A large majority of people living in Osaka said to eat their iconic food takoyaki less than a dozen times a year.

In 1933, a restaurant in the Ikunoku Ward of Osaka called Aiduya unveiled a new dish, radioyaki. It was a grilled ball of batter with beef tendon and soy sauce. The name “radio” was intended to give it a classy feeling like the high-priced piece of electronics of the time.

However, customers soon began requesting octopus (tako in Japanese) inside the ball rather than beef and by 1935 the takoyaki had evolved from radioyaki, or so the legend goes. Its popularity steadily grew over the years all over Japan and even abroad to some degree.

▼ The Namba area branch of Aiduya in Osaka, where you can still get a radioyaki-takoyaki combo platter.

But in its home of Osaka, takoyaki enjoys a special prevalence. In pretty much every commercial area you’ll easily find more than one open window cooking up batches upon batches of the stuff. Meanwhile, most souvenir shops are filled with everything from socks to key chains adorned with those little balls of batter and you can even find takoyaki flavored soda, Pringles and caramels, all pretty much making the takoyaki a major symbol of the city.

▼ Honestly though, you’d have to be a really special kind of takoyaki fan to enjoy the caramels

With takoyaki everywhere, it’s easy to assume that people here gobble the stuff up like a bunch of Pac Men and Women: a simile that’s not quite as big a stretch as you might think.

Image: ValuePress

And yet, according to an informal survey by Sankei Shimbun West, 75 percent of Osaka residents eat takoyaki once a month or less.

Asking 50 random residents in downtown Osaka whether or not they liked takoyaki, 44 said they did and the remaining 6 said it was okay. This leaves an impressive zero people who said they disliked it.

However, when the 44 who said they liked takoyaki were asked how often they eat it, some rather surprising responses occurred. Here’s a rundown:

  • 11 people said they eat two to four times a month
  • 26 people said they eat once every one to three months
  • Seven people said they eat once to three times a year

Skeptics might look at the small sample size of 50 people and balk at the findings, but having lived in Osaka a long time, I’d have to agree that I and a lot of people I know fall into that majority category of “once every one to three months.”

▼ A two-year’s supply of takoyaki for many Osaka citizens

Given that everyone likes it, why do most Osaka citizens only eat their representative food only a handful of times a year? When asked, survey respondents gave a wide range of answers:

“I feel like I can eat it anytime, so there’s no urgency.”
“Just no opportunity to.”
“It’s kind of expensive these days; I could get some curry and rice for the same price.”
“There aren’t any takoyaki places on my way to and from work.”

Those sound more like excuses than reasons, but they do make sense when you think about. Takoyaki exists in a weird grey area wherein it comes across like a snack food or side dish, but is hearty enough to be a meal.

So, when someone says there’s no opportunity to eat it, it’s likely because when you want a snack, takoyaki is too heavy. However, as a meal it’s rather simple, and at the same time the carb-thick batter of it makes many Japanese people shy away from using it as a partner to a standard rice-centric meal (although there is a significant subculture of people who enjoy rice and takoyaki together).

A very large majority of Osaka people would gladly accept an octopus ball if offered, it just doesn’t easily fit into people’s daily diets. On the bright side, since nearly everyone does eat takoyaki at some point or another, the market is still huge, allowing for many shops to thrive even though a majority of customers aren’t frequent.

▼ “They’ll be back… They always come back”

Then of course, you have to consider that most tourists to Osaka are strongly encouraged to “try the takoyaki,” further fueling the domestic octopus-ball industry. In that way you can think of takoyaki for Osaka residents like what the Statue of Liberty is for New Yorkers, the Louvre for Parisians, or Pachinko Gundam Station for those in Tokyo; it’s something people who visit are sure to check out, but those who live there, despite their fondness for it, always put off till tomorrow.

Source: Sankei News West, My Game News Flash
Images: SoraNews24 (unless otherwise noted)