Best time to visit Japan

Cormorant Fishing in Japan

One of the oldest fishing traditions in the world, Ukai fishing is a fascinating practice. Check out just how it's done!

Best time: May 11–October 15

Cormorant Fishing
Cormorant Fishing
Cormorant Fishing

This season is marked by many interesting activities in Japan. However, one of the most unique and oldest is a certain fishing technique using cormorants. Ukai, as it is commonly called, usually starts at 7.30 in the evening on the Nagaragawa River, in the Gifu Prefecture. The tradition of training cormorants to catch fish dates back over 1300 years. The sight is also a spectacular one. There is no lighting apart from torches on the boats which makes the scene somewhat sinister and spiritual. The birds with their long necks circle the boats and river with trout in their mouths while traditionally dressed trainers shout commands and the cheering crowd watches the spectacle with a relaxing drink of sake. The small trout caught in this way is later offered to the Emperor. Charlie Chaplin is believed to have exclaimed "Wonderful!" while watching this ceremony. Check it out for yourself!

Practical info

What is the time frame for Ukai fishing and where does it happen in Japan?

Ukai fishing is a summer season tradition that occurs on the Nagaragawa River in the Gifu Prefecture. The season runs from May to October each year and is reliant on the calendar year. Show more

Where in Japan can one see Ukai fishing? Do we need to book a tour?

The Gifu Prefecture, specifically the Nagaragawa River, is an ideal location to see Ukai fishing. Attaining a tour operator's services is recommended as they offer vital information on the best viewing areas, access, and modes of transport. Show more

What is the history and purpose of training cormorants for fishing?

Ukai Fishing, also known as cormorant fishing, is a cultural practice that began over 1300 years ago in Japan. Initially, it was practiced for its vital role in fishing for food, and currently, it has become a popular tourist attraction while preserving the country's cultural heritage. Show more

What are the ancillary features that make the Gifu Prefecture Ukai fishing stand out?

Ukai fishing in the Gifu Prefecture features traditional clothing for the trainers, torch-lit boats, and chanting to assist the cormorants in catching fish. The location also has stunning views of city lights and the river, providing a magical and enchanting atmosphere. Show more

What type of fish is primarily caught in Ukai fishing, and what is unique about the method used to catch it?

Ukai fishing usually catches small trout. They also catch sweetfish and ayu, among others. UKai fishing's manual approach makes it eco-friendly and harmless to the river's fish population. Following the ceremony, the fish are returned to the river, while a select few are kept and gifted to the Emperor. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin