Dojo / by Jim Hathaway

On hot days after rainy season in Tokyo we like to send our young into shallow pools of water to catch loach.  An unfortunate word in English when the locals say it, given the confusion of the R and L sounds. The Japanese word is easier on the ears, “Dojo.”

Dojo are small freshwater eel. Teachers throw a teaming bucket of the slippery squiggly loach into a wading pool and the parents throw in the children. The kids do their best to scoop up the swimming dojo.

It may be a Japanese version of a greased pig contest staged in the states. Dojo catching is a cleaner, bonsai sized version of the greased pig event.

The kids enjoy the heck out of it.

In my daughters' kindergarten the kids caught the squiggly things then the teachers gathered them up again and threw all the dojo back into the pool again. It was too much fun to only do once. The kids all caught them again.

In the larger community version I just attended with my son there were four giant pools made of giant blue tarps draped over stiff and circled fire hoses, set up by the local fire department, who filled them with other hoses, pointed straight up in the air to shower the kids and parents as the water worked its way down to the pools.

Then came the dojo, teaming buckets of them. Dumped into the pools for parents and kids to try and scoop up.

It was fun, mixed with lots of cool water on a burning hot day. It is fun for all, for all but the dojo, who will, after being caught, be admired by young children in their colorful plastic buckets then cooked by young mothers for dinner, rarely eaten alive anymore, more often they find their way into soup. The traditional way is to throw the live dojo into a pot of water along with a nice soft, cool block of tofu. As the water becomes hotter and hotter the dojo wiggle their way into the cool of the tofu where they eventually boil to death and ready for the table. 

An acquired taste.