Ukai Festival

Cormorant fishing in Toyama

By Jonathan Jahnke    - 1 min read

     The Ukai Festival is a 1300 year old summer tradition in which fires are lit to attract fish to the surface and cormorants with ropes tied to their necks are used to catch the fish. The Imperial Household Agency employs cormorant masters to live with and train the birds from birth, with the masters passing their skills on to their eldest sons.

    During the festival, crowds gather along the banks of the Tajima River in Toyama for picnics & to watch as fishermen and women prepare for the evening's events. Baskets of wood are attached to poles on the fishing boats & lit on fire, calling the fish to the surface with their heat. The birds are then released into the river, where they enthusiastically go about their business of catching fish. Whenever they manage to snag one, the fisherman reels in the bird & trades its fish for a treat.

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Jonathan Jahnke

Jonathan Jahnke @jonathan.jahnke

After teaching English in Toyama from 2004 - 2005 & visiting off & on again for the next 8 years, I decided to move here permanently in 2014. I love exploring the cities, festivals, countryside, & culture of this beautiful country.