Cormorant Fishing in Arashiyama – The Night I Walked into a Fairytale

             

 

He led me to a bridge, carrying in his arms with him certain dive-droppers or water-fowls, bound to perches and about every one of their necks he tied a thread, lest they should eat the fish as fast as they took them. He loosened the dive-droppers from the pole, and within less than the space of one hour, caught as many fish as filled three baskets; which being full, my host untied the threads from about their necks, and entering the second time into the river they fed themselves with fish, and being satisfied, they returned and allowed themselves to be bound to their perches, as they were before.

 

So wrote the Franciscan monk Friar Oderic, as he wandered barefoot across Asia in 1321. Little, it seems, has changed. Arashiyama may be but twenty minutes from Kyoto, yet I felt I’d strayed into an enchanted world long gone. The night was warm, filled with the chirping of crickets and frogs. Against the darkness of the surrounding hills, lights twinkled from restaurants hiding on the other side of the bay. Coloured lights lit the narrow streets, and lanterns hung amongst the trees leading down to the water.

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10 Non-touristy Things To Try In Japan

i) Watch Cormorant Fishing

 

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A cormorant boat, Arashiyama

He led me to a bridge, carrying in his arms with him certain dive-droppers or water-fowls, bound to perches and about every one of their necks he tied a thread, lest they should eat the fish as fast as they took them. He loosened the dive-droppers from the pole, and within less than the space of one hour, caught as many fish as filled three baskets; which being full, my host untied the threads from about their necks, and entering the second time into the river they fed themselves with fish, and being satisfied, they returned and allowed themselves to be bound to their perches, as they were before.

                        So wrote the Franciscan monk Friar Oderic as he wandered barefoot across Asia in 1321. Little, it seems, has changed. A fat orange moon climbed into view as I crossed the Togersu-kyo, or Moon Bridge. Small balls of fire floated across the bay: the fishing had begun. Continue Reading →

The Cormorants of Arashiyama

 

St Francis, an inspiration to so many
St Francis, an inspiration to so many

               He led me to a bridge, carrying in his arms with him certain dive-droppers or water-fowls, bound to perches and about every one of their necks he tied a thread, lest they should eat the fish as fast as they took them. He loosened the dive-droppers from the pole, and within less than the space of one hour, caught as many fish as filled three baskets; which being full, my host untied the threads from about their necks, and entering the second time into the river they fed themselves with fish, and being satisfied, they returned and allowed themselves to be bound to their perches, as they were before.

So wrote the Franciscan monk Friar Odoric as he wandered barefoot across Asia in 1321. (Having already been to the Balkans in 1296, and preached to the Mongols in southern Russia, Friar Odoric left Padua in 1318 on a journey which leaves modern travellers breathless with envy. Amongst the many places he visited, he sailed from Venice to Constantinople, across the Black Sea to preach in Armenia and Persia, through Persepolis and down to the Persian Gulf, where he sailed to India. From there he passed through Sumatra, Java, and onto Canton before passing into Greater China. He finally returned to his native Italy around 1329, dying a few years later. He was beatified in 1755 by Benedict XIV.)

Little, it seems, has changed. A fat orange moon climbed into view as we crossed the Togersu-kyo, or Moon Bridge. Against the darkness of the surrounding hills, coloured lights lit the narrow streets lights, and lanterns hung amongst the trees down by the water. Small balls of fire floated across the bay: the fishing had begun.

Ukai fishing, Japan
Ukai fishing, Japan

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