Although there are a few places where ukai or cormorant fishing is still done, that of the Nagara River in Gifu is by far the most famous. It has played a vital role in the city’s history and has evolved from a means to live, to a profitable industry, to a major tourist draw. It runs from May 11 to October 15 of each year.
The use of cormorants for fishing on the Nagara River began over 1,300 years ago, originating as a way for people to feed their families. The advent of other fishing methods and modern transportation reduced the need for cormorant fishing on a large scale but in spite of the industry’s decline, cormorant fishing still continues in the city of Gifu today and serves as an important part of the city’s tourism sector, drawing people from around Japan and around the world.
Although boats can be hired to watch, either privately or in groups, many people enjoy the spectacle for free from the Cormorant Fishing Viewing Zone along the riverside.