Oze ukai (小瀬鵜飼)

Oze ukai is ukai (cormorant fishing) that is conducted in Nagara-gawa river at Oze, Seki City, Gifu Prefecture during the period from May 11 to October 15 every year. It is conducted every night except for the day of harvest moon and when the river rises. The reason why it is not conducted on the day of harvest moon is that ayu (sweetfish, Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis) are not lured by kagaribi (fishing fire) due to the light of full moon. It is conducted in the upper course of Ayunose bridge in Seki City.

Although Nagaragawa ukai that is conducted in Gifu City is famous, Oze ukai is also patronized by the Imperial Court as with Nagaragawa ukai and the official job title of ujo (a fisherman of cormorant fishing) is Kunaicho (Imperial Household Agency) shikibushoku ujo. A set of tools for ukai in Nagara-gawa river, a total of 122 pieces, are designated as national important tangible assets of folk culture, and the fishing method of Oze ukai is designated as intangible folk cultural asset by Seki City.

Its scale is no doubt smaller than that of Nagara-gawa ukai, but it is still popular since it has a trace of traditional fishing method of ukai compared with Nagara-gawa ukai that has become the event of tourist attraction.

Fishing method

Temminck's cormorants are used for ukai. This is because temminck's cormorants are bigger and stronger than common cormorants. Captured wild temminck's cormorants are used for ukai after having been trained for three years.

Ujo wears traditional shozoku (formal clothes) including kazaori eboshi (a traditional black fold-back cap), ryofuku (clothes for fishing), muneate (bib) and koshimino (grass skirt).

Ujo gets on ubune (a boat used for ukai) with kagaribi at its bow and controls around 10 cormorants by handling tenawa (a hand rope), and cormorants catch ayu that gather under kagaribi. As ujo always lives together with cormorants, ujo and cormorants get along perfectly and cormorants catch ayu neatly. Ujo gets cormorants to let them spit out ayu into a basket. As a string tied around the throat of cormorant is adjustable, an ayu smaller than a certain size is swallowed into a cormorant's stomach.

Goryo ukai

Goryo ukai means ukai that is patronized by the Imperial Court
Oze ukai is conducted by Kunaicho shikibushoku ujo. There are three ujo at Oze as of 2007, and all of them have inherited the job based on the hereditary system. Ukai that is conducted by these ujo eight times during the season at Kunaicho's goryoba (fishing ground for the Imperial Court) is called "goryo ukai." Ayu that are caught in goryo ukai are offered not only to the Imperial Palace but also to Meiji-jingu Shrine and Ise-jingu Shrine.

Kunaicho shikibushoku ujo

Masaaki IWASA
Taichi ADACHI
Yoichiro ADACHI

Ukai for tourists

The highlight is called "karikudari", which means the time when ubune carrying ujo and yakata-bune (roofed pleasure boat) carrying tourist go down the river side by side,
Therefore, tourists can get a close look at the scene where ujo is handling tenawa and cormorants are catching ayu. Unlike Nagaragawa ukai and Kisogawa ukai, food is not served on yakata-bune (box lunches are available on a ship transporting tourists to fishing ground). Enjoying ukai itself is the purpose.

The followings are the characteristics of Oze ukai.

As the river is surrounded by mountains and there are no roads or lightings, ukai is conducted in the dark using only the light of kagaribi and candles.

It is possible to see the scene of ujo's preparation, the place called "mawashiba" where ujo has a meeting and the scene of cleanup after ukai ended.

During karikudari, it is possible to get a close look since ubune and yakata-bune go down the river side by side.

Fishing is done while descending the rapids, not on still water, according to the original way of ayu fishing.

Neither ubune nor yakata-bune for tourists has engines and they are rowed.

History

It is said that Nagaragawa ukai has been conducted for around 1,300 years.

A record is existent that ukai was conducted in Shichigo, Katagata County, Mino Province in the Heian period. It is said that Shichigo, Katagata County coincides with the place called Shichigo Village and Kurono Village of Motosu County in later times (current Gifu City).

During the Muromachi period, people who were engaged in ukai fishing at Shichigo, Katagata County moved to Nagara, Katagata County (Nagara Village of Inaba County, current Gifu City) and Iwata, Kagami County (Iwata Village of Inaba County, current Gifu City).

Oze ukai began in 1504 when people who had been engaged in ukai fishing at Iwata, Kagami County moved to Oze, Mugi County (current Seki City) (another theory is 1534). Some people assert that Oze ukai was inaugurated around in 1500 by Shinbei ADACHI, a person who held the right of ayu fishing at Oze.

In 1564, Nobunaga ODA saw the ukai conducted in Nagara-gawa river and gave a title of "ujo" to the persons engaged in ukai fishing.

Ukai was protected by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, Edo bakufu and Owari domain during the Edo period. At Oze, it is said, seven ujo existed in the middle of Edo period and five at the end of Edo period.

Oze ukai declined after the Meiji Restoration and was once patronized by the house of Imperial Prince Arisugawa. Thereafter, it was affiliated to the Shuryoryo (division of hunting) of the Imperial Household Ministry (current Imperial Household Agency) in 1890.

Inquiry

Seki Spectator Boat office (only seeing ukai) TEL : 0575-22-2506
People who need bed and board in addition to seeing ukai should contact with the house of ujo or hotels.

By car

From "Ozekita" intersection of National Highway 418, drive on the Gifu Prefectural Road 290 Ueno-Seki Route toward Ayunose bridge.

About two kilometers from Nishiseki Interchange (under construction) of TOKAI-KANJO EXPRESSWAY.

Public transportation

Seki City Junkai Bus (Seki City Circuit Bus)
"Oze Yusen mae" stop of junkai bus (town area) "Sejiri-Senbiki Route".

"Oze Yusen mae" stop of junkai bus (wide area) "Wakakusa-go".

"Oze Yusen mae" stop of Gifu Bus "Takano Route".

About four kilometers from the Seki Station of Nagaragawa Railway.