Traditional cormorant fishing season opens as scheduled after three years in Gifu Prefecture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A fisherman uses cormorants from a boat during the first ukai session of the season in Gifu City on Wednesday. The season started as scheduled for the first time in three years.

GIFU — The traditional ukai cormorant fishing season began on the Nagaragawa river in Gifu City on Wednesday.

After interruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the season opened as scheduled for the first time in three years.

On average, 100,000 visitors come throughout the season and ride viewing boats to watch ukai fishing. The season typically ends Oct 15, but was suspended for 55 days in 2020 and 90 days in 2021, resulting in tourist numbers to drop below 20,000.

Although new restrictions limit the number of passengers per boat, three new high-end viewing boats have been introduced this season.

On Wednesday evening, bonfires hanging from iron baskets at the front of the boats lit up the six ukai fishing vessels on the river. The fishermen demonstrated various techniques, such as the spectacular “sogarami,” in which all six boats line up side by side, giving the cormorants an advantage to corner the ayu sweetfish. Onlookers seemed to appreciate their subtle and profound skills.