Fishing with Cormorants on the River Nagara

Hozu River in Early Summer from the series New Selection of Noted Places of Kyoto

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Fishing with Cormorants on the River Nagara

by Utagawa Yoshimune II, c. 1920s

Miki Suizan (1887-1957)

IHL Cat. #156

About This Print

Fishing with Cormorants on the River Nagara was issued by the Hasegawa Publishing Company as part of a series they titled Japanese Scenes.  This print is listed as print 1295 in their c. 1920-1930 catalog Catalog of Japanese Color Prints, Illustrated Books, Etc. and sold for $.060, as shown on the below page from the catalog. 

Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River

Source: Web Japan > Japan Atlas website
The spectacle of Ukai (cormorant fishing) on the Nagara River flowing from east to west through Gifu City, still delights visitors. This traditional technique of fishing, handed down through the ages, has been practiced for some 1,300 years; the method involves using tame cormorants to catch river fish such as Ayu (sweetfish). Japan's most ancient anthology of poetry, the Manyoshu, which was compiled in the eighth century includes of a waka (Japanese poem) composed about cormorant fishing. Subsequently, Ukai-method was used to catch sweetfish for the Emperor, and it thus came under special patronage. Since the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the tradition of cormorant fishing on the Nagara River has been well-preserved as the Imperial Household Agency approved Ukai as a purveyor to the Imperial Family.  

The fisherman, known as an "Usho", manages the cormorants to catch fish. Visitors can not only enjoy the sight of this unusual fishing technique but also relish the tasty sweetfish that have been caught. That is why Ukai has often been presented in front of the noble families. These days, the activity is a major tourist attraction and the fishermen still wear the same old-fashioned clothing when Ukai was performed for the Imperial family. On summer evenings, in the light of burning torches, the cormorant fishermen get on small wooden boats and handle masterfully more than ten birds at once with their distinctive calls. Diving, swimming and catching sweetfish in the light of flaming torches, the cormorants enchant the audience.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #156
 Title Fishing with Cormorants on the River Nagara
 Series Japanese Scenes
 Utagawa Yoshimune II (1863-1941)
 not signed
Yoshimune in lower right
 Publication Date originally circa 1920s (appears in c. 1920 Hasegawa catalog, no. 1295)
 Edition later edition circa 1930s (Made in Japan stamp indicates this is a post 1930 printing for export.)
Nishinomiya Yosaku (Hasegawa Publishing)
right margin (image left) reading:
版権所有 all rights reserved 西宮與作 Nishinomiya Yosaku

[Marks: seal: not shown; pub. ref. 393.]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - light foxing , two small spots in sky, dirt on right margin, two remnants on verso from previous folio mounting, light wrinkling top margin
 Miscellaneous The top group of characters in the lower part of the right margin reads hanken shoyu which means "copyright owned by". The lower group of characters reads Nishinomiya Yosaku, the publisher's name.
 Genre shin hanga (new prints)
 Format Chuban
 H x W Paper 8 3/8 x 10 15/16 in. (21.3 x 27.8 cm)
 H x W Image 7 3/8 x 9 7/8 in (18.7 X 25.1 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Reference Literature