This August 6th, Bristol Fish Project invites you to join us in celebrating the Japanese tradition of Doyo no ushi no hi – the day of the ox. The day (from 3pm – 8pm) will involve the sharing of a variety of Japanese traditions including eating UNAGI – Eel provided by Kansai Kitchen (tickets for the day in general (free) and for the bbq (£10.02) here).
Entry is free though we encourage you to reserve your free place here as this will help us with numbers. There will be various opportunities to contribute donations – we are fundraising for our eel conservation programme.
Traditionally Doyo no ushi no hi occurs when the day of the ox (ushi no hi) falls in the ‘summer doyo’ – a period of about 18 days in late summer. Doyo no ushi no hi is celebrated by eating UNAGI – eel.
Eating eels on this day goes back a long time – to the Asuka period (飛鳥時代 592-710) when eating eels was considered an important way to get nutrition and fortification to get through the summer months. Eating unagi – eels is believed to help with heat exhaustion – and is even mentioned in Manyoshu (万葉集) – a collection of ancient Japanese poetry.
In Edo period (江戸時代 1603-1868) Hiraga Gen-nai (平賀源内) a Japanese inventor managed to create a sort-of-advertiseing byline along the lines of “Eat “U”nagi on Doyo no Ushi no Hi!” – playing with the U from Unagi and Ushi. Since then Japanese people keep this tradition to beat the heat.
We are fundraising for Eel Conservation efforts:
In celebrating Doyo no ushi no hi we are drawing attention to an important conservation story. Today many people eat eels – not just on doyo no ushi no hi. However eels – both Japanese and European variants are critically endangered. Most of the eels consumed in Japan are imported from China from baby eels (elvers) often smuggled from Europe where trade with Asia is now illegal in most countries. Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is recognised to be in systematic, steep decline. A complex web of interacting factors are attributed to this trajectory – overfishing, climate change, barriers to Eel migration routes, changes in predation and poor hobbyist practices, to name very few.
Through the Sustainable Eel Mechanism we are selling a small proportion of the Eels we raise onsite into the food chain, to raise money for the activities required to cultivate eels for release into the local waterways as well as deliver educational programmes relating to eel conservation. As technology improves we plan to move from wild-caught to bred-in-captivity-eels as soon as these become commercially available. This means we can continue our eel conservation efforts in the longer term.
At this rate we may be some of the last generations to enjoy customary eating of unagi – eels. We asked you to take part in thinking about the fate of the eel, and the environment and to support us in our efforts towards this magnificent species’ conservation by joining us on the 6th of August.