Just because it is, doesn’t mean it is.

The Kansai region and Osaka in particular are known for many things, some good, some bad, and most of it somewhere in between. And among these special traits is the prevalence of “konamon”, or flour-based food.

For those in some countries, flour-based food might sound oddly ordinary but food in Japan is traditionally either based on seafood like sushi or sashimi, soy beans like tofu and miso, or rice like mochi and most everything else. Traditional Japanese foods based on wheat flour are largely limited to okonomiyaki and takoyaki, two foods that Osaka is also known for.

On the other hand, western cuisine is widely dominated by flour-based products from bread to pasta, but for the most part, these are not considered a part of the konamon genre. This is something that Pizza Hut Japan is aiming to change by campaigning to be considered konamon.

On 19 October, the pizza chain issued the following manifesto declaring their belief that pizza is as much a konamon as anything else.

Declaration of Pizza as a Konamon
Every day, we use dough to make pizza.
And because of this, there is something that we know.
It is that pizza is a konamon.
Just as one might be particular about the fluffiness of okonomiyaki,
we are particular about the tenderness of our crusts.
Just as one might be particular about the fillings and sauce of takoyaki,
we are particular about the toppings and sauce of our pizza.
We at Pizza Hut will continue to evolve.
This is not the full potential of pizza.
Someday, we hope people here in Kansai will say “pizza is a konamon too.”

They make a compelling argument – aside from the “full potential” line because in the original Japanese that’s just a “konamon” pun that they crowbarred into it. Nevertheless, simply issuing a declaration has no meaning unless the people heed it. So, to find out, Pizza Hut, with the help of Osaka Gas, conducted an awareness survey in Kansai asking people what came to mind when they thought of konamon.

In this pie chart, we can see that okonomiyaki and takoyaki dominated, with 41 and 35 percent of responses respectively. Five percent of responses went to monjayaki and yakisoba each, while two percent answered udon, and three percent said nothing. “Pizza” responses where too minuscule to include in the pie chart with only one of the 659 people surveyed saying it, equating to 0.15 percent of responses.

Pizza Hut then decided to press the issue by asking respondents flat out if they considered pizza a konamon, and a whopping 92.3 responded “no.”

These results would seem disheartening to many, but for Pizza Hut Japan President Shoichi Nakamura, it represents enormous growth potential.

But first, a fact-finding mission would need to be carried out in order to determine why pizza is not considered a flour-based food, despite being a flour-based food. The following video shows some of the most Osaka-y people giving various opinions on why it’s not konamon, such as “pizza flour is a good flour” and “it’s crispy.” At the end, a classic Osaka Obachan tells Pizza Hut that even though pizza is not a konamon, if they just keep telling people it is a konamon it will be considered one eventually.

So, it would seem that they have their work cut out for them, but they are not running from this challenge. Pizza Hut and Osaka Gas are hard at work creating a pizza that screams, “This is totally konamon!”

▼ …literally, because it’s called the “This is totally Konamon!” Pizza.

The pizza is still in development, but in the meantime, they’re offering the Mecha Iiyan Potato fries for 118 yen (US$0.79). “Mecha iiyan” (with “mecha” pronounced “metcha”) is a Kansai dialect which might approximate to something like “flippin’ good, innit” in English. The price is a pun for the “i” (1), “i” (1), “ya” (8) in “iiyan” which also represents the fact that Osaka Gas has been in business for 118 years.

▼ Marketing students should take note that if you’re doing an Osaka-themed campaign and it isn’t full of puns, you’re doing it wrong.

To get the fries that cheap, as well as half-priced pizzas, you’ll have to order through Osaka Gas online service platform Smilink. Otherwise, the fries cost 460 yen ($3), and they’re not even going to bother making a pun for that because they want you to sign up.

And in one more strategic move to associate pizza with konamon, Osaka Gas and Pizza Hut are giving away 20 dual takoyaki maker and pizza hot plates. To enter, you must follow the Pizza Hut account on either Twitter or Instagram and like/repost the contest post.

▼ 10 winners will be chosen on Twitter and 10 on Instagram

Making pizza a part of the konamon pantheon is an uphill battle to say the least, but it appears Pizza Hut is willing to give it a try. As a long-time resident of Osaka, I’d humbly advise Pizza Hut to advertise all their pizzas as on sale all the time in order to win over the hearts of people here. They don’t even have to actually be on sale, but just putting a big sign that says “SALE” next to them really seems to resonate with people.

Source, images: PR Times
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