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Motif Information
Motif tai 01.jpg
Rōmaji Tai
English Sea Bream, Snapper
Kana たい
Season Winter, Spring
Seasonal Exceptions #
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Fish

Tai is known by many names in English, such as bream and perch, usually referring to a long-living fish that grows slowly and lives in rocky areas. In Japan the preferred option is generally Pagrus major or madai - “true tai.” It is a white-fleshed fish with a mild, delicate flavor.

Archaeological sites as old as 5,000 years have yielded large numbers of tai bones, as well as fish hooks. In the Heian period (794-1185) tai was preserved, dried, salted and sliced, and presented as an annual offering to the emperor. Even today dried tai produced on Shino Island is presented to the Ise Shrine as an offering to the gods.

During March and April tai turns reddish. Bream caught in early spring are prized for their bright color and rich flavor, and are sometimes called "cherry blossom bream," because the season coincides with the celebrated blossoming of the cherry trees.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Text about seasonal use

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Ebisu - the god of commerce, one of the Shichi Fukujin (Seven Lucky Gods) is depicted as a portly man carrying a fishing rod and a tai under his arm. In mythology Ebisu borrows a fish hook from his elder brother and goes fishing. A tai swallows the hook and swims away, but the god dives into the sea to retrieve the hook.

Auspicious Nature

The association with the god Ebisu makes tai a symbol of wealth, prosperity, and high quality.

"Tai" rhymes with medetai, literally, "wanting of admiration," "auspicious," and "celebratory." The red skin is considered an auspicious color for the New Year, weddings, births, and other happy occasions along with sekihan (red rice). It is boiled and served whole (okashira-tsuki) since eating tai in its full, perfect shape is to be blessed with good fortune.

In western Japan there is a custom of hanging a pair of dried tai at the entrance to a home. The large, beady eyes of the fish (Nirami-dai, or "glaring sea bream,") as are believed to drive away evil.

Common Motif Pairings

Ebisu Shichi Fukujin Bamboo

Identification & Style Variations

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Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

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In Poetry

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

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Image Credits

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Authors & Contributors

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