Ushi no hi (丑の日)


by norio nakayama

As part of Japan’s culture, midsummer has a cultural significance. There are 18 days that are specified as midsummer days in Japan. People send summer greeting cards to one another during this time. Two of the days during midsummer are called the “Midsummer Day of the Ox” and is named after one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The Midsummer Day of the Ox usually falls on two different days, one at the end of the July and one at the beginning of August. The days change each year but one is always in July and the other in August. This year, the Midsummer Day of the Ox will fall on July 21st and August 2nd.

The Midsummer Day of the Ox is thought to have begun during the Edo Period, when an eel restaurant owner received many orders for eel one summer. He made eel over a period of a few days, but the eel that was served on the Day of the Ox was the tastiest. He believed that the midsummer day of the Ox was the best day for broiling and serving eel. Another legend is that an eel restaurant owner was struggling with sales so he visited a famous scholar for advice on how to up his sales. The scholar told the restaurant owner he should put out an ad on the “doyou-no ushi-no hi” (midsummer day of the ox) because people at the time believed they should eat dishes with the letter “u” as a way to beat the summer heat. After the restaurant owner placed the ad, his business thrived and people began to eat eel on these days.

People eat broiled eel, or “unagi” on the Midsummer Day of the Ox. Why do people eat eel on these days? It is thought that eating eel on these days gives people stamina and strength to withstand the hottest season of the year. Eel does contain many vitamins that are good for helping the body during the summer, such as vitamins B12, D and E. Some people even believe that eating eel during the summer is an effective way to lose weight, though such claims have never been proven.

The cheapest price for unadon, eel with rice, is 550 yen at the restaurant Yoshinoya However, at more expensive restaurants, like Idumoya, it can be upwards of 2940 yen! Unadon at the expensive restaurants is typically called “unajyu” and is served in a square lacquered box. The cheap unadon is usually just as tasty as expensive ones and it depends on your preference with regards to restaurant types.

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