Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method practiced mainly in China and Japan, characterized by the use of birds called cormorants to catch sweetfish, etc. Four species of cormorants live in Japan: the sea cormorant, the river cormorant, the Hime cormorant, and the Chishima cormorant. The Gifu Nagara River Cormorants are large, strong cormorants. A string is wrapped around the bird's neck, preventing it from swallowing any fish it might catch so that the fishermen may claim the catch for themselves.
Historical figures who were avid fans of Nagara River cormorant fishing include warlord Oda Nobunaga, the great master of haiku, Matsuo Basho, and Charlie Chaplin. In 1878, Iwakura Tomomi and others took the opportunity to present ayu fish to the Emperor, and in 1890 three locations along the Nagara River were designated as hunting grounds, with general fishing prohibited year-round, and cormorant fishing made part of the main hunting lodge of the Imperial Household Ministry, thus cormorant fishermen attained the status of national civil servant.
Although you can view cormorant fishing freely from the riverbank, we recommend boarding a yakatabune (Japanese-style cruising boat) for an up-close view of the cormorants as they catch fish and to better observe the skills of the cormorant masters. There are about 45 yakatabune in the fleet with capacities varying from 15 to 50 passengers, and these can be chartered or shared.
From Nagoya Station, take the Meitetsu or JR train to Gifu Station (approx. 20-30 minutes).
From JR Gifu Station or Meitetsu Gifu Station, take the Gifu Bus for approximately 20 minutes to Nagara-bashi Station.
The Nagara River Cormorant Museum introduces the history of Nagara River cormorant fishing and the skills of cormorant masters, allowing visitors to see and learn about cormorant fishing on the Nagara River even during the off-season. We recommend the guidance theater, which features a life-size cormorant boat and realistically recreates the event with sound and lighting.
The Nagara River cormorant fishing is said to have a history of over 1,300 years. Among the documents housed in the Shosoin Repository, a family register dated 702, reportedly from the Mino Province, mentions a person named "Uyobe no Mezurame," who was a cormorant fisherman. Since then, cormorants have often appeared in the records of shoguns and kanpaku (chief advisors to the Emperor.)
There are many hotels and inns along the Nagara River in Yamashisuimei. The Gifu Grand Hotel and other Nagara River hot spring hotels offer "cormorant fishing package" plans that include lodging, a yakatabune boat ride, and a meal. Each hotel offers a plan that includes dinner at the hotel's restaurant, or a plan that includes dinner on a yakatabune docked on the riverbank before the cormorant fishing begins, while enjoying the scenery and atmosphere of the surroundings.
Ayu (sweetfish) caught during Nagara River cormorant fishing are called "Hagata Ayu" (tooth-shaped sweetfish). This precious sweetfish with the tooth marks of the cormorant is a rare delicacy even among the locals, but it can be enjoyed at some restaurants and hotels in the city.
Gifu Grand Hotel is a resort inn located at the foot of Mt. Kinka which features Gifu Castle on its summit, and views of the abundant nature of the clear Nagara River in front of the hotel. Shuttle buses are available from JR and Meitetsu Gifu stati....