Thursday, July 31, 2008

Young Ayu

Day ten: Young Ayu / 若 鮎

仙太郎 (Sentairō?) at Ikebukuro Tobu, ¥180

For more than a thousand years, fishermen in Gifu have used trained cormorants to catch
ayu, or sweetfish, during the summer months. Fishing takes place at night, and the fish are lured towards the riverboats by torches. The fishermen wait onboard as the birds dive among the schools of small fish, then return to the boat to cough up their catch (a ring around the bird’s throat keeps it from swallowing the fish). Crowds flock to Gifu to watch from the banks or hired boats. I’ve always wanted to go, and this year I just might make it!

In the meantime, I have this sweet in the shape of a young ayu. It’s one of a number of pancake-based sweets, a category of which I know very little. The pancake if folded to form the ayu’s body, and pinched to give it a little tail. A filling of sticky mochi glues the whole thing together, and the features are added with a little branding iron.

In Hideyuki Oka‘s marvelous book, “How to Wrap Five Eggs: Traditional Japanese Packaging”, these very same sweets are shown packaged for sale in a toy fisherman’s creel made of river reeds.

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