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***** Location: Ireland, other countries
***** Season: Early autumn
***** Category: Animal


A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear almost reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past.

The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers and with its breeding concentrations at a few sites it is an Amber List species.


Worldwide use


humanity kigo for all summer

ukai 鵜飼 (うかい) cormorant fishing

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ubune 鵜舟(うぶね)boat for cormorant fishing
ukaibi 鵜飼火(うかいび)torchlight for cormorant fishing
..... ukaigari 鵜篝(うかがり)
..... utaimatsum u taimatsu 鵜松明(うたいまつ)
ushoo 鵜匠(うしょう)fisherman using cormorants
..... utsukai, u tsukai 鵜遣(うつかい)

unawa 鵜縄(うなわ)rope for cormorants
ukago 鵜籠(うかご)basket for cormorants

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arau, ara-u 荒鵜(あらう)wild cormorant
tsukare-u 疲鵜(つかれう)tired cormorant
hanare-u 離れ鵜(はなれう)
kachi-u 徒歩鵜(かちう)
ukawa, u kawa 鵜川(うかわ)river with cormorants

u 鵜(う)cormorant
..... u no tori 鵜の鳥(うのとり)
umi-u 海鵜(うみう)sea cormorant
kawa-u 川鵜(かわう)river cormorant
hime-u 姫鵜(ひめう)pelagic cormorant
mizudori 水鳥(みずどり)"water bird"
Shimazudori 島津鳥(しまずどり) bird from Shimazu
(old province in Kyushu)

.SAIJIKI ... HUMANITY - Kigo for Summer  


Cormorant fishing has a long tradition in Japan.

Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan and China from around 960 AD. and recorded from other places throughout the world.

To control the birds, the fishermen tie a snare near the base of the bird's throat. This prevents the birds from swallowing larger fish, which are held in their throat, but the birds can swallow smaller fish. When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.

The types of cormorants used differ based on the location. In Gifu, Japan, the Japanese Cormorant (P. capillatus) is used; Chinese fishermen often employ Great Cormorants (P. carbo). Darters (Anhinga), which are very close relatives of cormorants, are also used for this fishing technique on occasion.

Cormorant fishing, called ukai (鵜飼) in Japanese, takes place in 13 cities in Japan.
The most famous location is Gifu, Gifu Prefecture, home to Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River, which has continued uninterrupted for the past 1,300 years.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

CLICK for more ukiyo-e about cormorant fishing !

. . . CLICK for more ukiyo-e about cormorant fishing ! !

岐阻路ノ驛 河渡長柄川鵜飼船
by Eisen 英泉


Cormorant as a roof tile at the Akai-ya 閼伽井屋, which is a well house of the temple hall Nigatsu-do in Nara. During the Omizu-tori ceremony, water will be taken from the well in this building.

The cormorant is the sacred animal of the deity
鵜草葺不合尊 Ugayafukiaezu no mikoto

father of Jinmu Tenno 神武天皇

Omizu-tori お水取り is a ceremony to receive subsoil water which was "sent" from Wakasa by Omizu-okuri ceremony. Omizu-tori and Omizu-okuri ceremonies originate in a legend about the Wakasa deities (Wakasahiko and Wakasahime) and their apostle cormorants.

- Shared by Taisaku Nogi -
Joys of Japan, 2012

"Cormorant River" at Wakasa
and the O-Mizutori rituals.
. U-no-se (鵜の瀬)" River Unose .

Water-spouting statue of a cormorant in Temizuya at
. Uwase Shrine 宇波西神社, Mikata .

. The Wakasa Wedding .
Wakasahiko Jinja (若狭彦神社)
Wakasahime Jinja (若狭姫神社)

Things found on the way

Noh play UKAI 鵜飼 (能)

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

"The sight of cormorants catching fish one after another in rapid succession is so exciting that the thoughts of sin, retribution, and afterlife all go out of my mind."
"It is so sad to see the darkness after the torchlight on the boat goes out."

About Basho's haiku below:

Barnhill notes that this hokku appears in Basho's haibun, "Cormorant Fishing Boat 鵜舟 ubune ."
In the haibun, Basho refers to the Noh play "Cormorant Fishing."

