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Why eel? What is Doyou-no Ushi-no Hi?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Every year, when the mid-July approaches, many Japanese feel restless. Why? It is because of “Doyou-no Ushi-no Hi”. This is a very special day for many Japanese.

Doyou-no Ushi-no Hi is the day among the 18 days preceeding to the changing of the season and which falls on to the day of ox. In ancient China, people believed that the world is consisted with five elements, i.e. fire, water, wood, gold ant earth. Also in the Chinese zodiac calendar, there are 12 animals attributed to each day. So when the day of earth falls on to the day of ox, it is called Doyou-no Ushi-no Hi. Since prehistoric age, Japan was largely influenced by the Chinese culture, there still remains the system that the society puts importance in some occasions. This year (2020), it falls on to July 21th.

Then, why is Doyou-no Ushi-no Hi is so special to Japanese? Because it is the day when they eat one special cuisine; Unagi. Unagi is the word for an eel in Japanese. Unagi has been a special dish for Japanese because of its richness in nutrition and of course of its good taste. It is a long tradition in Japan that people enjoy this special meal on this day to prepare for a hot and humid summer by restoring energy by eating an eel.

In Tokyo, there are many restaurants specialized only to this meal. They are called Unagi-ya. On this day, people gather there for lunch or dinner. Convenience stores sell Unagi-bento and even take reservations for it at a very reasonable price.

Unfortunately, eels have become a rare resource and therefore the price of Unagi went up sky high. However, still this day continues to be one of the most important days of the year for many Japanese.

When you are in Tokyo during this period of the year, please do not hesitate to jump in to one of the Unagi-yas, and feel the ambiance and the taste of this long tradition of Doyou-no Ushi-no Hi in Japan.

As I live in the suburbs of Tokyo near Narita airport and the lake Imba-numa which is famous for the eels, I sometimes enjoy this local specialty. Expensive? No, because this is in a form of a bento with half portion of a locally produced whole eel, you can enjoy soft and crispy Unagi for only one thousand yen.

If you are interested, let us know on your next tour. I would be happy to accompany you to enjoy this Unagi-bento.


*There is a great Unagi restaurant near our Cycling Holiday Tokyo tour Kanda base. ( editor)


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