Traditional Technique of Ukai
Ukai, also known as Cormorant fishing, is a traditional method that uses trained aquatic birds to catch river fish. Originating from China and imported to Japan more than 1,500 years ago, ukai has become a renowned practice and attraction in the country.
History and Roots of Ukai
Importantly, ukai practice started during the Heian period. It was once immensely common in Japan; however, it is primarily used as a tourist attraction today. The cultural value attached to ukai is undeniable as it represents one of the oldest Japanese ichthyic traditions and provides an insight into folkloristic showmanship.
The Uniqueness of Cormorant Fishing
A prominent aspect of ukai is the use of cormorants, called ‘Umiu,’ which are equipped with unique hunting skills and are cleverly used to catch freshwater fishes such as trouts. Fishermen release these birds onto the water surface tied with a noose around their necks, preventing them from swallowing larger catches. These birds dive underwater and hunt fishes which they store in a unique pouch inside their throats. They are reeled back into the boat using ropes where fishermen retrieve the kept fish.
Ukai at Arashiyama
Arashiyama, not far from Kyoto’s city center, hosts this annual event from July to September. Tracing back to its roots and maintaining elements from the Heian period, Arashiyama nurtures this tradition by offering exclusive experiences like ukai cruises and dinner cruises for visitors. Providing an up-close view of fishing performances by fishermen and cormorants at night on the river lends unforgettable memories. It’s definitely one of the most fascinating Kyoto events in July.
Ukai Cruises: An Aristocratic Experience
The wooden boats used for this practice carry a large fire providing light for both navigation purposes as well as aiding the birds’ fishing activities. Further enhancing tourism prospects, ukai cruises also reflect an aristocratic ambience imitating the Heian period vibe thus promising more than just viewing a fishing method but also experiencing historical richness.
Dinner Cruises And Other Offers
To satisfy customer needs to the fullest, Arashiyama ukai offers dinner cruises. What could be more exciting than gorging on delicious food while witnessing a unique spectacle? Besides serving dinner sets like bento or sukiyaki, guests can bring their favorite drinks along, making it an even more personalized experience. However, reservations need to be made five days prior if accommodating over ten people.
Fishermen manning simple wooden vessels dressed in traditional Japanese clothing not only contributes to aesthetic significance but also fosters deeper engagement with visitors who often partake in cheering on cormorants along with fishermen.
Arashiyama ukai alternates between being a surreal experience when you view burning fires in gentle light reflecting off silent waters against dim city lights creating a romantic atmosphere combined with duets by traditional geiko and maiko performers lighting up restaurant-boats.
Despite modern infusions into this traditional method, cormorants popularity remains in limited locations like Gifu Prefecture and Kyoto prefecture further testifying to its rarity yet preciousness. Other factors contributing to its preservation include regulated sightseeing cruises shadowing ukai boats enabling tourists an immersive yet close look at ukai under safe parameters.
With that said, every person visiting Japan must experience this magical spectacle at least once—it’s truly an unforgettable sight where history blends seamlessly with modern life.
Looking for great deals on unique finds? Don’t miss the exciting Tenjin-san Market. Held on the 25th of each month, the Tenjin-san Market is a can’t-miss destination for thrifty shoppers and bargain hunters alike.