Akagai (ark clam)



Ark clam , "red clam" (akagai)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All Spring
***** Category: Animal


akagai あかがい【赤貝】 lit. "red clam"
ark shell, bloody clam, bloody shell
..... kisa 蚶(きさ)
"blood shell", chigai 血貝(ちがい)
Anadara broughtoni
Scapharca broughtonii

It lives on the muddy bottom of shallow inlays. Its liquid is bright red like blood.
Its edible parts are the "tongue" and the "thread" (akahimo 赤紐), also the liver.

From Yuriage 閖上(ゆりあげ) near Sendai, this is the best from Japan.

The fishermen in Yuriage port only take out big ones and make sure not to overfish. Caught in the morning for four hours during the season in April and May, they are shipped and sold at Tsukiji market in Tokyo next morning.
Later in the year, akagai come from Ehime.
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This mussle is also called "butterfly mussle", because for sashimi or sushi it is cut to look like a butterfly. 蝶貝

Th black liver is especially taken out and prepared raw, boiled or fried.

During the Edo period, when rich folk and samurai started to eat white rice, this akagai was their only source of vitamin B.
Edo wazurai, see below.

Kubota Mantaro, the Haiku Poet died on 6 May 1963 at the age of 73, of food poisoning, after eating an akagai clam at a party held by Ryuzaburo Umehara.

Kanman-ji 虫甘満寺 / 蚶満寺 the Temple Kanman
The first Kanji character ‘虫甘’ means ‘赤貝(akagai), ark shells”. . . lit.虫甘 "insect that tasts sweet", an old Chinese character for the ark shell.

akagai from Kisakata, Temple Kanman-Ji
Matsuo Basho


In the "Records of Ancient Matters" (Kojiki 古事記) we read this:

Umugaihime and Kisagaihime
蛤貝比売命(うむがいひめ) / 蚶貝比売命(きさがいひめ)

CLICK for original LINK ... genbu.net
source : genbu.net.data/toutoumi/kisa_title.htm

According to the Kojiki account, the two deities dispatched by Kaminusuhi to resurrect Ōnamuchi after his eighty brothers had killed him with a heated rock. Kisagaihime gathered shavings from seashell and Umugaihime mixed them with the juice from a clam, applying them "as mother's milk" to the burns and thus reviving Ōnamuchi.

Umugaihime is a personification of the
cherry-stone clam (hamaguri), while
Kisagaihime personifies the ark-shell (akagai).

As a result, this story appears to involve the mythic iteration of an ancient folk remedy, in which grindings from the ark-shell were mixed with the juice from the cherry-stone clam to produce a treatment for burns.
source : Yumiyama Tatsuya, 2005
Kokugakuin University


Dishes with the "red clam" 赤貝料理

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In Japan it is often sold in cans. The type saruboogai サルボウガイ is used.

akagai don 赤貝丼 served in a bowl on cooked rice

akagai himo 赤貝ひも / 赤貝紐 thread of the ark clam
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akagai kamaboko 赤貝かまぼこ fish paste with venus mussels
prepared in Sendai.

akagia kimo 赤貝肝 liver of the arc clam
often fried or put in soup
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akagai marine 赤貝のマリネ marinated ark clams

akagai nuta 赤貝ぬた seasoned with miso and vinegar

akagai shabushabu 赤貝しゃぶしゃぶ
in water of only 65 degrees, eaten with ponzu, sesame and chives sauce

akagai no su no mono 赤貝の酢の物 marinated with vinegar

akagai sushi 赤貝 寿司 sushi with ark-shell
The red meat is cut slightly (kazari boochoo) to make the meat better chewable.
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Together with white ika squid it gives an "auspicious meal" for festivities.


aji okowa 味おこわ tasty rice gruel with red beans
Prepared for festivals and celebrations. In the mountains prepared with mountain vegetables, along the coast with red ark shells (akagai).
Dishes from Tottori

Worldwide use

Rote Venusmuschel, Archenmuschel.

Things found on the way

Edo wazurai えどわずらい
"the Illness of Edo", Edo disease

beriberi; vitamin B deficiency
. . . . . kakke 脚気(かっけ)

Toward the 18th century, this mysterious disease started as an affliction of the rich and wealthy, who could afford to eat polished rice, which let to vitamin B deficiency.
Poor townspeople in Edo, who ate brown rice, did not get it, also the poor in the countryside.
Even the 8th Shogun Yoshimune suffered from it for a while, until his cooks gave him a sidedish with the ark clam in miso-vinegar. The ark clam contains a lot of vitamin B.

Once the Tokugawa Shogun established the government in Edo (the former name for Tokyo,) the city attracted people and merchants, drawn to the new capital. Edo is thought to have been the largest city in the world at that time. There was a saying at the time that “Fires and brawls are the flowers of Edo.” Vast numbers of people migrated into the city as workers.
The new arrivals were poor but healthy while Edokko or people who had lived in the town for several generations were suffering from “Edo Wazurai,” or beriberi. Soba turned out to be the prevention and cure, the secret that had protected the newcomers.

Beriberi is caused by a deficiency in Vitamin B. Rich people could afford polished rice; the poor ate whole rice or soba cheaper but much more nourishing. So Edo Wazurai became a condition among the rich. The actual cause of beriberi was unknown until the mid-20th century. Japanese Imperial Army doctors who studied in Germany believed it was the result of bacteria, while Navy doctors studying in England believed the cause was a dietary deficiency and proposed equipping the entire Imperial fleet with baking ovens. This did not, in the end, go forward because of budget constraints.
source : Tetsuya Iizuka (Soba Canada Inc.)


. . . CLICK here for Kagurazaka restaurant Photos !

Kagurazaka 神楽坂
is a trendy neighbourhood in Tokyo, near Iidabashi Station.

It is also widely regarded as an important center of Japanese cuisine within the Kanto region. Several old and famous "ryotei 料亭" are to be found in the winding back streets, often accessible only by foot.
These ryotei provide expensive "kaiseki" cuisine, which is generally regarded as the pinnacle of Japanese food. Ryotei also allow diners to invite geisha to provide entertainment during the course of the evening.
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hiyahiya to akagai no nuta haru no yuki

so cold, rather cold
the ark clam with miso sauce -
snow in spring

Hasegawa Kai 長谷川櫂

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akagai no himo o kamu nari Kagurazaka

I chew a lot
on the thread of the ark clam -

Sagawa Akiyoshi 佐川昭吉

場違ひの赤貝貧し雪催 鈴木真砂女 夕螢
数の帆は赤貝とりや揚雲雀 野村喜舟 小石川

赤貝と一声今日は上客にて 鳴島ナミ
赤貝のからや乗初(のりぞめ)餓鬼大将 濯資 選集「板東太郎」
赤貝のひもに終りし夜の鮓 森澄雄
赤貝の剥かれて赤さ増しにけり 鈴木久美子
赤貝の割れし殻もて進みをる 山田真砂年
赤貝の大根おろしの霙かな 久米正雄 返り花
赤貝の身内に溜めて薄き泥 小澤實
赤貝は毛ものでありし笊に笹 山田尚良
赤貝をめんこのやうに打ちつける 小口たかし
赤貝をよく噛みのちのつれづれや 津森延世
source : HAIKUreikuDB

Related words

***** WKD Kigo Index



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

akagai o ware mo hakaru yo ume no hana

surveying also
bloody clams...
plum blossoms

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)