Learn all about Ukai
In Japan, there is a traditional fishing method called Ukai where Japanese fishermen use train cormorants, a type of bird to aid them in fishing in rivers. This practice has been taken place since about 960 AD in Japan as well as China. It has even been described as a fishing method used by ancient Japanese in the Book of Sui, which is the official history of the Sui Dynasty of China, which was completed in 636 AD.
The fishermen tie a collar near the base of the bird’s throat in order to control the bird. It prevents the bird from swallowing bigger fish, but the birds can still swallow smaller fish. When the cormorant caught its prey in its throat, the fish are brought back to the boat and the fish spits the fish up. This practice is even done at night by torchlight! It is interesting to note that the type of cormorants used is different based on the location since there are different species.
Ukai currently takes place in 13 cities in Japan but it is not the successful industry it once was, it is more used to serve the Japanese tourism industry. A famous location includes Gifu, Gifu Prefecture at the Nagara River (Ukai fishing here dates back as far as the past 1,300 years). There are even Ukai fishermen in the Japanese Emperor’s employ in Gifu and Seki and they are called the Imperial Fishermen of the Royal Household Agency. In fact, it is thanks to Japanese aristocracy that the practice survived. In the Edo-era, Imperial boating parties were known to enjoy the sight of cormorant fishing as entertainment. To date, there are many river tours available in Japan that include Ukai watching, some of which even include a meal featuring fish that were caught by the cormorant. Ukai – Traditional cormorant fishing in Japan
Anime fanatiks that have seen the anime Akagami no Shirayukihime (Snow White with the Red Hair) may be reminded of episode 10 of season 1 where Shirayuki ended up befriending Kiharu, a girl from an island where they use a bird species as pets and the birds aid them in fishing.
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