NARITA, Chiba – Imports of farmed eels at Narita International Airport east of Tokyo are at their peak ahead of “Doyo no Ushi no Hi” on Ox Day falling on July 28 this year when the Japanese traditionally eat grilled eel to beat the heat.
Most of the eels come from China and Taiwan. One importer said vacuum-packed “kabayaki” – grilled eels in a sweet sauce – were selling well due to strong demand for home lifestyles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The eels that arrived on July 20 from Taiwan were about 40 centimeters long and weighed between 200 and 250 grams each. The fish moved and some even jumped, as they were carried from the bags to the containers. Customs employees at the Narita branch checked documents, contents and production areas while touching the eels.
“The good plump eels have arrived,” said Koji Nishikatsu, 72-year-old president of Narita-based importer Marukatsu KK. “I hope people get over the hot summer by eating tasty eels.” Marukatsu plans to import a total of 50 tonnes of eels in July and intends to make 10% vacuum kabayaki for shipment.
According to Narita Branch Customs, 4,484 tonnes of eels were imported through Narita Airport in 2020, or about 82% of domestic eel imports. Some 2,137 tonnes were imported between January and May 2021, of which 84% from China and 15% from Taiwan.
(Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)