土用【The doyo period】

The first days of spring, summer, fall, and winter were called risshun, rikka, risshu, and ritto when the lunar calendar was used. Doyo, strictly speaking, refers to the eighteen-day periods before these four days. Today, however, doyo generally only refers to the eighteen-day period before the first day of fall. The first day of fall is called risshu in Japanese, and it falls around the 8th of August on the calendar used now. The calendar says fall begins after the doyo period, but the doyo period is the hottest time of the year. The doyo period is in midsummer. It is very humid in this season in Japan and this makes many people tend to lose their appetite and feel poorly. People often use the words natsu-bate and natsu-make, which both have the same meaning, when they want to say that they are feeling poorly in the summer. It is customary in Japan to eat eel, which is very nutritious, on a special day called ushi-no-hi during the doyo period. Since ancient times eel has been thought to provide stamina and to prevent natsu-bate (natsu-make). The day called ushi-no-hi, which is translated literally as the day of the Ox, can be seen in the calendar that follows the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. The twelve signs were introduced to Japan from ancient China, and they are called junishi in Japanese. The twelve signs were allocated one by one to the days on the calendar. Ushi-no-hi is the day to which the second sign of the junishi is allocated. The doyo period, which lasts for eighteen days, has one or two days designated as ushi-no-hi.

旧暦では、春・夏・秋・冬の始まりをそれぞれ立春(りっしゅん)・立夏(りっか)・立秋(りっしゅう)・立冬(りっとう)と呼んでいました。そして立春・立夏・立秋・立冬の前のそれぞれ18日間を土用と呼んでいました。ただし現在では、土用は立秋の前の18日間を指すのが普通です。立秋は秋の始まりの日で、新暦では8月8日頃に当たります。暦の上では秋が始まるわけですが、実際には夏の一番暑い時期に当たります。日本の夏は大変蒸し暑く、食欲を失い体調を崩す人が少なくありません。夏の暑さのために体が弱ることを「夏ばて」または「夏負け」と言いますが、日本ではこの「夏ばて」を防ぐために土用の丑(うし)の日にうなぎを食べる習慣があります。うなぎは栄養価が高く、昔からスタミナをつける食べ物だと考えられてきたからです。「丑の日」というのは、中国から伝えられた十二支(じゅうにし)に日付けを順に当てはめて「丑」に当たる日のことです。土用の期間には丑の日が1日か2日あります。

Eel is called unagi in Japanese. Many people around the world may not feel like eating eel because eel looks like snake and is slippery. Eel is valuable in Japan, however, and Japanese dishes that use eel as ingredients are very expensive. There is little eel harvested from nature, and most of the eel eaten in Japan today is raised in aqua farms. It is very difficult to prepare eel. So, people rarely cook it at home. They go to restaurants that specialize in eel when they want to eat it, or they serve ready-to-eat eel that is already cooked. It is sold at supermarkets and stores for people to eat at home. One of the most popular eel recipes is to grill the eel with a mixture of soy sauce and sugar, which is called tare in Japanese. The eel tastes particularly good when it is grilled on a charcoal fire. This recipe is called kabayaki in Japanese. The taste of eel cooked this way goes well with the taste of plain white rice. Therefore, many people prefer to eat rice with several slices of grilled eel on top. Eel liver is also used for clear soup.

うなぎは細長くぬるぬるした魚で、日本料理の高級素材とされています。現在では天然のものは非常に少なく、養殖されたものがほとんどです。うなぎの下ごしらえは大変難しく、家庭で料理されることはほとんどありません。専門の料理店に行ってうなぎを食べるか、調理されたものを買ってきて家庭で食べます。うなぎに醤油(しょうゆ)と砂糖を混ぜ合わせたたれを付けて炭火で焼いたものを「かば焼き」と言います。かば焼きの風味はご飯との相性がよく、これをご飯の上にのせて食べる食べ方も好まれます。うなぎの肝は吸い物に使われます。

The thin and wriggly shape of the eel can be compared to various things. The Japanese language has many idioms that include the word unagi (eel). One idiom is unagi-no-nedoko which literally means the lair of the eel. This refers to a house that is narrow, but long. Another idiom is unagi-nobori which means that prices, temperatures, and status rise suddenly just as if eels wriggled and swam straight upward in the water.

うなぎの細長くくねくねした姿は、色々なものにたとえられています。「うなぎの寝床」は、間口が狭く奥行きのある細長い家を表します。「うなぎ上り」は、体をくねらせて水中をまっすぐに上るうなぎの姿から生まれた表現です。物価や温度、地位などが急速に上がることを意味します。

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