Sunday, October 16, 2005


October 13, 2005

This was the day that I fully enjoyed the privilege of living in this rural prefecture. I had a chance to see the traditional local-style cast net fishing, and went home with some fish given to me as a souvenir!
(Click photos to enlarge. 写真はクリックすると大きくなります。)

Perhaps cast net fishing is nothing unusual; people in many countries seem to do it for living or for recreation. I even found announcement of “cast net competitions” outside Japan on several websites. However I should say that here in Kochi, they have developed a very unique castnetting culture. Not only they developed a unique throwing style called Tosa-ryu (Tosa style), the enthusiasts in this prefecture practiced on land so hard that they finally turned it into an athletic event, on-land cast net throwing competition called Oka-ami. This “dry” castnetting competition, with the unique, colorful cast nets for “athletic use,” is something you cannot find anywhere else in Japan (or possibly in the whole world?).

photo 018This is how an “athletic” cast net (left) looks compared to a regular cast net commonly used for fishing in the river (right). Athletic versions are bigger, all hand-made and not available at fishing-gear shops, according to Mr. K who invited me to see the demonstration yesterday. What they do is that they buy nylon fishing lines at the store and dye them with the colors they like, and make their original cast nets. Those who are not skillful enough ask more experienced people to make one for them. It is said that two to three weeks are necessary to finish one net and it probably costs around 40,000 to 50, 000 yen (apx. US$350 to US$440) to make one. The leads are usually called “iwa(rock)” but in Kochi they are sometimes called “hiru (leech)” because of their shape.

Colorful nets for athletic use

Mr. K, Mr. YM, and Mr. YS kindly demonstrated Tosa-style cast net throwing for me.

In athletic castnetting, the net must be thrown from a special board which is considered to be the bow of the ship. Mr. K said that here in Kochi, experienced masters used to strictly teach younger members to show respect when getting on the board by taking off shoes and stepping on from rear of the board, not from side or front.

Tosa-style castnetting. Now he’s loaded and ready to throw.
See the throwing motion in a slideshow here. To have a sense of continuum, set the speed to 1 second.
網を打つ動作をスライドショーで見るにはここをクリック。連続した感じを出すには、スピードを 1 second(左端)にして下さい。

It's a little hard to see in the photo, but there are ropes stretched on the ground in a radial pattern to be used as measurement lines. After landing on the ground, the net is measured on certain lines to figure out how far and how wide it spread out, and based on the sum of the measurements, the ranking of the person is decided.

The competition is held 4 times between January and March every year (2 throws per person at one competition), and the annual ranking is decided based on the result of all competitions. This is their official ranking list. If you are familiar with Japanese traditional wrestling, Sumo, you might think that this looks just like Sumo ranking list. Yes, they adopted the ranking system from Sumo wrestling.
Copyright:高知県投網連盟 Kochi-ken Toami Renmei

After each throw, the net must be properly arranged again. It does get tangled sometimes. Mr. YS, very experienced member, always helped others when troubles happened.

Cast net throwing by Mr. YM
Slideshow here. To have a sense of continuum, set the speed to 1 (fastest).
スライドショーで見るにはここをクリック。連続した感じを出すには、スピードを 1 second(左端)にして下さい。
It was so exhilarating to see the net spreading in the air, making a light friction sound.

The demonstartions finished before noon. I was already delighted to see their performance and to be filled with information on this unique castnetting, but they offered me more. They asked me if I wanted to see them actually net-fishing in the river!! Of course! I was nothing but a shameless middle-aged woman at that moment.

...To be cont’d.

Information from 高知県投網連盟 Kochi-ken Toami Renmei (a local association of castnetting enthusiasts)

* More information on the history of Tosa-style castnetting will be posted here soon. Please wait.
posted by obachan, 10/16/2005 02:44:00 AM


beautiful cast nets!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10/19/2005 5:38 PM  
Thank you soooooooooo much for leaving a comment! Yes, they are really beautiful, aren't they? Looks like each of them wanted to have a one-and-only cast net that does not look like anybody else's. I can relate to that because I felt the same way about my pool cue.
commented by Blogger obachan, 10/19/2005 10:08 PM  
"throw net"....as it's called in Hawaii, but we don't have contests that I know of. Of course, too, maybe not enough fish left in the ocean to throw net at, so today, there's not that many enthusiasts.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11/19/2005 2:03 PM  
Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment! I'll forward your comment to them. :) I’ve never been to Hawaii yet, but always thought that it must be a “fishery paradise” full of fishing and castnetting enthusiasts. Maybe that’s not true? I wonder what people over there would feel about this kind of “athletic” cast net throwing…
commented by Blogger obachan, 11/21/2005 10:13 AM  
hello I am French and it is with pleasure that I am tomb on your blog I am impassion by fishing and the manufacture of the cast Net I will be glad to discuss with professionals in order to echanger with the idees and if it is possible to have the plans to make thank you a cast Net for an answer has soon François Xavier
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 12/30/2005 7:45 PM  
Hi! I'm soooooooooooooo happy to hear from a French person about this cast net topic! I'll tell these people about your comment and they'll probably want to email you (I'll translate their email into English.)
Thanks again.
commented by Blogger obachan, 1/03/2006 2:33 PM  
Hi talaya,
I'm so happy to hear from you. So you are interested in starting this athletic castnetting event over there? :D I'll ask around about net makers. Can you email me at the address in my profile, so that we can exchange information, please?
commented by Blogger obachan, 7/09/2006 11:22 AM  
hello, my name is Patrick, i'm brazilian and i like cast net. Visit my blog about cast net. tarrafadepesca.blogspot.com
commented by Blogger v, 1/17/2013 9:38 AM  

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