Cormorant Fishing on the GiFu River

For the last 1,300 years (since the end of the Tang Dynasty), river runners have been fishing for sweetfish (ayu) on the Gifu river. Using Cormorants.

The birds are tied to a rope and controlled off the bow of the boat by a Fishing Master. This is a serious skill, and in times past, the quality of the catch was so high that the first “harvest” so to speak was sent to the emperor. This lead to the Fishing Masters receiving the title Cormorant Fishermen of the Imperial Household Agency and to the river being protected by Imperial decree; the river is still clean and unpolluted to this day!

The hunt starts at night. about 6 fishing boats take off led by a pine fire hanging over the birds at the bow; this attracts the fish, lights the way, and the sparks keep the birds active. It is visually stunning.

What could make this better? Being on your own boat on the river following these Master Fisherman on their hunt while eating bento box and drinking beer.

Nothing like a relaxing night on the water watching some birds fish by fire.

Though the towns (cities) on the Gifu no longer support themselves from the fishing industry, the birds are a huge tourist draw, primarily for the Japanese themselves.

This was a fun experience.

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