Kiso cormorant fishermen add woman to fold

Kyodo

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.

The fishing, which takes place from June through October, has long been a popular tourist attraction along the Kiso River, but customer numbers have been down, decreasing from 47,000 in 1979 to 21,000 last year.

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.