Temperatures are cooling down and the season of summer festivals has almost come to an end for another year. One of the favourite summer snacks that appears at many festivals around here is the sweetfish (or ayu in Japanese) impaled on a wooden stick, covered in salt, and slow roasted over hot coals. It is one of those tastes in Japan that conjures up a whole season. Stand by the ayu stall and you will see much excitement from festival goers, and more of then than not, they will take a photo of their fish before devouring it. The rivers of Snow Country are particularly well known for sweetfish due to the clear waters.
The ayu is a river fish that eats nothing but moss (whereas other river fish snack on flies and bugs). Due to this healthy diet the ayu doesn’t need to be gutted but can be cooked and eaten in its entirety. As it is slowly cooked for almost an hour all its bones turn really soft and can be eaten too. Should you try one of these for the first time you should start eating from the tail, and eat everything all the way down to the head, bones and all. Don’t nibble the flesh from the side. Enjoy the soft summer fish with its coating of salt and you will get a real taste of Japanese summer.