宇治放ち鵜飼

Untethered Cormorant Fishing

Untethered cormorant fishing is a method where the birds are released into the river without using a cord (approximately four meters long, connecting the usho and cormorant), where they are free to catch fish in the water as they like until they are called back by the usho. This method requires an even greater than usual level of trust between the cormorants and the usho. Until 2001, untethered cormorant fishing was performed domestically on the Takatsu River in Masuda, Shimane, but this is no longer the case.

The first ever artificially incubated Japanese cormorants in Japan were hatched in 2014 in Uji. The cormorants born in Uji are called “Utty,” a nickname selected from entries by the public, and are lovingly cared for day in and day out by the usho. Wild Japanese cormorants are usually temperamental birds, and quite sensitive to changes in the environment, but the efforts to artificially incubate and raise the Utty birds born in Uji have resulted in cormorants that are not afraid of humans, and are more easily acclimated to people than wild birds. Efforts are now under way to train them in untethered cormorant fishing so that they return to their masters when calling out “Utty.”

First Artificial Incubation in Japan

Cormorant fishing is currently performed in 11 locations around Japan. The birds who engage in this activity are wild Japanese cormorants caught in Hitachi, Ibaraki and then tamed. Because cormorants are very temperamental, they generally do not lay eggs in captivity. However, in the spring of 2014, two birds used for cormorant fishing on the Uji River began to pair and lay eggs for the first time. This extremely rare occurrence was incredibly surprising. The eggs were placed in an incubator in an attempt to artificially incubate them. Because cormorants had never laid eggs in captivity, and no one had ever attempted to incubate them artificially, staff had to feel their way through the process. On the morning of the 27th day after the eggs had been discovered, cracks in the shells were confirmed. From the cracked eggs, the weak cries of hatchlings could be heard. Staff kept an eye on them until they finally made their way out of the eggs late at night before dawn, making them the first artificially incubated baby cormorants born in the country! Note: The “first in Japan” claim is according to our research.

Utty Growth Record

Shortly after hatching, the birds were fed a fish paste via syringe, and kept in a sanitary, temperature controlled environment. With continuous feeding, they were able to stand about 20 days after being born. Although the cormorants sometimes faced challenges while maturing, the advice of local veterinarians and experts in avian care, and trial and error helped them grow and thrive.

  • Laying eggs

    Once the eggs were laid in the nest made by the parent cormorants in the birdhouse, they were replaced with imitation eggs so that the real ones could be artificially incubated.

  • Incubator

    The eggs were kept warm for about 27 days while being turned.

  • Just before hatching

    The crack in the eggs grew larger and finally the birds hatched.

  • 1st day

    First feeding while supporting the head.

  • 9th day

    The birds finally begin to see.

  • 15th day

    Their bodies grow a covering of feathers.

  • 20th day

    They begin to stand on their own two legs.

  • 30th day

    They begin to spread and flap their wings.

From hatchlings until they grow into young birds, usho care for the Utty as if they were their own children. Artificially incubated Utty instinctively imprint on the usho, recognizing them as their parents as they grow. Compared to other cormorants, Utty are friendly toward humans.

Utty are currently being trained to perform some time next year or the year after. Don’t miss the chance to come see cormorant fishing on the Uji River. This will be a first for both the usho and the Utty cormorants. We look forward to seeing you cheer them on!

Umiu no Utty

Umiu no Utty, the Uji River cormorant fishing mascot

On June 29, 2014, the first Japanese cormorants in Japan were born through artificial incubation. Umiu no Utty is a hatchling mascot representing the first artificially incubated Japanese cormorants born in Japan on the Uji River in Uji, Kyoto.

Nickname

■Trademark application number: 2014-101479

Design

Character designer
Ippei Gyobu

Total number of nickname entrants

420

Reason for selection

Umiu no Utty was selected from the entries based on its association with the city of Uji, Japanese cormorant hatchlings, cormorant fishing, character development, because it is easy to say, and because of its familiar feeling.

Character copyrights and authorization for use

The copyright (all rights, including Article 27 and Article 28 of the Copyright Act) for “Umiu no Utty” belongs to the Uji City Tourist Public Interest Incorporated Association, and is protected by law. It may not be reproduced, distributed, or modified without the consent of the copyright holder.

“Umiu no Utty” is posted and used by the Uji City Tourist Public Interest Incorporated Association with the permission of designer Ippei Gyobu, and the copyright of the authorized materials belongs to the designer.

For information on using the “Umiu no Utty” character design, please contact the Uji City Tourist Public Interest Incorporated Association.

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