One of the activities I enjoyed the most when I visited Japan was Ukai (鵜飼) a traditional fishing method which uses cormorant to catch fish. This technique has been used over a thousand years. Now it’s a very popular summer activity for tourists and takes place in various areas across Japan.
Uji is a small city situated between Kyoto and Nara and is famous for its high quality green tea. After strolling down the riverbank, we decided to eat before the start of the fishing experience. The area is full of teahouses and restaurants all showcasing tea themed food. We stopped at a soba restaurant and enjoyed a tea flavoured soba with green tea.
How does cormorant fishing work? 10 to 15 people hop on a boat (same boats are used during the day for the river cruise) and watch a skilled fisherman dressed in a traditional costume manipulate six or more cormorants. In our case, it was a woman manipulating the cormorants. Each of the birds dive in the river to catch fish and when they have, the fisherwoman brings them back and has them regurgitate. The fishermen have to be very skilled as they must avoid letting the birds eat the fish as well as not strangle them.
I really enjoyed this because the activity is done after sunset; at night the flickering of the torchlight over the fishing boat makes it a beautiful, romantic and unique experience. The boat is filled with people of all ages, with lots of locals making it a good way to practice your Japanese by conversing with your neighbour.
You can enjoy the experience from around mid June to late September. Tickets can be purchased at the venue for about 2000 yen. Reservation is not possible and purchase is made in Japanese. Boarding starts at about 18:30, and the boat ride lasts approximately an hour.
|Address : Uji Tonoshima Area, Uji City
Dates: End of June to End of September (except during a full moon or in heavy rain.)
Access : JR Nara Line to “Uji”, 15 min walk, Keihan Uji Line to “Uji”,10 min walk.
JR Kyoto station to Uji station is only 15 minutes’ walk.
Fee : Cormorant Fishing Boat Trip Fee