Japan's everywhere-you-go street snack

By Sleiman Azizi    - 2 min read

Takoyaki is everywhere. From department stores to hidden away retailers under the rail tracks, wherever you go in Japan you will find somebody serving up little battered balls of diced octopus.

And for good reason too. Cooked in moulded hotplates, takoyaki are usually served in packs of 6-10, sell for around JPY300-1000 and are as close to a perfect street food as you can get. Generally brushed with mayonnaise and a Worcestershire-style sauce, the little balls are then sprinkled over with a generous serving of green laver and dried bonito flakes.

Takoyaki originated in Osaka and judging by a stroll down any Osakan street, they are certainly proud of it too. However, regional variations abound and for every stall out there, you could be forgiven for thinking that there was an equivalent number of takoyaki styles.

Tray of lovely balls of takoyaki (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/lengcheng/30927464403/in/photolist-P7XkET-2GXaEZ-7NFvZK-5u8TNt-5udgJh-7NfYBV-8xWjtt-3eUwip-a91jom-5u8SY4-5pVk3Q-PbzQqh-2QKZJ-qjmvD-7jWMLW-6uoGYu-6jWqef-4gr5Uj-gTxhA-acxEu-4J85BD-cazMSm-2AW6MX-7MDot-5pVkBs-mBimM-5pR1MP-QZ4KS-7b32LJ-r5Tgg4-r5TgAH-kn743g-gTxhB-gTxhD-4F5PLA-emHohE-emHpMq-emtyUa-gQzT1C-8MYb4D-emtxaV-cgkviN-r9k6LJ-oThmo1-6EaiUu-6adryY-96wmaF-2K6AgR-roHeX6-emHo9q" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Leng Cheng / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Tray of lovely balls of takoyaki (Photo: Leng Cheng / CC BY 2.0)

If you've arrived in the middle of one of Japan's humid summers, then takoyaki topped solely with green laver and ponzu sauce is an extremely refreshing delight. Nagano, one of the homes of Japanese winter, offers its takoyaki with hakusai cabbage; heatig your belly, these steaming balls of batter with flakes of bonito sizzling and dancing on top, go down well.

Takoyaki with green onion and ponzu sauce (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/knkcat/4807189457" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">nekotank / CC BY-ND 2.0</a>)
Takoyaki with green onion and ponzu sauce (Photo: nekotank / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Lovers of history may opt for a tray of akashiyaki, an original takoyaki style made purely of batter and octopus, which is a favourite in Kobe. Purists may even go for rajioyaki, the original inspiration for the dish, made with beef instead of octopus and much more heavily soy sauce-flavoured.

Original batter and octopus akashiyaki in Hyogo Prefecture (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Akashi-yaki_at_Akashi02s.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">663highland / CC BY-SA 3.0</a>)
Original batter and octopus akashiyaki in Hyogo Prefecture (Photo: 663highland / CC BY-SA 3.0)

No matter what style of takoyaki you choose, or where you buy it from, you're going to be hard pressed to not enjoy it. Both light and filling at the same time, the only danger with takoyaki is deciding whether you should order one more tray. If you do make an extra order, relax, everyone else does too.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I have over 400 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style. I happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

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Elena Lisina a year ago
Good takoyaki place I found in Tokyo Dome City, right near merry-go-round. :P
Elena Lisina a year ago
I did!
Kim B a year ago
I never knew there were so many regional varieties!
Sleiman Azizi Author a year ago
It's a surprise for most people, I'm sure.
Bonson Lam a year ago
What is your favorite stall for Takoyaki? I love the ones near Namba, though there is nothing like eating one at a summer festival to bring a smile to my face.
Sleiman Azizi Author a year ago
For sentimenal reasons, a little corner takoyaki store in Setagaya. But I love the store that sold me my first spring onion and ponzu takoyaki in Osaka.