The Delicious Tradition: Why Japanese Eat Eel in Summer

The Delicious Tradition: Why Japanese Eat Eel in Summer

Hello everyone! Have you ever tried the Japanese delicacy called 'Kabayaki,' a dish made from grilled eel, during your travels in Japan? It might surprise you, but there's a fascinating tradition around consuming this particular dish, especially during summer. So let's dive right in and uncover why the Japanese eat eel, known locally as 'Unagi,' in the summertime.

The Reasons Behind Eating Eel in the Summer

In Japanese culture, the practice of eating eel in the summer is an important tradition that has existed for centuries. But why?

  1. High Nutritional Value: Eel is packed with a wide range of essential nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and several types of Vitamin B. These vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, regenerate energy, and help prevent the physical fatigue that can occur due to the summer heat.

  2. Doyo no Ushi Tradition: There's a specific day in the traditional Japanese calendar, known as "Doyo no Ushi no Hi", when it's customary to eat eel. Interestingly, this tradition began as a marketing strategy by eel vendors during the Edo period (1603-1868), which gradually became a norm. "Doyo no Ushi no Hi" usually falls during the peak summer, hence reinforcing the custom of eating eel during this season.

  3. Beating the Summer Heat: The high calories and nutrient content in eel serve as an excellent source of energy to combat fatigue and loss of appetite often associated with summer heat.

This tradition indeed presents a unique facet of Japan's summer culture. Yet, like any other cultural practice, it has its pros and cons:


  • High nutritional value helps replenish energy and nutrients.
  • It is a unique cultural experience, especially for tourists.


  • Overconsumption might lead to a decline in the eel population, posing a threat to sustainability.
  • The cost of eel has been skyrocketing, making it a luxury item for many.

The Role of Catchphrases in Promoting Eel Consumption

Catchphrases have played a significant role in promoting the tradition of eating eel during summer. But what's the story behind it? The first-ever catchphrase in Japan was used to promote the consumption of eel during "Doyo no Ushi no Hi." The slogan, "Today is Doyo, let's eat eel," was an ingenious Edo period marketing strategy by eel vendors that has left a profound impact on Japanese food culture.

Closing Thoughts

Eating eel has indeed become a costly affair over the years. However, this has not dampened the spirit of the Japanese, who eagerly look forward to devouring this delicacy on the special day of "Doyo no Ushi no Hi." This tradition of consuming eel during summer wonderfully showcases the intriguing blend of history, culture, and gastronomy in Japan. It also offers a unique experience for visitors, giving them a taste of Japan's rich cultural heritage.