Ukai – Traditional Cormorant Fishing!

Ukai is an event which takes place every year in the Nagara river flowing through Gifu prefecture. It is conducted every year from May to October. It is a tradition which is over 1300 years old.
It’s basically a traditional form of fishing using trained cormorants.The cormorant fishermen are known as “Ushou” in Japanese.

gifu-castle nagara-river
Gifu castle                                                                               Nagara River

The fisherman catch freshwater trout AKA(red) Ayu using around 12 cormorants. The fishermen form three-man teams and ride cormorant fishing boats after hanging a bonfire to the front of the boat. The bonfire attracts trout towards the boat. The cormorant then proceeds to catch and store the Ayu inside its mouth similar to a pelican.The cormorants’ necks are usually tied with ropes to prevent them from swallowing larger fish.

ukai3  jam05

There are around 40 species of cormorants in the world. Japan has sea cormorants as well as river cormorants. The ones used in Ukai are sea cormorants. This is because sea cormorants are bigger in size as well as physically stronger. They are also more docile and patient.

A fisherman usually raises around 20 cormorants. Though during Ukai, only teams of two cormorants are used. These pairs are quite attached to each other even in the fishermen’s homes. It is also very difficult to differentiate males and females.

On the day of fishing, the fisherman chooses the healthiest cormorants and bring them along in cages. During the Ukai season, the cormorants are fed once a day. Reducing the amount of food given daily to the cormorants, causes them to gobble up as much fish as possible. The fishermen also encourage the cormorants by shouting “Hou hou!”. Afterwards the fishermen take out the fishes from the mouths of the cormorants.The last of cormorant fishing is sorted in Ufune is a row.


As a side note, the Nagara river is very beautiful and also famous for Ayu (freshwater trout).
From sundown, with all the shouting and bonfires, the Ukai becomes an incredible event!
During the Ukai season, boat rides are also available for spectators.

ayu Ayu (freshwater trout)


You will ride in passenger boat for the appreciation of the cormorant fishing.
● A course
Full Day: Adults 3,400 yen, Children 1,700 yen
● B course
Weekdays: Adults 3,100 yen, Children 1,700 yen
※Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: Adults 3,400 yen, Children 1,700 yen
※ Amount of money is a consumption tax.
※ Adult fee =Age 12+. Children’s fee = Ages 3-6
※Please arrange your own food and drink.
※Smoking is prohibited on board.
※ On the day, please purchase the boarding ticket at Ukai viewing boat office.
Take the Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo Sta.  / or Osaka Sta. and get off at Nagoya.
From Nagoya Sta.take the train to Gifu Sta. (You can use the JR and Meitetsu train)You can take the Gifu bus or city loop line bus from JR Gifu Station or Meitetsu Gifu Station.
(Takes around 15 minutes. Bus fare is 210 yen.)
Get off at the “Nagara Bridge” bus stop, you can get there in a minute on foot..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *