Skip to Main Contents

Tourism and Takiya-ryo

Trying a traditional fishing method of Lake Hamana

Chapter 8: Tourism for enjoying a traditional Japanese fishing method

One evening after work, my friends from work and I gathered together and headed for Lake Hamana. Our aim was to enjoy some fishing in the Takiya-ryo (torch fishing) style. We boarded wasen Japanese utility boats mounting Yamaha 4-stroke outboards with our fishing guides and motored out onto Lake Hamana as night began to fall.

A traditional fishing method of Lake Hamana

Takiya-ryo is a traditional type of fishing that was long practiced by the fishermen of Lake Hamana. In olden times, the fishermen lit torches on their boats to attract the fish at night. The name Takiya-ryo means fishing (ryo) by the fishermen of fish shops (ya) who lit torches (taki) to fish at night. Fishery throughout Japan has become more labor-saving and modernized, and Lake Hamana is no exception. For commercial fishermen today, it is difficult to make a living just on the fish they can catch with the Takiya-ryo method, so they have linked this fishing method to the tourist industry by taking customers out to actually catch fish at night using nets or spears.
The boats take us out in the evening, just as the sunset paints beautiful colors across the sky. As we cruise toward the fishing grounds, the excitement is already building among everyone on board. When it gets dark enough, the lights hung out over the bow serve as the modern-day substitute for the torches of old and are turned on to light the water while the boats move slowly over shallower waters. Some of us take nets in hand while others take up spears. The Takiya-ryo is about to begin.

Scooping up the fish gathered around the lights is actually quite difficult

A variety of species can be caught with Takiya-ryo

The motor is used when moving from one fishing point to another, but during the actual fishing the engine is stopped and the boat is propelled with a long push pole. Most of the outboard motors used on the boats here are tiller-handle types around 40 hp. The target catch changes with the seasons and a variety of species can be caught, including Japanese tiger prawn, Japanese blue crab, octopus, Japanese halfbeak, Japanese sea bass and Japanese black porgy.

Our target at the first fishing point we visited this night was Japanese halfbeak. When the lights were turned on we could look in the water and see them gathering around the boat. Nets are used to scoop them up, but it wasn't an easy task and they quickly slipped out at first. But once we got the hang of it, we found that we could catch the halfbeak with surprising ease. From each of the boats we could hear excited shouts as schools of halfbeak swam by. Once we had a good catch of halfbeak, the boats moved on to the next fishing point to look for octopus and bigger game fish. This time we took spears in hand and peered into the lighted waters. It was hard to even find a target in the water and we all had a tough time of it, but we eventually managed to get some delicious-looking octopus and Japanese flathead. After the Takiya-ryo on Lake Hamana is finished, our guide takes us to a raft out on the water where they prepare and cook our fresh catch for dinner. The tempura and deep-fried fish, shrimp and octopus, together with the added spice of knowing we had caught them with our own hands, all tasted delicious. Takiya-ryo is a traditional fishing method of Lake Hamana, and I believe it can be practiced in many places that have similar shallow waters with good transparency. If there is a place that fits this description in your local waters, take a spear or net in hand and give it a try. It offers a joy and satisfaction that is different from most types of sport fishing.

We caught Japanese halfbeak, flathead and octopus
Our fresh catch is cooked for us on a raft out on the lake
Back to