Ukai, a traditional fishing method using cormorant, is demonstrated to tourists during summer season. There are twelve such shows across Japan and you can enjoy two of them in Kyoto, one in Uji and the other in Arashiyama.
Ten to twenty people on a boat watch the fisherwoman wearing traditional costume skillfully manipulates six cormorants and let them dive and catch fish in the river. People cheer when she successfully gets fish from the cormorants mouth.
Cormorant fishing is said to have more than 1,000 years history. The one in Nagara river in Gifu prefecture is the best known to tourists and others are not so much. But Uji City is easy to access and has very attractive temple (Byodoin) and shrine (Ujigami Jinja), both are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. So why don’t you visit these sites in the afternoon and take a rest enjoying green tea – Uji is very famous for the high quality tea leaf production, then get the boat for Ukai? You can walk to these sites from either JR or Keihan Uji station. It takes only fifteen minutes from JR Kyoto station to Uji station.
Cormorant fishing takes place in Uji from July 1st to September 30th, 2016. Buy the ticket (2000 yen/adult) for the boat until 18:00 (17:30 between September 1st to 30th, 2016). They have no reservation system.
Map of Uji city
Western Kyoto city, Arashiyama has another Ukai from July 1 to September 23rd, 2016. (two services each day starting at 19:00 and 20:00 from Jul. 1 to August 31st, 18:30 and 19:30 from September 1st to 23rd). Arashiyama district is a popular destination for cherry blossom and Autumn leaves viewing, and has a lot of attractive tourist sites such as Tenryuji temple and the bamboo forest. Thousands of tourists normally come in the area in the morning and leave for the city center in the afternoon. But people linger around the river for hours after sunset to enjoy cool breeze and watching Ukai during summer season. Ukai ticket is 1,800 yen in Arashiyama. They have no reservation system.