Posted by: ジャパンホッパーズ編集部(Japan Hoppers Editors) 26 Jul 2017

Enjoy the clear stream "Hijikawa" that flows through Ozu City

Enjoy the clear stream © N. Nomura

When you hear Ehime prefecture, one first thinks of Matsuyama City, which is also the largest city in Shikoku and the home of such famous Japanese writers as, Sogo Natsume and Masaoka Fumiaki and Mr. Masaoka Fumihira. Ehime prefecture is also known for Shimanami Kaido, which is famous as a towel production center and Imabari city, which is famous for cycling. This time we will introduce the "river activities" of Ozu City (Oshuji) which can be easily reached from Matsuyama city.

Ozu and Hijikawa

You can get from JR Iyo Ozu Station, which is located in the center of Ozu City from Matsuyama station via the JR express train in about 30 minutes. It is said that Hijikawa is a clear stream with over 470 tributaries, and since it winds around like an elbow, it is named Hijikawa (elbow river). Hijikawa has had a lot of flood damage since ancient times, and it seems that large floods hit the area often. In the area where the building from the Meiji era remains, there is a warehouse with a raised stone floor, and you can see evidence that the people of Ozu had to adapt to live aside the river. However, Hijikugawa also brought benefits to the land of Ozu. Rich river fish such as sweetfish, including Iwana and Amago, as well as agricultural crops such as taro and cabbage were produced by making use of the fine soil carried in by flooding. In addition, Hijikawa has also played an important role as a transportation route, such as transporting timber and essential daily goods.

Hijikawa is invaluable to Ozu. cormorant fishing and SUP are experiences even visitors can have to appreciate the beauty of this river.

Ozu's summer tradition "cormorant fishing"

cormorant fishing is a traditional event which is held from June 1 to September 20 every year, that has been prevalent for over 60 years in Ozu City. cormorant is a fishing method in which a person called an Usho manipulates a cormorant to capture sweetfish, and then makes it regurgitate the sweetfish. This method is known for not scaring the fish, like when traditionally fishing or catching them with nets. Cormorant fishing carried out throughout all of Japan, but the Hijikawa River is one of the three biggest Japanese cormorant communities. The others are Nagara River in Gifu Prefecture and the Hita River in Oita Prefecture.

Around 18: 30. When there was still light outside, I boarded a houseboat stopped on the riverbank. While looking at the Hijikawa and watching the boatman's skillful paddling, I ate my lunch box which contained plenty of local ingredients. I listened to boatman's story, and the sun went down quickly. While floating in a quietly flowing river, I noticed the brilliant blue scenery and lit-up Ozu castle in the background. This sight can only be seen in Ozu at this time.

After 19 o'clock, the area was covered in darkness. The boatman said, "A ship of Usho is coming soon", cheers were heard from the upstream. Then a fiery light appeared vaguely in the dark. The cormorant fishing began at last. On the boat which the Usho rides there is a burning fire, and the gleaming lighting illuminates five cormorants in the water in front of the boat. A Cormorant dived into the river and caught a sweetfish. Every time the cormorant captured one, cheers could be heard from the houseboats floating on either sides of the Usho's boat. The cormorants caught fish one after another to onlookers cheers.

The heat from the flames, the splash of a cormorant when dive, the mighty voice of the Usho . Only the cormorant fishers of Hijikawa are able to feel these at this close distance.

The luxury of having Hijikawa to your self, wake up early and experience SUP

After enjoying the charm of cormorant fishing at Hijikawa at night, I experienced the Hijikawa river in the morning. Since the river is calm and shallow you can enjoy activities in the the river."Osu Shioromachi Guesthouse", which was renovated from a old private house located in the immediate vicinity of Hijikawa, offers an early morning SUP experience for guests only. The guest house owner Mr. Misase will teach in detail, so even beginners of SUP can experience it without problems.

A small birds chirped, it's around 6 o'clock, the same time the nearby tofu store starts delivery in the morning. While trying not to yawn, I take the10 minute walk from the guest house. Through the morning mist Hijikawa river has come into sight. I descended to the river, and after practicing SUP for about 20 minutes I'm able to stand and ready to head out. From here we aim for Ozu Castle, which is about 1.5km away. We move slowly and it takes about 2 hours.

The first thing that I can see is the building with a roof that is projected from a cliff. This is one of the tourist attractions of Ozu City, the tea room of Yorishitayo which is designated as an important cultural asset. Looking up from the SUP, you can see that it is built on a rather steep cliff. You can also see it from a houseboat in the cormorant fishing experience, so you can enjoy the difference between the morning and night.

When you let yourself free to the flow of the river, the sound of the river, the sound of the wind, the sound of the fish jumping, and the sound of the birds chirping can be felt reverberating in the silence. It was worthwhile to get up that early in order to experience such a luxurious time. As I went further down the meandering river, I could see Ozu castle, the goal of this trip lying beyond the bridge. Ozu castle is built on a small hill, so it is impressive when you look up from the river. Looking up at the castle while doing SUP is what one can only experience in Japan and in Ozu.

How were the activities on Hijikawa of Ozu City at night and in the morning? Please experience it for your self when you visit Shikoku. Details of each activity can be confirmed at the following URL.

cormorant fishing
"Uta Hosoku" (from June 1 to September 20)日本語のみ)

Rukawa SUP
"Osu Shioromachi Guesthouse" (from July to October)

Enjoy the clear stream "Hijikawa" that flows through Ozu City: Image Gallery

ジャパンホッパーズ編集部 / Japan Hoppers Editors

ジャパンホッパーズ編集部 / Japan Hoppers Editors

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