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Demand overflows for west Japan's unique dam-themed curry plates

The curry plates in the style of Obara Dam, complete with two crest gates for curry sauce to flow through onto rice, are seen in this image taken in Unnan, Shimane Prefecture, on July 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Hajime Meno)

UNNAN, Shimane -- A special curry plate made in the style of this west Japan city's local dam, complete with openings to let through sluices of sauce instead of water, has proved a sell-out success.

    The plate, which recreates the structure of Obara Dam in the Shimane Prefecture city of Unnan, was devised by local nonprofit organization Sakura-Orochi. Yuri Tagawa, its administrative director, said, "We really hope people will buy them and try letting the curry flow through."

    Obara Dam was completed in 2012, and is located on the upstream of the Hii River. It stands 90 meters tall and has a reservoir capacity of 60.8 million cubic meters -- the most in the prefecture. The dam also fulfills roles in flood control and supplying drinking water.

    Obara Dam in the city of Unnan, Shimane Prefecture, is seen with its crest gates open and water flowing during maintenance checks in March 2021, in this image provided by the nonprofit organization Sakura-Orochi.

    The emergency-use crest gate water gates at the top of the dam, each measuring 11.5 meters wide and 14 meters tall, are open to the public every March during maintenance checks, when they are opened up to let water out. Many dam fans and families gather to see water descend the about 50-meter drop with great force.

    The curry plate was designed to be a new product for sale at the gates' opening in March 2020. Tagawa commissioned a ceramic artist to produce the plates. Although other curry dishes in the style of dams do exist, the main aim with this version was to recreate the Obara Dam's crest gates.

    Although 2020's viewing of the dam was ultimately called off due to the spread of the coronavirus, the plates gained attention for their detail, and all 16 prepared sold out. Because they are handmade, they cannot be produced in large quantities. However, Tagawa said the products have been so popular that they've "even had inquiries from outside the prefecture."

    This summer, Sakura-Orochi has 21 new plates in stock. They come in three sizes; the large ones measure about 21.5 centimeters, and cost 1,800 yen (some $16), the medium ones are around 20 cm and sell for 1,500 yen (about $14) and the small ones are around 18 cm and cost 1,200 yen (approximately $11).

    The latest plates have also been improved to better emulate the dam's sluice of water coming down by making the bottom of the part where the curry sauce is poured 8 millimeters higher, giving it a slightly steeper slope.

    Initially there were plans for the Okuizumo Tourism Association to sell the plates inside JR Izumo-Minari Station in the prefectural town of Okuizumo, but orders for them came in so fast that they're reportedly now waiting for the next batch instead.

    Tagawa said, "There are many things making people anxious during the coronavirus crisis, but we hope that the curry plates can inspire slightly happier conversations."

    (Japanese original by Hajime Meno, Matsue Bureau)

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