Odds ‘N’ Ends: ‘Energy boosting’ eel drink goes on sale for Japan’s hot summer

By The Associated Press

TOKYO – It’s the hottest season of the year in Japan, and that means it’s eel season.

So, bottom’s up!

A canned drink called “Unagi Nobori,” or “Surging Eel,” made by Japan Tobacco Inc., hit the nation’s stores this month just ahead of Japan’s annual eel-eating season, company spokesman Kazunori Hayashi said Monday.

“It’s mainly for men who are exhausted by the summer’s heat,” Hayashi said of the beverage.

The beverage is believed to be the first mass-produced eel drink in Japan.

Many Japanese believe eating eel boosts stamina in hot weather.

The fizzy, yellow-colored drink contains extracts from the head and bones of eel and five vitamins – A, B1, B2, D and E – contained in the fish.

The Japanese particularly like to eat eel on traditional eel days, which fall on July 24 and Aug. 5 this year.

Demand for eel is so high that Japan has been hit by scores of eel fraud cases.

This type of fraud includes a recent high-profile incident.

In this incident, a government ministry publicly scolded two companies for mislabeling eel imported from China as being domestically grown.

The eel involved in recent scandals was prepared in a popular “kaba-yaki” style, in which it is broiled and covered with a sweet sauce.

The $1.30 drink costs about one-tenth as much as broiled eel, but has a similar flavor.

Eel extract is also used in cookies and pies made in Japan’s biggest eel producing town, Hamamatsu.