Summer tradition in Gifu “Ukai”

Summer tradition in Gifu



“Ukai” Eternal like the flowing river

Nagaragawa is the serene stream which runs through Gifu Prefecture. In summer evenings, many boats bearing open flames sail on the river.
”Usho (cormorant fishermen)” wearing ”mino (grass skirt)” catch ”ayu” fish by controlling the cormorants, calling out ”ho-ho” to them. It is a traditional summer custom in Gifu, the ”Ukai”.

The history of Ukai goes back a long way. In the family registry of Kagamigori Nakazato in 702, there is a record of ”Ukaibemezurame”, so it was in existence more than 1300 years ago.
Because Gifu prefecture is not connected to the sea, ”ayu” fish from the river was valued as a source of protein for the locals.

The continuing appeal

This traditional fishing method has been supported by the rulers, and has been passed down from generation to generation.
It is said that Nobunaga Oda showed Ukai to ambassadors from Shingen Takeda. Ieyasu Tokugawa frequently visited Gifu and enjoyed watching Ukai, and had ”ayu” fish ”sushi” sent to Edo from Gifu. Haiku poet Basho has read ”haiku” about Ukai as well.
From the middle of Edo to Meiji periods, the number of Usho decreased, but Ukai was protected and inherited thanks to the protection policy by the Ministry of the Imperial Household and Gifu City. Ukai has been observed by dignitaries from both Japan and overseas, such as the British Crown Prince during the Taisho period.

Charlie Chaplin is one of such celebrities. After the war, when Chaplin visited Gifu and observed Ukai, he is said to have cried out with excitement, ”This is wonderful!”.

The light of the fire reflected on the pitch black river at night. All you can hear is the flowing sound of Nagaragawa and the ”ho-ho” of the Ukai call. It is so very calming.



Gifu City Ukai Kanransen Jimusho
1-2 Minatomachi, Gifu, Gifu Prefecture