Oze Ukai  - more than 1000 years of history

 Cormorant fishing has a very long history.  A family register kept in Shosoin in the Nara Period (the 8th century) lists the job of a cormorant fisherman indicating that cormorant fishing was already practiced at that time. Cormorant fishing was protected by the Imperial Court and authorities.  It is said that, in the 16th century, Oda Nobunaga started to call the fishermen cormorant masters (usho) and the Tokugawa family gave the cormorant fishermen the privilege to carry swords and allowed them to have surnames.  In 1890 (Meiji Period), usho became a part of the Imperial Household Ministry and from that time to the present, they perform under the Imperial Household Ministry in order to keep the tradition of cormorant fishing alive.  

On a quiet evening, boats set out into the murmuring stream.  Encouraged by the hooting sound of the cormorant masters, cormorants dive into the river under the light of bonfire and catch one fish after another.  The climax of the evening, known as karikudari, arrives when the viewing boats approach the side of the fishermen’s boats allowing tourists to see how the cormorants, tied to the master, catch ayu (sweet fish).  It is also an excellent chance to observe how the fishermen expertly handle several cormorants at once.  After the viewing boats return to the bank, tourists can watch the cormorant boats lined up in procession passing right in front of them.  This procession is known as tsukemise.