Shinhama - the Imperial duck decoy

Peter Scott


The Japanese duck decoy or Kamoba was evolved from the European type during the 19th century. The major difference is that in the Japanese form the ducks are caught individually with a hand net, which is regarded as a sporting activity and a social occasion. Two such decoys are maintained by the Imperial Household, one on fresh, the other on brackish water... Briefly the principle of the Kamoba is that, as in European decoys, the ducks are perennially undisturbed on a quiet pool, surrounded by dense thicket. In this case additional attractions are a supply of millet seed, and the continuous quacking of 200 large 'farmyard' ducks. Radiating from the pool (or tamari) are a number of narrow vertical-sided ditches (hikibori) about 5 feet wide and 25 yards long, which bend sharply where they leave the pond and pass through the bamboo thicket. The rest of the hikibori is straight with a grassy space on either side and across the end of each is an observation hut (konozoki) with a 'tube' down which millet seed is rolled to lead the ducks on. The catchers, who in the Imperial decoys are for the most part distinguished politicians and diplomats, assemble behind a bank and when the decoyman decides that enough ducks are in, they are deployed, each with a 'butterfly net', on both sides of the little channel.

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