Hanage restaurant, Berlin

If you’re located outside of Japan, think of some Japanese restaurants around you and chances are their names contain easily recognizable, if uninspired, nouns like “sakura,” “Tokyo,” or “Fuji.” For instance, near me are eateries like Umi, Kaze, Samurai Boston, and countless Teriyaki House’s. One even contains my name, requiring me once in a while to explain that no, I’m not related.

Now, imagine the surprise of one Japanese Twitterer who stumbled upon an okonomiyaki restaurant in Berlin, Germany called “Hanage (はな毛)”, or nasal hair. Mmm, scrumptious!

At first glance, you’d think that this is simply another case of unfortunate word choices by a non-native speaker, like some kanji tattoos or English directions on Asian food packages. Almost as surprising as the bodily reference, however, is the fact that this restaurant was opened by a Japanese woman! To quote one Twitter commenter, “Why? Why? Why?”

Since I have my fair share of clothes and stationery from Japan with funny English phrases reminiscent of Google Translate, like “It’s have your happy time!” and “It goes on forever the whole world”, I’m not too picky about language issues no matter what country is involved. But wouldn’t you draw the line at choosing decidedly unsexy body fuzz as your dining establishment’s name? Despite the visually elegant signage, Twitterer noby (@noby_de), an instructor of modern European history, must have done a double take when he spotted this unappetizing moniker.

https://twitter.com/nob_de/status/495831943465164801/

Some netizens conjectured that perhaps the word hanage has a cool ring to German ears, while others simply joked, “Change it to chest hair!” or “I for one want to know whether they serve Osaka style or Hiroshima style.” And although a few commenters were quick to declare, “The Japanese person that taught them this word should apologize!”, a link to a radio interview revealed that the proprietor and godmother is indeed Japanese.

Opened in April of this year by Junko Hayashi and her (presumably European) husband, Hanage is said to be the first okonomiyaki restaurant in Berlin. A savory pancake-type dish that typically features cabbage, scallions, pork, eggs, and a tangy sauce, Hayashi’s husband was so taken with it on his first trip to Japan that he lamented the fact that it couldn’t be eaten back home. Taking matters into their own hands, they decided to open a grill and according to Hayashi, they simply chose the name for its humor. Phew!

It’s nice to know that even though restaurants in Japan are getting more and more creative with okonomiyaki ingredients, nasal hair isn’t involved here. Furthermore, the owner relates that sometimes locals who know some Japanese would come in and point out that the name is weird, which clearly proves its marketing potential.

▼ The shop’s official site features some tantalizing photos. Maybe patrons need hanage to filter out any aonori laver or bonito flakes that may come flying off the grill? Eh, probably not.

okonomiyaki 1

Hayashi went on to share that starting a business in a foreign country is very difficult due to differences in language and law, and that she was lucky to have her husband as a partner. She also pointed out that because Japanese food in Germany mainly means sushi and tempura, she’d like to spread the word on okonomiyaki, and Japanese culture in general, one customer at a time. What do you think, folks? I recently heard of an okonomiyaki joint that opened in Paris, so is this savory Japanese favorite edging out ramen as the next global phenomenon?

Hanage is located at:
Pappelallee 19, around the corner at Raumer Straße
10437 Berlin,
Germany

Sources: Byōkan Sunday, Twitter 1, 2, J-Wave 81.3FM
Images: Twitter, Hanage