Hiji River ‘ukai’ [cormorant fishing]

As summer approaches, everything is getting ready for the opening of the season of this millennial fishing method.

Historical records state that ukai (or cormorant fishing) served as a favoured pastime of the Kato lords, daimyos of the Ozu domain, from the 17th century. Japanese emperors had been entertained with the practice since the Heian era (9th century).

At dawn, just when the heat of long summer days begins to recede, guests are entitled to board their boats and admire the lush scenery blanketing the banks of the Hiji River. Upon reaching the city centre the magnificent Garyu Tea House, greets visitors and serves as the base to await complete darkness. 

At which point the cracks of ignited firewood’s are heard, sparks make their appearance and the spectacle is ready to go. 

Considered one of the 3 most distinguished ukai in Japan, guests at the Hiji River have the rare opportunity of sailing side-by-side the usho’s (fishing master) boat during a long spell, which offers the possibility of enjoying the action within inches. 



diego fernandez

Architecture and Culture Research Dep. Director | Kita Management