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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on July 19, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 69] July 19, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 69]
July 19, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Taste:
Here comes this year again, the day of the ox in midsummer: Eel

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Nishiki-ishi: Nishiki Brocade Stone
2) Amakusa Tojiki: Amakusa ware

:: 1. Seasonal Taste

This is a Japanese traditional poem, Tanka, compiled in "Manyoshu
(the Japanese oldest anthology (7-8c))" No.3853 in vol.16, composed by
Otomo no Yakamochi.
"Ishimaroni Aremono mosu Natsuyaseni Yoshito iumonozo Munagi Tirimese"
Interpretation: I told Ishimaro that he should catch and eat eels
which apparently help for losing weight in summer.

Here is another Tanka by Otomo no Yakamochi, compiled in "Manyoshu"
vol.16, No.3854.
"Yasuyasumo Ikeraba aranwo hatayahata Munagiwo toruto Kawani nagaruna"
Interpretation: As long as you live, it doesn't really matter how thin
you are. Please don't even think of going to the river to fish eels in
case you may get swept away.

Doyo (土用) is the period in the calendar that signifies the changing
of the seasons and it is 18-19 days prior to the first day of spring,
summer, autumn and winter. Ushi (丑) means the ox day in the oriental
zodiac. The Doyo in the summer of 2016 is July 30th.

The best season for natural eels is between late autumn to early
winter when they swim down to the sea for spawning. It seems that it
has commonly been eaten to boost energy for weariness from the summer
heat since ancient times. Otomo no Yakamochi sang the 2 Tankas above
in the Manyo period (8c) and they are known as "Tankas to make fun of
a skinny person". He composed them for his friends that he was
concerned about, as well as to joke about them.

Eel is a well-balanced nutritious food, which contains a lot of
vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, B12, Folic acid, Niacin,
and Pantothenic acid on top of plenty of minerals like Calcium, Zinc
and iron. However, while Vitamin B helps to change carbohydrate into
energy, it can be lost easily in sweat as it is water-soluble.
Therefore, eel is an excellent food for recovering from fatigue under
the summer heat. It is surprising that people in the Manyo period (8c)
knew this fact from their experience even though there was no study of
nutrition at that time.

It is not known how they cooked in the Manyo period. Eels are now
usually eaten as "Kaba yaki (the fish is split down and boned,
butterflied, dipped in a rich sauce which is made with seasonings,
like soy sauce and sugar, before being grilled.)". The description of
"Kaba yaki" was first seen in "Suzuka kaki" written in 1399 in the
Muromachi period (14-16c). But original Kaba yaki was cooked in a
different way, cut into chunks, skewered, grilled and dipped into the
sauce like miso (bean paste) apparently. It is said that this skewered
eel looked like the ear of reed mace (Gama) and this was the origin of
the name "Kaba yaki".

It was in the 18th century in the Edo period when eel was linked to
the day of the ox in midsummer started. Cut eels were eaten with the
dipping sauce made with soy sauce. In this way, it has been a very
familiar food for Japanese people since ancient times. Do you eat it
in your country?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Nishiki-ishi: Nishiki Brocade Stone

Nishiki-ishi are stones produced in numerous locations in Aomori
Prefecture in northern Japan. When polished, the stones reveal their
beautiful sheen and luster. The term 'Nishiki-ishi' covers a wide
variety of stones, such as jasper, chalcedony, agate, rhyolite and
petrified wood.

Translation by Misa Imanaka-Miller, reviewed by Marina Izumi

2) Amakusa Tojiki: Amakusa ware

Aamakusa ware is a generic term of pottery and porcelain items which
are baked in the Amakusa region of Kumamoto prefecture (Southern
The name of Amakusa ware was newly applied when the ware was
nationally designated as a traditional craft product.

Reviewed by Tomoko Yamamoto

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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