The Dog Days of Summer
(on or around July 20th)

●土用 Doyo; the hottest time of summer; “the Dog Days of summer”
●鰻 eel
●鰻の蒲焼き unagi-no-kabayaki; eel split and grilled with special teriyaki sauce;
spitchocked eel seasoned with special teriyaki sauce
●串 (木・金属製の)skewer; (金属製の)spit
●串に刺した skewered
●~を串焼きにする (to) roast ~ on a skewer; (to) broil ~ on a skewer
●醤油 shoyu; soy sauce
●味醂 mirin; sweet rice wine
●酒 sake; rice wine
●砂糖 sugar
●肝 liver
●栄養がある nutritious
●夏ばて summer lethargy
●養殖 cultivation
●養殖する (to) cultivate
●輸入(する) import

In Japan, according to the lunar calendar, the first day of each season has a name.

The spring is Risshun, the summer is Rikka, the autumn is Risshu, and the winter is Ritto.

Doyo is celebrated 18 days before the start of each season (Risshun, Rikka, Risshu and Ritto).

Nowadays, however, Doyo has come to mean the 18 days before Risshu.

Risshu is the beginning of autumn, and this is usually the hottest time of the year in Japan.

In the lunar calendar, Juni-shi, the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac are used to designate the days of the month.

The Juni-shi signs are Ne (Rat), Ushi (Ox), Tora (Tiger), U (Rabbit), Tatsu (Dragon), Mi (Snake), Uma (Horse), Hitsuji (Sheep), Saru (Monkey), Tori (Chicken), Inu (Dog) and I (Wild Boar).

Ushi-no-hi (the ox day) comes around once or twice during the 18-day Doyo period.

People eat unagi-no-kabayaki, an eel split and grilled with special teriyaki sauce on Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi.

This special teriyaki sauce is made from shoyu (soy sauce), mirin (sweet rice wine), sake (rice wine), and sugar.

In the Kanto district, the eel is cut lengthwise from the back side, and in the Kansai district, it is cut lengthwise from the stomach side.

This is because of the Samurai influence on the Kanto area culture.

The Samurai didn’t like to cut the eels stomach because it recalled images of Seppuku (Hara-kiri); the Samurai’s suicide ritual.

People seldom cook eel at home, instead buying grilled eels from the shops or grocery stores or eat it at restaurants.

The powder of sansho (Sichuan pepper) is often used for unagi-no-kabayaki as a condiment.

The most popular way to eat eel is unagi-domburi (unagi-no-kabayaki over rice in bowl.)

Kimo-sui, clear soup made from eel liver, is often eaten with unagi-no-kabayaki.

Eel is very nutritious and prevents summer lethargy.

The custom of eating unagi-no-kabayaki on Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi has continued since the middle of the Edo era (1603-1867).

Gennai Hiraga, a naturalist, writer, and artist in the middle of the Edo era, is said to have started this tradition.

An eel seller complained to Gennai Hiraga that he couldn’t sell many eels during the summer.

Then, Gennai Hiraga wrote “Today is Ushi-no-hi” and used it to advertise the eel shop.

Recently, very few eels are caught in the wild; most are cultivated, and the price has been rising year by year.

A great number of eels are imported from Korea, Taiwan, and China.

Japanese eels are more popular than imported ones though Japanese ones are twice as expensive as imported ones.

People eat “Doyo-mochi” (Japanese rice cake for Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi) such as Ankoro-mochi (a rice cake covered with anko, sweetened bean-paste) as well as eel on Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi.

In some regions, “Doyo-shijimi” (Japanese small freshwater clams for Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi) is also eaten on this day.

(Please see “Our Dog Days of Summer Experience” for further information.)

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