Ueda mentions that "today [as of 1992], as in Basho's time, it is practiced only in the Nagara River, on a moonless night."

The commentator Shoogatsudoo (in Ueda's "Basho and His Interpreters") points out that "this hokku draws on two sentences that appear in the noo play 'Ukai' [Cormorant Fishing].

Blyth mentions that there is apparently an earlier version, "where we have 'weeping' instead of 'sad' [no romaji available]."

- Compiled by Larry Bole
Kigo Hotline, December 2007

source : itoyo/basho

Ubune 鵜舟



omoshiroote yagate kanashiki ubune kana

so fascinating,
but then so sad:
cormorant fishing boat

Tr. David Landis Barnhill

so exciting
and, after a while, so sad -
cormorant fishing

Tr. Makoto Ueda

Written in 1688, 元禄一年 Basho age 45

At the river Nagaragawa in Mino 美濃の長良川

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 .

. Emotions expressed in Haiku .

source : circleboard - sukesan

River Nagaragawa 長柄川 / 長良川
has its source in the city of Gujō, Gifu Prefecture, and its mouth in the city of Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Along with the Kiso River and Ibi River, the Nagara River is one of the Kiso Three Rivers of the Nōbi Plain.
Previously, the river was named Sunomata River (墨俣川 Sunomata-gawa). With a length of 166 km (103 mi), it drains an area of 1,985 square kilometres (766 sq mi) in the Chūbu region and empties into Ise Bay.
. . . Cormorant fishing takes place in two cities: Gifu, where it is called "Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River,"
and Seki, where it is called "Oze Cormorant Fishing" (小瀬鵜飼 Oze Ukai). Though eleven other places in Japan also host cormorant fishing, only the fishing masters on the Nagara River are Imperial Fishermen of the Household Agency.
Read the details here :
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


u to tomo ni kokoro wa mizu o kuguriyuku

My soul
Dives in and out of the water
With the cormorant.

Tr. Blyth

. Uejima Onitsura 上島鬼貫 .


tsuku-zuku to u ni nirama[ru]ru ukai kana

Haiku by Issa

the cormorants stare
at them hard...
cormorant fishermen

renku by Sakuo

yasui chingin suto o mo jisezu

cheap wages
come on strike 

Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo


u no tsura ni kagari koborete aware nari

How pitiful!
The torches drip
On the faces of the cormorants.

Tr. Blyth

Katoo Kakei 加藤かけい Kato Kakei (1900 - 1983)


akatsuki ya u-kago ni nemuru u no tsukare

Morning twilight;
In their basket, the cormorants
Asleep, exhausted.

Tr. Blyth

. Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 .


autumn storm
a cormorant sits
on the throne of winds

by Anatoly Kudryavitsky
(from 'Morning at Mount Ring', DOGHOUSE Books, 2007)


cormorants glide
over orange bull kelp--
autumn sea

© Deborah P. Kolodji / tinywords


for a shining breath
the comorant surfaces --
how short, this waking life

© Erin Noteboom


cormorants glide
over sea duck decoys -
autumn sea

© Jim Tantillo / huntinghaikudaily

Related words

***** . Keta Taisha U Matsuri 気多大社鵜祭
Cormorant festival at Shrine Keta Taisha


- reference : Arai Yoshimune (1873-1945) -





Anonymous said...

freshwater lake
two cormorants and a fisherman
observe each other

:>) Ella Wagemakers

Anonymous said...

the cormorants stare
at them hard...
cormorant fishermen

(Issa, 1795)


cormorants asleep in a row
on holiday

(Issa, 1821)


the cormorant fisherman
tends to his cormorants...



clamorous cormorants
see in the New Year

(Issa, 1812)

"Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge."
(David G. Lanoue)


facebook said...

Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic on facebook

moving film
on cormorant fishing-
our ducks so loud


News Japan Times said...

Kiso cormorant fishermen add woman to fold

For the first time in its history dating back some 1,300 years, a woman has become an apprentice of traditional "ukai" fishers along the Kiso River in central Japan.

