyo, the sweetfish fishing season also started on June 1.

According to Tokyo Metropolitan Islands Area Research and Development Center of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 6.44 million young sweetfishes in 2013, 11.94 million in 2012, 7.83 million in 2011 are estimated to have swum up the river. Several fishery cooperatives control the fishing rights in the Tama River. So anglers have to pay the fishing fee.

The Tama River's water quality declined during the years of steep economic growth. A few decades ago, I saw large amounts of detergent foam floating on the river. The river has become much cleaner than before. Eels also swim up the river now.

Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture

Cormorant fishing(鵜飼, ukai) on the Nagara River in Gifu Prefecture is being held from May 11 to October 15 except for the night of the mid-autumn harvest moon and the times when the water level in the river is high.

Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River: (Japanese version only)

In the south area of Gifu Prefecture, the cormorant fishing has a history of 1,300 years. This traditional fishing method has been handed down from father to son.

photo by syaraku
Cormorant fishing masters working on the Nagara River belong to the Imperial Household Agency.  The sweetfishes caught in the fisheries belonging to the agency are presented to the Imperial Palace, Meiji Jingu Shrine and Ise Jingu Shrine eight times a year.

photo by syaraku
Each master called usho(鵜匠) wears a traditional costume including eboshi(a type of headgear), a straw skirt and a chest protector to protect his body from fishing fire while fishing.
Usho pay great attention to keeping cormorants in good shape.
photo by syaraku
Usho has a cormorant spit out the sweetfish held in its gular pouch. 

photo by syaraku

Cormorant Fishing - evidence shot
Cormorant Fishing - evidence shot by macoto_ /flickr

Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River

on the Nagara River in 1934

Vissers knopen touw om krop aalscholvers / Fishermen tying rope around goitre cormorants
by Nationaal Archief /flickr

Many visitors go and see the sights of the fishing on spectator boats in several areas of Japan, but the number of visitors dwindles recently.

photo by syaraku
(visitors on the spectator boat watching cormorant fishing)

On the way
On the way by macoto_ /flickr

 spectator boat on the Nagara River

Ukai noriba
Ukai noriba by Yuya Tamai /flickr

The fishing method appears in ancient chronicles written in the eighth century. Aristocrats at the time enjoyed this fishing as a sport. They caught sweetfishes with fishing fire in one hand and several leashes linked to cormorants in the other while dipping his body in the water at night.

In the Fuefuki River at Isawa Onsen in Yamanashi Prefecture, usho expertly handle cormorants while wading. We can see the cormorant fishing on a Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday between July 20 and August 19. A maximum of two people a day can go through cormorant fishing at a cost of 2,000 yen.

Isawa Onsen Tourist Association (石和温泉観光協会): (Japanese version only)

Cormorant fishing!
Cormorant fishing! by strikeael /flickr
(on the Kiso River)

Cormorant fishing on the Kiso River in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture is being held from June 1 to October 15. The fishing also has 1,300 years of history. The number of passengers on the boats have dropped to almost half of their peak. A woman made her debut in the fishing as a usho this year. She is the country's sixth female usho and the first on the Kiso.

Cormorant fishing on the Kiso River: (Japanese version only)

Preparing [錦帯橋の鵜飼い / 岩国] 
 by d'n'c /flickr

Cormorant fishing near Kintai Bridge(錦帯橋, Kintai-kyo) on the Nishiki River  in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture is being held from June 1 to September 10.

Cormorant fishing in Iwakuni:

Preparing [錦帯橋の鵜飼い / 岩国]
by d'n'c /flickr

Iwakuni cormorant fishing
Iwakuni cormorant fishing by RageZ /flickr

 Kintaikyo is a wooden arch bridge built in 1673, but it was swept away due to a typhoon in 1950. In 1953, the bridge was restored to the original condition.

錦帯橋の桜 (Cherry Blossoms at Kintai Bridge)
錦帯橋の桜 (Cherry Blossoms at Kintai Bridge) by cyber0515 /flickr

The Kintai-kyo
The Kintai-kyo by MShades /flickr

小瀬鵜飼 Cormorant fishing at Oze
小瀬鵜飼 Cormorant fishing at Oze by Kakei.R /flickr

Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River at Oze(小瀬) in Seki City, Gifu Prefecture is being held from May 11 to October 15. Cormorant fishing masters in Oze also belong to the Imperial Household Agency.

In Kyoto, visitors can see cormorant fishing in Uji and Arashiyama.   

Cormorant fishing on the Uji River, Kyoto will be held from June 15 to September 23. The fishing on the river appears in Kagero Nikki (蜻蛉日記, The Gossamer Years) written in 974. Usho including two female ones handle cormorants.

Arashiyama Cormorant2
Arashiyama Cormorant2 by flackblag7 /flickr

 Cormorant fishing in Arashiyama, Kyoto will be held from July 1 to September 16.


 There is another fishing method of using off-leash great cormorants in China.
Japanese cormorant fishing uses trained wild cormorants.

Cormorant Fishing at Guilinin China
Cormorant Fishing, Guilin
Cormorant Fishing, Guilin by Ndecam /flickr

cormorant fishing

  China - Yangshuo
China - Yangshuo 12 - traditional fishing with cormorants
China - Yangshuo 12 - traditional fishing with cormorants by mckaysavage /flickr

Ise-katagami (伊勢型紙) in the motif of cormorant fishing.
Ise-katagami  is a cut paper stencil for dyeing textiles.

Cormorant fishing / 鵜飼
Cormorant fishing / 鵜飼 by yuichirock /flickr

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