Jul 22, 2018
A while back I wrote a post about Ukai in Gifu. Just in case you haven't heard of Ukai, it is a traditional way of fishing with birds. Yesterday, I went on a special tour to one of the fisherman's houses. He gave us a more detailed lecture about the fishing practice that I thought I would highlight today!
In Gifu, there are six master fishers, the man that I talked to was one of them. He has been fishing basically his entire life. Gifu's Ukai is special because it is only passed down through families. This means that the fisherman I talked to learned from his father. He explained the way that he trained. First he spent a year watching and learning from his father. Then, he spent another two years actually assisting. For him, training was three years, which is about the average. Although, there are some cases in which the father dies suddenly and the son becomes the master fisher sooner than expected.
The fisherman and his son.
Ironically, he has a son the age of 21, whom we got to meet. He was quite shy, plus he is still in the process of learning. He told us that he goes to college as well. Regardless, he will still become a fisherman. This surprised me because I don't picture fishermen making that much money, but I discovered that Gifu's Ukai fishermen are employed by the government, aka they make really good money. The emperor's family often comes to buy ayu, or sweetfish, from this fisherman.
Part of the reason Gifu's tradition is stricter than some of the other places that hold Ukai, such as Kyoto, because fishing is for quantity in Gifu, but for tourism in other places.
One other interesting part was that the fishermen actually live with their birds. This fisherman had 20 birds. He says that each bird is different so you have to know their behavior and their body to be able to fish properly. For example, if you unknowingly pair two birds that don't get along well when you are fishing, then they will fight instead of fish.
Ukai is a very interesting practice, I recommend you come to Gifu to learn more about it!!
Teacher, Traveler, Dancer
Currently living in Gifu
I love Japan, dance, cats, food, and fashion!