Study of techniques to catch Japanese cormorants in Jyu-o town, Hitachi City, Part 2

Decoy cormorants placed in front of a hut (where catchers wait for cormorants) on a 15-meter-high cliff
A cormorant that has just been hooked and caught

 This study examined techniques of catching Japanese cormorants (an intangible folk cultural property of Hitachi City) in Jyu-o Town, Ibaraki Prefecture in the beginning of November. This was the second time this area was visited since last spring, when the aftermath of the earthquake in March was investigated. Since the study took place midway through the autumn cormorant season, the actual techniques used to catch cormorants were observed and recorded. Cormorants in flight are lured in by using several cormorants as decoys. They are then hooked with a long bamboo pole, placed in bamboo cages with their bills fixed with a little wooden implement called a Hashikake, and sent to cormorant fishing sites all over Japan.
 Researchers were fortunate enough to see a cormorant been caught during the study since cormorant catchers mentioned that they often saw no cormorants flying even after waiting for several days. In terms of the type of technique, techniques to catch cormorants could be categorized as ambush hunting techniques, which include techniques to catch falcons and Mabushi hunting, a primitive style of hunting. Cormorant catching retains this primitiveness because catchers have to select and catch only quality cormorants and because large numbers of cormorants need not be caught. However, this also means that cormorant catching alone cannot constitute one’s livelihood, resulting in a lack of catchers to carry on the technique. Since almost all of the cormorant fishermen at 12 locations in Japan use cormorants caught in Jyu-o town, this technique of catching cormorants is an important folk technique that sustains traditional cormorant fishing in Japan. Additional safeguards are needed to pass on this technique in the future

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