Ukai in the Kiso-gawa River (木曽川うかい)

Kiso-gawa ukai(木曽川うかい)is the name of cormorant fishing carried out in the Kiso-gawa River in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture every year from May 11 to October 15, except for August 10. It is also known as Kiso-gawa ukai(木曽川鵜飼)or Inuyama ukai.

The ukai is done every day except for the days when the river is up or attacked by typhoons. Ukai in general is performed at night, but Kiso-gawa ukai is unique in that Hiru Ukai (daytime cormorant fishing) is also carried out (on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), adding to the normal night ukai.

Ukai has been carried out for about 1,300 years, and it originally started as a form of fishing. Nowadays, the ukai is performed as a tourist attraction and has a role to pass down the ancient way of fishing to today's people. The performance is conducted by the Kiso-gawa Kanko Co., Ltd., which also provides the Japan Rhein boat tour.

Fishing method

An ujo (a cormorant fisherman) is dressed in a traditional way with Kazaori Eboshi (a traditional black foldback cap), clothes for fishing, a bib and a grass skirt.

The ujo gets aboard on a boat with a bonfire at its bow, and handles a hand rope to control ten cormorants. Then the cormorants catch ayu (sweetfish, Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis) one after another, as the fish gather to the light of bonfire. The ujo and cormorants work in harmony and skillfully catch ayu. Then the ujo has the cormorants vomit the ayu into a fish basket. Actually, the ujo lets the cormorants eat small ayu by adjusting ropes around their necks. The cormorants used are Temminck's cormorants.

The Hiru Ukai is carried out without the bonfire. It is more difficult to catch ayu in the daytime, since there is no light to which ayu gather.

Sightseeing

Sightseers can see the sight from yakata-bune boats (house boats).
The schedule of Kiso-gawa ukai is as follows:

Note: The time without any marks is a standard timetable from May to August. ' is the time in September and October, and () is the time for Hiru ukai.

18:00 '17:30' (11:30) Get aboard on the yakata-bune boat from the Inuyama-bashi Bridge at the right bank of the river. Have dinner on the boat and see the sights of the Kiso-gawa River.

19:00 '18:30' (12:20) Temporally on ashore. A break for using the rest room.

19:30 '19:00' (12:40) Again aboard. See the ukai performance.

20:15 '19:45' (13:40) Finish.

History

The oldest description concerning the Kiso-gawa ukai is found on a family register in 702 of 'Ukai-be Mezurame' at Minokuni Kagami-gori county Nakazato. It is supposed that people were doing ukai around that time.

The ukai in Inuyama started around 1660 – 1670, as the lord of Inuyama-jo Castle Masachika NARUSE invited two ujo from Asuke, Mikawano-kuni (present-day Asuke, Toyota City) and had them perform the Imperial cormorant fishing.

In 1809, when Masanori NARUSE got retired, he issued a prohibition of killing animals. Because of that order, the ukai was suspended.

In the Meiji period, there was a movement to revive Inuyama ukai, and in 1899, it started again with ujo invited from Nagara Village, Inaba District, Gifu Prefecture (present-day Gifu City; ujo of Nagara-gawa ukai). Since 1909, the ukai has been performed as a tourist attraction, and is also carried out in full moon days and the days when the water is muddy, although ukai as a fishing method is not carried out in both of those periods.