x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Falconry a hallmark tradition in UAE and Japan

Falconry in Japan enjoys a history that goes back centuries.

A falcon proves to be one of the star attractions for photography enthusiasts yesterday at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition.
A falcon proves to be one of the star attractions for photography enthusiasts yesterday at the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition.

ABU DHABI // Falconry is not only a hallmark tradition in the UAE, but in Japan too, according to a visiting Japanese falconer.

Noriko Otsuka, a guest at Adihex, said Japan had about 300 people who worked with birds of prey, but only about 50 falconers. Most, she said, worked with goshawks.

“I have falcons and goshawks. We’re not allowed to catch domestic falcons so we have to import falcons bred in places like the UAE.

“For most of us it’s a hobby, but some people have jobs in pest control. There’s also a school of falconry in Japan so some people work doing demonstrations of falconry.”

Ms Otsuka began studying falconry in 1995 under Zenjiro Tagomori, the 17th head of the Tokyo-based Suwa Falconry Preservation Society.

According to Suwa, falconry can be traced back as far as the fourth century; having travelled down the Silk Road from Ancient Korea, China and India.

Falcons were depicted in artefacts and paintings, including one of a sixth-century clay figure of a foreign nobleman holding a falcon.

And falconers were gifted to the imperial Tokugawa family, the feudal military government between the 17th to 19th centuries.

It began as an aristocratic pastime, but by the 15th century had spread to samurai, the military nobility.

During times of war, falcons and hawks were given as gifts between warring parties.

Former Tokugawa falconers lost their jobs during the Meiji Era, which followed the 19th-century fall of the shogunate, but schools such as Suwa are working to preserve the tradition.

Ms Otsuka said: “I could not bring my falcons from Japan so I borrowed one from here; to introduce our traditional equipment in the UAE. “But,” she added, “the falcon is Emirati.”

halbustani@thenational.ae