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The Roots of the "Meguro Saury Festival" Lie in Rakugo Storytelling

Evans works for a Japanese company and he just loves delicious food. Today, he is again enjoying lunch while accompanied by his work colleague, Katsuko.

Meguro Saury Festival

Katsuko

This summer was really hot. Moreover, the remnants of the heat are still with us.

Evans

Katsuko, please perk up! The bounty of autumn is heading our way! There's lots of delicious food in autumn. There are chestnuts and matsutake mushrooms, grapes and nashi pears, and there's also saury (sanma in Japanese)…

Katsuko

Talking of saury, are you aware of the "Meguro Saury Festival"?

Evans

Meguro? As in Meguro, Tokyo? Places famous for saury are Hokkaido and Tohoku. If you are talking about the Kanto Region, there's Chiba as well. I don't believe saury can be caught in Meguro? For one thing, there's no ocean.

Katsuko

(Chuckling) Hearing what you just said, it seems that you don't know. There is a very famous rakugo story entitled, "The Sanma of Meguro."

Evans

What is the story about?

Katsuko

The story takes place during the Edo Period when a lord rides all the way to Meguro. On his trip he becomes hungry and he shares a very delicious saury that was being grilled by a farmer. A few days later, the lord again yearns to eat saury so he orders one of his retainers to make it happen. However, what is placed in front of him is a fish that has been steamed to the point that all of the delicious fat has disappeared. What is more, each and every bone has been delicately removed. It seems that the retainer imagined that this would make it healthier and easier to eat the fish.

Evans

That doesn't sound tasty at all.

Katsuko

Apparently the lord felt the same way. As such, he interrogates the retainer, "where did you get that saury from?" To which the retainer responds, "I got it from the fish market down in Nihonbashi," to which the lord replies, "you idiot, everybody knows the best saury comes from Meguro."

Evans

I see; that is a rather amusing story. So the lord was under the misapprehension that Meguro was somewhere well-known for saury?

Katsuko

Yes, it is a story about the worldly ignorance of the lord that made the masses laugh.

Katsuko goes on to explain the events that have grown out of "The Sanma of Meguro."

Katsuko

In a tribute to this rakugo story, every year, the "Meguro Saury Festival" and the "Meguro Sun Festival" are held in the vicinity of Meguro Station.

Evans

And everybody eats saury?

Katsuko

Correct. Saury caught in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture, and Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, are charcoal-grilled and given away.

Evans

But both of those cities were hit heavily by the Great East Japan Earth Quake?

Katsuko

Yes, but even so, both events were held in the autumn of 2011 as well, the year of the disaster. In not wanting to give in to the impact of the disaster, everybody joined together and the Port of Miyako sent some 7,000 saury, while the Port of Kesennuma managed some 5,000.

Evans

That is amazing! This year, I also want to go to the festival and eat delicious saury.

Katsuko

I intend to take the children. There will also be a free performance of "The Sanma of Meguro." So you can eat, laugh, and it is also free. Do you want to go together?

Evans

Certainly! I really look forward to eating charcoal-grilled saury!

●The 18th "Meguro Saury Festival" (September 8, 2013)

• The official website of the "Meguro Saury Festival"
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~xq7k-fsm/sanma.htm (in Japanese only)
• The "Meguro Saury Festival" website of the Youth Group of the Meguro Station Shopping District Promotion Association, Shinagawa City
http://www.owarai.to/meguro/ (in Japanese only)

●The 37th "Meguro Sun Festival" (September 15, 2013)

• The official website of the "Meguro Sun Festival"
http://sunfest.emeguro.com/
• "Meguro City News" (the English language newsletter of Meguro City) August, 2013 (Page 1)
https://www.city.meguro.tokyo.jp/gyosei/koho/monthly_meguro/
201308/files/meguro_No.294_web_0729_Part1.pdf
 (in English)
• Video of "The Sanma of Meguro" being performed (Meguro City website)(in Japanese only)
https://www.city.meguro.tokyo.jp/gyosei/shokai_rekishi/sanma/sanma_doga/index.html

* Meguro Sun Festival" is the popular name of the "Meguro Citizens Festival"