Today is a special day in Japan. It is called doyou no ushi no hi, which literally means dog-day of the ox-day, or less literally Midsummer Day of the Ox. The name goes back to old times, when each month in the year was named differently, each day and hour (and even cardinal directions) were named after the Chinese zodiac… Anyway, dog-days is a good description, because this time of the year can be quite unbearable. And indeed, today was probably the hottest day so far in this summer, with 35 degrees, 60% humidity and bright sunshine. Of course, in the normal Japanese summer this is not a particularly special thing, but some reason which I could not find out, today is celebrated.
Today, Japanese people traditionally eat an unagi dish – unagi is the name of the Japanese eel – and it is said that eating unagi today is especially good for your body and increases its stamina and overall health. As unagi is my favourite Japanese food, I would not want to miss this occasion to have some. Unfortunately, there is some sort of disease befalling the Japanese eel, which makes it very expensive these days, and a lot of eel is even imported; however I thought that every now and then I was in for a treat…
At first I thought I’d simply get some unagi sushi from the supermarket, but I had to go to town anyway, and I timed it so that I could have lunch in a restaurant selling a number of different unagi dishes, mostly unagi donburi (hot eel on top of a bowl of rice flavoured with soy sauce. The restaurant was busy but not overly crowded, and most people had today’s special, which came in a red square box.
I cannot attest to the health benefit of my lunch – yet – but it was certainly very delicious!