This is the final entry in our series on eel. We hope that our readers have found the information interesting and, if they have not already done so, are now motivated to explore the pleasures that this dish has to offer. In Japan, the most obvious place to conduct this gastronomic exploration is in Hamamatsu, of course.
The Japanese tourism industry was thriving until the crisis of 2020. Even during those boom times, though, it was difficult for some smaller cities and towns to attract foreign tourists in significant numbers. Considering the fact that many first-time travelers to Japan are under both time and financial constraints, it is not surprising that they gravitate to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mt. Fuji. Yet there are other places in the country that should prove equally attractive, if not for the general tourist, then for certain cohorts; e.g., those who like sports, manga fans, hikers, gastronomes, etc. Pre-2020, it appeared to us that a more imaginative approach to marketing such locations to these specialized cohorts would result in much higher numbers heading to those places. Now that Japan is opening its doors again, creative marketing to specialized groups is the key to the rapid recovery of the hospitality industry and to the financial well-being of many small cities and towns.
Let us look at how this might be accomplished with respect to Hamamatsu and eel. The primary cohort for targeting would be gourmets and nihon-shu lovers, of course, but secondary and tertiary cohorts can readily be discerned and attracted. We will focus on three of these cohorts, whose members are well educated and, to a large extent, well off. At the secondary level, there are those who are interested in comparative foodways (defined by Wiktionary as “the food traditions or customs of a group of people”). Members of this cohort even have their own journal, the Journal of Ethnic Foods. Unagi restaurants in Hamamatsu could easily produce a degustation menu featuring eel prepared as Unagi no Kabayaki, as well as one or more foreign recipes for eel, say, in the Hungarian and British styles. This could be presented in a “battle-of-the-bands-style competition, with the winner being chosen by votes cast by the diners. Another secondary cohort that could be attracted by tweaking the aforementioned is history buffs, especially those with an interest in the Middle Ages. The degustation menu in this case would pit Unagi no Kabayaki against one or more medieval recipes for eel. Finally, a tertiary cohort exists comprising consumers of couture. Eel-skin garments and accessories sold exclusively at boutiques in Hamamatsu might prove especially attractive to this affluent group.