A Different Way to Fish

A Different Way to Fish

August 9, 2011

On a boat, floating on the Katsura-gawa.

Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan


The little Japanese girl in front of me is bending over the edge of the boat feeling the water. I take a look over the edge.

“The water is not as deep as a thought.” I said out loud.

I look over to Cholo and thought to myself, “I don’t think he heard me.”

I look at the other tourists that shared our boat. There’a a Canadian couple with their two boys, a Japanese woman with her two girls and a mix of Japanese tourists up front.

I’m beginning to think U KAI is quite an event that even locals come out to watch it.

The old man driving the boat with a long pole starts to maneuver the boat. I’ve notice that our boat is starting to line up with the other boats.

The audible crackling of firewood signals the event is about to start.


U KAI or Cormorant Fishing is an event to look out for during the summer season in Japan.

I have been quite intrigued about Cormorant Fishing ever since I saw an episode about it that air on NHK World. It’s quite amazing to see a seabird “fishing”.

You start off the evening by getting unto a boat that will bring you to the middle of the river. You’ll know that the show is about to start because the boatmen start to align their respective boats into one long line. The fishermens boat comes into full view. You won’t miss it because there’s a huge fireball hanging from the end of the boat. This is to attract the fish to come closer to the surface.

You hear them quacking first, then once your eyes adjust to the darkness you see these black birds in front of you.

With a bang from the pole, they dive into the water and surface in an instant. You hear the fishermen shout something in Japanese. You get lost in translation.

You then realize that there’s fish in their throats!

One of the fisherman then pulls them over, lifts them from the water and makes the bird spit out the fish. A splash heralds their return to the water.  Another banging of the pole unto the side of the boat sends the birds underwater again.

The show lasts for an hour.


You don’t get to eat the fish.

But you do get to experience a piece of history and experience tradition in before your very eyes.


The show costs 1,700 Yen for adults and 850 Yen for kids aged 4 to 12 years old.

There is a kiosk that sells tickets. Make your way to the Katsura-gawa. Cross Togetsukyo Bridge and turn right after that small kiosk selling souvenirs  and walk straigh. It is located right before you go up the steps to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.

For more photos click here.


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