Dog Days of Summer, in Korea and Japan

Summers in Japan and Korea are hot. I grew up in the Seattle-area my whole life and summers here are usually warm, mild and not very humid.

My first time in Japan during summer was a shock. Other than my time studying abroad in Vietnam, I had never felt such heat and humidity. Even people who live there get pretty uncomfortable this time of year. The summers get particularly bad during late July-August because the rainy season is over but the humidity remains. This is known as zansho (残暑).

In the past, I wrote about the tradition of eating unagi eels in Japan around July 15th. This known as doō ushi no hi (土用丑の日), where “ushi” (丑) refers to the Chinese-zodiac sign of the Ox. Foods with also starting with “u” became popular foods particularly unagi eels.

Eel kabayaki,Una-don,Katori-city,Japan

Korea also has its own traditions and summer foods. The period between mid-July to mid-Auguest is called sanbok (삼복, 三伏) or the “three prostrations”. The name comes from the fact that there are three holidays during this period: chobok (初伏, 초복), chungbok (中伏, 중복) and malbok (末伏, 말복). These signal the beginning, middle and end of the dog-days of summer. The days will slightly vary each year depending on the Chinese-calendar, still in use in traditional Korean culture.

A popular dish during this time is samgyetang (삼계탕 蔘鷄湯):

Korean soup-Samgyetang-06

Samgyetang is chicken soup cooked with ginseng, glutinous rice and often with other assorted herbs. At the H-Mart (Korean grocery store) near our home, we’ve purchased Samgyetang before and cooked it at home. It was pretty tasty. It’s a different flavor than any other chicken soup I’ve eaten before, but it was good.  Also, the ginseng, popular in Korean culture, and other herbs are thought to help reinvigorate a person during the terrible heat.

However you deal with summer heat, make sure to get plenty of fluids and rest, though! Enjoy!

P.S. 妻が送ってくれた韓国の参鶏湯や三伏の日ついての記事はこちらです。

P.P.S. You can find more Japanese unagi and summer here. For the Korean tradition, you can read here.

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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