The End Of Takoyaki

There’s a lot of interesting Japanese food in anime, from onigiri rice balls to taiyaki fish-shaped pastries to omurice, an omelet over rice with a heart drawn on top in ketchup. Another staple food in anime is takoyaki, which are balls of pancake-like batter with a piece of tako (octopus meat) inside, then cooked and covered with a sauce that’s very similar to that heavenly Bull-dog Sauce. (The octopus meat inside has no taste other than a sensation of firmness.) Many characters in anime are defined by their love of takoyaki, usually characters from Osaka, since it’s the official “soul food” of that city. Takoyaki was invented in 1935 when a restaurant owner in Osaka’s Nishinari-ku region took an existing meat-filled dumpling called “radio-yaki” (so named because its shape resembled the round dials on the then-newfangled radio sets) and substitute octopus meat instead of the tough sinewy beef used previously.

However, a crisis is threatening Osaka’s most famous food and causing prices to rise, due to a sharp drop in stocks of the octopus used for takoyaki meat, which fell from 100 tons in previous years to 80 tons in 2017 and even less this year, due to changes in sea temperature of the ocean in the prime octopus fishing regions off Japan. It’s not just in Japan, too. Octopus stocks have been falling all around the world lately, which is driving the price of Osaka’s octopus balls higher. Could it be the end of takoyaki? We hope things will rebound soon.

One of the joys of living in Japan has been being able to develop a sense for the various foods and drinks that are important to the Japanese, which would have been difficult if I’d stayed in California. Being able to appreciate the incredible variety of Japanese, Chinese and Western teas consumed here daily. Being able to develop a taste for kimchee, the spicy Korean pickles that are wonderful once you learn to eat them. (Mrs. J-List orders it directly from South Korea.) And most of all, learning to appreciate seafood on a higher level than was possible for me before, thanks to living in an island country with a strong culture of eating fish. There’s just one problem: I learned all the local names for the seafood I eat, but rarely know what it’s called in English, and have to google it anytime I need the names in English.

What food in anime would you like to try? Tell us on Twitter!

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About the author

Peter Payne

I live in Japan and I run J-List, an anime shop famous for shimapan and Tentacle Grape. I love being able to bring Japanese culture to the world.