Japanese Food Culture – ‘Ushi’ or ‘Unagi’? 牛か鰻か Day of the OX

Jul 27, 2023


‘Doyo no ushi no hi (Day of the OX) ‘is July 3oth in 2023. People often eat ‘unagi (eel)’ on these days in order to prevent from summer fatigue in Japan. But also ‘ushi (cow/beef)’ is popular for ‘yakiniku (indoor BBQ) from the name of the day. Which would you like? I am sorry to talk about this if you are a vegetarian…


‘Doyo’ indicates the 18-19 days before the arrival of the new season (autumn) every year. Day of  ‘ushi’ are called ‘ushi no hi’ and the ones during the 18 days are called ‘Doyo no ushi no hi’. Every single day is one of the 12 animals called ‘12shi’ on Japanese calendar. And the day before ‘ushi no hi’ is ‘nezumi (mouse) no hi’ and the day after is ‘tora (tiger) no hi’ for example.


People believe that it is good to eat food starting with ‘u’ on ‘Doyo no ushi no hi’. Therefore, ‘unagi’ and ‘ushi’ are popular but you can also have ‘udon’ and ‘umeboshi (sour plum) as vegetarian options.


By the way, my student from the Netherlands suggested to try their ‘unagi’ dish when I went there on holiday. I tried it and it was simply cooked with salt and pepper with a dash of lemon juice. I realised that ‘unagi’ for me was the taste of the special source called ‘kabayaki’ and salt and pepper did not make me taste ‘unagi’ after all. I am sure that I really do not know the real ‘unagi’ flavour…


Do you eat ‘unagi’ in your country? I hope you have learnt something new about Japanese food culture related to the new season.


Mineko Arai

Managing Director

Arai Academy of Japanese Studies



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