Japanese Summer Tradition, Eel Eating Day (Doyo-no Ushi-no Hi ) |土用の丑の日を英語で紹介

On “doyo-no ushi-no hi”, we traditionally eat eel to fight off our summer fatigue. On the eel eating day, you will see a lot of grilled-eels or eel bowls displayed at supermarkets and convenience stores: since we don’t normally cook eel at home. Also, ell restaurants are super busy on the day.

Doyo is the period of 18 days before autumn starts. The ushi is an ox who is one of the 12 symbols of the Chinese zodiac. This year we have two “doyo-no ushi-no hi” . They are on Saturday, July 23 and on Thursday, August 4. But why do we eat eel on “doyo-no ushi-no hi”?

It is said that “doyo-no ushi-no hi” was first started by a well-known scholar, Gennai Hiraga(平賀 源内) during the Edo period. His friend’s eel restaurant was suffering from a decrease in sales during the summer. In order to save the restaurant, Gennai started an ad campaign and put up a flyer saying, “doyo-no ushi-no hi” is an eel-eating day!” He might have known that an eel was a nutrient rich food. Actually eel had been eaten as a medicine to restore energy since ancient times. Well, it sounds like eating eel will be effective for summer fatigue regardless of “doyo-no ushi-no hi”.

Anyway, we eat eel on “doyo-no ushi-no hi” as part of a yearly summer event. Grilled eel rice bowls (Unaju) are the most popular. Eel dishes are a bit pricy, but they are delicious and nutritious. The grilled eel with soy sauce is sweet, and juicy with a pleasant barbeque aroma.

2022年の土用の丑の日は、7月23日(土)と8月4日(木)です。この日にウナギを食べてスタミナをつければ、夏バテしないといわれ、コンビニやスーパーに「ウナギの蒲焼き」が並びます。

この習慣の起源は諸説ありますが、江戸時代、蘭学者の平賀源内が宣伝として立ち上げたという説が1番有名です。知り合いのウナギ店が夏に売上が落ちて困っていたため、“土用の丑の日はウナギを食べる日”としたのだそうです。しかし源内は、ウナギは栄養満点という事実を知っていたのでしょう。ウナギは奈良時代から滋養強壮にいいと食されてきました。夏バテ防止にウナギを食べるのは理にかなっているんですね。

(今日の単語)
土用の丑の日 は、固有名詞なので”doyo-no ushi-no hi” でよいですが、midsummer day of the ox やeel eating day と紹介されます。夏バテを撃退するは“fight off (one’s) summer fatigue”や”beat the summer heat” などが使えます。

Chinese zodiac 十二支
suffer from a decrease in sales  during summer 夏の間、売上の減少に悩む
flyer チラシ、ビラ
nutrient-dense 栄養豊富な
grilled eel rice bowl うな重

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