Friday, May 14, 2010

this year's first catch of bonitos

目には青葉 山ほととぎす はつ松魚 (山口素堂)
"Now, we can see the fresh green of trees, hear lesser cuckoos' songs in mountains and this year's first catch of bonitos has arrived at fish markets." is a haiku written by Yamaguchi Sodou(1642-1716).

Katsuo(鰹,松魚:bonito):
Bonitos are in season now. They ride the warm Kuroshio(Black Current) north from spring to summer and come down from the north in autumn. They reach off the coast of Kyusyu from February to March and are landed in fishing ports near Tokyo around May.
The first catch of bonito is highly prized for the superstition that eating the first crop (or catch) of the season extended lifespan in the Edo Period. So they were often traded at a high price and the price of one bonito hit a historic high of 400,000 yen. To prevent overheating, the official release date is fixed by a law as the first day of the 4th month in the lunar calendar.
May 14th is that day this year. Now, bonitos go on sale by April.



illustration: M/Y/D/S動物のイラスト集 (Japanese version only)
all rights reserved

Hototogisu(杜鵑、時鳥、子規、不如帰、杜宇、蜀魂、田鵑:lesser cuckoo or cuculus poliocephalus):
Ancient people valued lesser cuckoos because their song herald the arrival of summer. They often appear with tachibana(橘:Citrus tachibana)or unohana(卯の花:deutzia) in Japanese classical literature. They feature sing loudly, even at night.

A lesser cuckoo appears in the following song "Natsu-wa-kinu(夏は来ぬ:Summer has come)", which was written by Nobutsuna Sasaki(佐々木 信綱 1872-1963) and was composed by Sakunosuke Koyama(小山 作之助 1864-1927).

卯の花の匂う 垣根に
時鳥 早も来鳴きて
忍び音もらす 夏は来ぬ
"A lesser cuckoo perched on a branch of scented deutzia hedge.
I've heard this year's first song of the cuckoo.
It announced summer has come."

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