Ukai is a traditional fishing method which uses trained cormorants to catch river fish such as sweetfish (ayu).
This type of fishing has been around for over 1300 years, most prominently along the Nagaragawa River in Gifu City, where the master fishermen have official patronage from the emperor.
Today, Ukai takes place in the summer months and became a very famous tourist attraction.
This unique performance can be watched in about a dozen rivers across Japan, including:
Nagaragawa River, Gifu City, May 11 to October 15
Hozu River, Arashiyama, Kyoto City, July 1 to mid September 23
Uji River, Uji City, July to September
Ukai is practiced by master fisherman working from long wooden boats. Each fisherman leads about a dozen cormorants on leashes who swim alongside the boat and dive under the water to catch fish by swallowing them whole. The fish are kept in a special pouch in the cormorant's throat to be retrieved later and are prevented from being swallowed by a snare around the neck of the bird. Each boat has a large fire that hangs from its bow to provide light for the boatmen to steer and the birds to fish by.