Monday, July 20, 2009

Yay, Unagi Day!

(one famous eel restaurant in my city)

This year, Doyo-no-Ushi-no-he(Midsummer day of the OX) fell on July 19th in Japan. Many Japanese in groups and families visit the local famous eel restaurants and eat unagi(eel) with rice. At eel restaurants, unagi are grilled on the charcoal and dipped into a heavy, special made sauce of their each secret and this process are repeated until they are done. In fact, this “tare”, a special sauce differs from each restaurant and that counts in deciding which restaurant is best.
Mmmmm, this heavy" tare" is a heavy mixture of all different ingredients based on soy sauce, sugar and other are all different from restaurants to restaurants and the recipe has been kept secret.
I know many visitors from abroad are stunned to know we eat eel but in fact you’ll love it when you try. I love love love unagi. Of course, you can take them out from a restarant and a department store.

But why are we so much absorbed in having it on this day?

Doyo” is the period of 18 days before the beginning of every four season on the lunar calendar. And today when we talk of “doyo”, it widely refers to the “doyo” of summer which brings about the hottest and hardest climate throughout a year. (by the way, “ushi”(ox) is a sign which refers the order of year, month, date and time based on the ancient Japanese zodiac cycle.)

People in olden days tend to follow an old saying that if taking some food of which names start with “u”, they have little chance to get sick during this hottest season.
(HIRAGA Gennai)
And there comes another story of one famous inventor of that era. His name is HIRAGA Gennai. He made one suggestion to one owner of the eel restaurant having a trouble on running his eel restaurant during hot summer with few customers. This famous inventor suggested that the owner should put an ad saying “Eat Unagi on Doyou-no-Ushi-no-he and you’ll be in a good shape during the hottest season.” Yes indeed, “u” for Unagi! So people love this and since then the custom has been enjoyed up until today. Eel has a good, stamina-providing nutritious balance, and it is ideal for this time of year, when people tend to lose their appetites because of the heat.
My family of course, went out to have unagi at one of the unagi resutaurants one week in advance when my daughter came home. It was sooo delicious.

(all of the pictures from two restaurants web sites)


Dionne said...

I LOVE eel! I like most seafood actually, but eel is one of my favorites! I would love to go to Japan and try the eel there!

I totally forgot that I have been to Tokyo before, but only for 2 days, as a layover from Australia to the US when I moved out here. Unfortunately, I didn't have any eel.

katztales said...

We eat a lot of eel in Holland ("gerookte paling") but the idea of an eel festival sounds even better!

Our friends here who work for Japanese companies had a day off yesterday - and now I know why!

Hope you enjoyed it and I love the history blog :-) More stories from Japan please.

photojoy said...

Dionne, so you landed on Tokyo. Did you find anything exciting?

katztales, is that so? I didn't know Dutch people like eel. How do you usually cook it, I wonder.

Pamela said...

Wow! I've never tried eel but it looks really yummy in those pictures!

Sorry I haven't been around for a while, but I am so excited you were able to try canning!! I was so happy when I read about it. How did the blackberry sauce turn out? Last night I made applesauce and mixed a few blueberries with is so pretty! I'll post pictures soon. :)

Jeany said...

I love Japanes food, but there are not many japanese restaurabnt where I live. so interesting this story. hi, from jeany