A Seasonal Tradition on Summer Nights: Hiburi Fishing in Maze
Region： Maze, Gero
During the short period from late August to early September, a traditional fish-catching method is practiced on the Maze River, a limpid stream running through the Maze area of Gero City. When darkness falls at the end of a long summer day, fishermen surprise sweetfish, or ayu, with torches, fires and sounds to drive them out of their resting places so they can be caught by nets. This fishing technique is known as hiburi-ryo. After an interruption due to various changes, the hiburi fishing technique, which used to be one of the seasonal traditions in the Maze area, was resuscitated by local residents in 2012.
Highest quality sweetfish nurtured by the Maze River
The Maze area in Gero City is located deep in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture. You can enjoy distinctive seasonal landscapes throughout the year. Gero Onsen, selected as one of the three best hot springs of Japan, is also located nearby. The Maze area is also known for outstanding gastronomy featuring sweetfish, a river fish appreciated for its firm meat. Sweetfish can only grow in clean rivers with a rich natural environment. Sweetfish from Maze is particularly renowned for its good taste and flavor, and indeed, won the grand championship at the Special Sweetfish Tasting Festival in Tokyo. * The Special Sweetfish Tasting Festival in Tokyo, organized by Kikiayu-kai, an association sponsored by the Kochi Prefecture League of Ayu Fishing, is an event where sweetfish supplied from across Japan are rated for the purpose of commending excellent river environments.
With the opening of the sweetfish fishing season in summer, the Maze River attracts many fishermen from inside and outside the prefecture. Fishermen employ a wide variety of techniques, including tenkara fishing with traditional Japanese fly and tomozuri to capitalize on sweetfish’s habit of trying to drive off the decoy fish that penetrate its territory. The most visually attractive technique of all is definitely hiburi fishing, a traditional technique practiced on the Maze River at night.
Technique to drive sweetfish into nets with torches and bonfires
You can see hiburi fishing on the Maze River in front of Fishing Center “Mizube no Yakata,” a communication agency for the river. In the daytime, the site is full of family tourists enjoying playing in the river, trying to grab fish, and enjoying a barbecue. From late August to early September, the seasons begin to change as the temperature drops in the morning and in the evening. At sunset, the river is lined with a series of bonfires when a rallying cry of “ho-ho” starts to echo through the mountains. Fishermen begin to move onto the river swinging bamboo torches. Hiburi fishing is about surprising sweetfish to make them swim in a panic into the waiting nets.
You will surely be amazed by the dramatic scenery of the river surface reflecting the light of torches and bonfires.
Having dinner while watching hiburi fishing is a unique experience to enjoy all the blessings of nature
One of the privileges of watching hiburi fishing is that you can actually then enjoy eating the sweetfish. Book a set menu to enjoy sweetfish dishes and local sake on the riverside while waiting for the fishing to begin. In this way, you will be able to savor the delicious sweetfish while enjoying the pleasant evening breeze. At the end of hiburi fishing, you can see the nets full of sweetfish and join in the work of taking them out of the nets if you wish. You can smell a distinctive watermelon-like aroma when you remove the fish from the nets, which is why they are known as sweetfish. The aroma is said to depend on the feed – the more limpid the stream, the better the aroma. This is a truly unique experience for those wishing to enjoy all the blessings of nature.