Ukai fishermen use tamed cormorants. The city of Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, on Tuesday appointed Kotomi Inayama, 23, as an apprentice. She is the nation's sixth female "ukai" fisher.
... Inayama's appointment "will draw lots of public attention," Inuyama Mayor Yukinori Tanaka said.

Inayama is a native of Komaki, Aichi Prefecture. She had been working in a pet shop after graduating from an animal training school. She said her interest was sparked when she saw the Kiso River ukai fishing show last August.

Her mentor will be Takayoshi Muto, a 63-year-old ukai master.

"I'd like to work hard to increase visitors. I couldn't be happier," Muto said.


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

mata ya tagui Nagara no kawa no ayu namasu

once again - this rare
pickled sweetfish
from river Nagaragawa
Tr. Gabi Greve

The cormorants from Nagaragawa fish for ayu sweetfish, and the humans eat them afterwards.
Basho was lucky to watch the famous cormorant fishers at work.

Written in summer of 1688 貞亨5年夏

Oi no Kobumi 笈の小文

Namasu Food

Anonymous said...

In the Netherlands J. van Tooren published translations of Japanese poetry. There is one haiku, by Yaha, about a cormorant: Een aalscholver, `s nachts/in de zee omlaag schietend,/pikt er een ster op. In English that would read: A cormorant, at night/plunging into the sea,/catches a star. In order to get a better idea about the poem, I`ve been trying to find other translations... I wonder if the cormorant is a wild one, and if he might be diving into a nocturnal sea... Do you know the poem? Could you explain the Japanese feeling of it? Thanks, Gerrie

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

kono atari me ni miyuru mono wa mina suzushi

in this area
all that meets the eye
is cool

Tr. Barnhill

Juhachiro no Ki Ki 十八楼ノ記 Tower of Eighteen

at river Nagaragawa

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson and

ukawa 鵜川 river for cormorant fishing

asakaze no fukisamashitaru ukawa kana

me futaide soo no sugiyuku ukawa kana

naki tama mo tobu yo mama aru ukawa kana

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

baba ga u mo mikka shôgatsu itasu kana

granny's cormorant too
celebrates the third day
of First Month

Or: "cormorants." Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge. In traditional Japan the first and second days of First Month involved mostly formal rituals and visits; on the third day people held less formal celebrations. Perhaps the old woman is giving her bird(s) a special New Year's treat.

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

ukai ningyoo 鵜飼い人形 dolls of cormorant fishing



Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

fuyu no hi ya ushoo no haoru kuro-tsumugi

this winter day -
the black pongee coat
of the cormorant fisher

殿村莵絲子 Tonomura Toshiko (1908 - 2000)
more about tsumugi silk fabric

Gabi Greve said...

Gujo Kaido 郡上街道 Gujo Highway
From 岐阜市加納 Gifu city, Kano to the 大師堂 Daishi Do Hall in 石徹白 Itoshiro.
Now National Highway Nr. 156.
Itoshiro is located at the foot of the sacred mountain 白山 Hakusan and the Highway relates to this old pilgrim road.
Part is along the river 長良川 Nagaragawa, which has many bends and curves.

Gabi Greve said...

Fukui 三方町 Mikata town legend
神功皇后 Empress Jingu Kogo is venerated at 常神社 the Shrine Tsune Jinja, which was the original Shrine named 常宮神社 Jogu Jinja in Tsuruga.
Woman come to pray here for an easy birth.
When 神功皇后 Empress Jingu Kogo had to wait here for favorable winds and during that time gave birth to a son.
She buried the son in the sand of the beach and soon went on to Korea.
The local u 鵜 cormorants took care of the baby and warmed it with their feathers.

Anonymous said...

u no tsura ni kagari koborete aware nari

How pitiful!
The torches drip
On the faces of the cormorants.
Tr. Blyth

Katoo Kakei 加藤かけい Kato Kakei (1900 - 1983)

According to Basho data base

the author of "How pitiful" haiku is

山本 荷兮 (やまもとかけい)
aka Buemon 武右衛門