Maybe we Japanese should not be proud of today’s Unagi culture

Last modified date

Unagi is representative of one of Japan’s traditional foods.

The majority of Japanese people like Unagi.

Of course, I like it.

Unagi is a dish consisting of broiled eel with sauce on rice.

Unagi means eel.

Unagi is so delicious but I feel slightly depressed every time I eat Unagi.

This is because we Japanese may be eating poached eels  without realizing it.

This is highly likely.

To make matters worth, the businesses that provide eels(restaurants, wholesalers, and retailers) cannot know whether their eels are poached eels or not.

When I found out about that through the news a few years ago, I was really surprised.

In Japan today, most domestic eels have been farm raised.

This is because wild eels are decreasing in Japan.

The farm rising of eels starts with catching “glass eels” in the wild.

Glass eels mean young eels and they are farm raised until they become mature eels.

Artificial incubation of eels is technologically difficult today, so glass eels in the wild are essential for farm rising.

But the number of glass eels caught has dropped sharply  in recent years and this issue is already gaining global attention.

The glass eels are facing extinction.

The price of glass eels has gone up due to restrictions on fishing, and because of that, there has been a rise in illegal poaching.

Moreover, Japan imports glass eels from Hong Kong.

In the opinion of a specialist, it is highly likely that these glass eels have been poached.

Surprisingly, there is a possibility that half of the glass eels raised in fish farms in Japan are poached glass eels.

Those poached glass eels grow up to be mature eels and we may eat them as Unagi.

There are many causes of this, in any cases, it is sure that the traceability of the glass eels provided does not work well.

In the Edo period, about over 200 years ago, eels lived in rivers in Japan.

However, modernization had advanced and the increase of riverbank protection work and land reclamation project were a bad influence on the ecology of eels.

I don’t think that wild eels will increase in Japan. 

Modernization is not almighty.

So we Japanese need to rely on eels from farm raising and imports.

And not only that, we may be eating poached eels without realizing it.

That is really too bad.

I have wondered if I should stop eating eel in case it is poached eel.

Actually, I’m eating eel less and less, but haven’t stopped eating it altogether.

“Unagi” is Japanese traditional food culture, and I want that to continue for a long time.

So I visit the eel restaurant.

To be honest, I find myself in a dilemma.

To eat or not to eat, that is the question.

I’m still confused today.

The wild eels in Japan are being designated as an endangered species.

However, we have sufficient eels in Japan now, and most are farm raised or imported, so the news concerning problems with eels is out of the public eyes.

On the other hand, poaching still prevails behind that.

We must never forget that Japanese traditional “Unagi” are supported by tort.

Maybe we Japanese should not be proud of today’s Unagi culture.

Follow me!