TOKYO — Japan, gripped by an unusually long heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring each day this month, on Wednesday looked to eels for relief.
Eating broiled eel in the summer, particularly on "Doyo Ushi no Hi" — a day determined by the ancient solar calendar that traditionally was considered the hottest of the season — has long been seen by Japanese as an effective way to beat the heat.
On Wednesday, this year's eel day, chefs in speciality restaurants were up with the dawn to broil eels. Some prepared more than a thousand.
Served atop a bowl of rice and topped with tangy sauce, eel is loaded with protein, a way of boosting energy levels drained by days of poor appetite.
Long lines formed in front of eel restaurants as customers sought out the richly-flavored delicacy.
"By eating eels, I hope to be able to survive the heat," one man told NHK national television.
Japan could certainly use some relief.
On Tuesday, temperatures rose to a record high of 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the town of Sakuma, around 94 miles southwest of Tokyo, the highest in the nation.
Three people died from heatstroke around the nation on Tuesday.
Water levels are falling in Tokyo-area reservoirs due to the heat and a lack of rain. Only 3.4 inches of rain has fallen since July 1, less than half the precipitation of an average year.