8 fun facts about Kansai’s soul foods: Takoyaki and Sake
Why you should read this article
I think everyone enjoys Japanese food at restaurants or at home once in a while, and two of the many favourite Japanese foods among foreigners are takoyaki (たこ焼き) and sake (酒).
Actually, both are said to have originated from the Kansai area and have been staple foods among locals since forever, but little do people know a few fun facts about these two delicacies.
Let me share some tips and facts with you so you can enjoy them with a deeper understanding on your next trip to Japan!
4 fun facts about takoyaki
Kansai's proud soul food takoyaki is a dish made of chopped octopus in flour and dashi (出汁) dough, baked to a perfect round-shaped ball and to be enjoyed with sauce and mayonnaise.
Takoyaki is loved by all age groups since its inception many years ago has been such an adored food since ages ago so much so that you can almost always find takoyaki shops nearby train stations as well as in shopping streets.
① Origins: Takoyaki was inspired by Osaka's neighbour’s soul food
Takoyaki is a dish that originated from the Nishinari Ward (西成区 Nishinari-ku), Osaka Prefecture (大阪府 Ōsaka-fu) in 1935, and is said to have been inspired by Hyogo Prefecture’s akashiyaki (明石焼き), a round omelette containing octopus eaten with dashi soup.
At the time of its birth, it was not eaten with sauce as in the current standard style, but the dough was flavoured with soy sauce.
② Culture: It’s true—Kansai people love their takoyaki!
Takoyaki is so widely loved by Kansai people that you will be surprised to find takoyaki maker at many homes, with homemade takoyaki being a regular item on the family menu. It may sound strange to many, but Kansai people also eat it with rice as a side dish!
In addition, takopa (タコパ takoyaki party) is also a popular home party theme among young people.
③ Varieties: There is more than one type of takoyaki
As I mentioned earlier in my first point, there are actually many types of takoyaki!
Some typical ones include the standard takoyaki sauce with mayonnaise, soy sauce with grated daikon radish, negi shio (ネギ塩 chopped spring onion and salt), negi ponzu (ねぎポン酢 chopped spring onion with ponzu sauce), and more. Different shops develop their own special seasoning and dough texture, so please try and compare them the next time you visit Osaka!
(Image credit: @cheeserland)
Let’s go back to akashiyaki, a dish that is said to have originated from Akashi City (明石市 Akashi-shi), Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県 Hyogo-ken) in the Edo period. The combination of the fluffy texture of the dough made with eggs, juicy octopus inside, and delicate dashi soup makes it absolutely delicious. In Akashi City itself, you can visit Uonotana Shopping Street (魚の棚商店街 Uonotana shōten gai) to try akashiyaki, so if you like takoyaki, please try akashiyaki! The shopping street is merely a 3-minutes’ walk from JR Akashi Station (明石駅 Akashi-eki). Apart from the many akashiyaki shops scattered around, you can also find shops selling local seafood specialties.
Uonotana Shopping Street (魚の棚商店街)
Address: 1-1-16 Honmachi Akashi, Hyogo 673-0892
Nearest station: JR Akashi Station (明石駅)
Opening hours: Business hours and closing days differ for each shop, so please check the website before visiting.
④ Tourist spots: A museum dedicated to takoyaki
(Image credit: RW Sinclair / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Can’t get enough of takoyaki? There is a takoyaki museum nearby Universal Studios Japan, just a short walk from JR Universal City Station (ユニバーサルシティ駅 Unibāsaru Shiti-eki)! You can find a collection of famous takoyaki shops here. There are also exhibits, souvenirs, attractions, and so on—all related to takoyaki.
TAKOPA Takoyaki Park (タコパ)
Address: 4F Universal Citywalk Osaka, 6-2-61 Shimaya, Konohana-ku, Osaka-shi, 554-0024
Nearest station: JR Universal City Station (ユニバーサルシティ駅)
Opening hours: 11am–10pm
4 fun facts about sake
Japanese rice wine, familiarly known as sake, is carefully made with a tedious process from rice. It pairs well with fresh seafood dishes and is a standard alcohol in Japan along with beers.
① Origins: Sake originated from Kansai
Sake is believed to have been born around the 4th century BC and has appeared in Japanese mythology. It is also said that sake brewing started from a primitive method and as technology evolved, people began to make sake dedicated to the gods. There’s so much history behind this beverage!
In addition, the birthplace of the modern brewing method is said to have originated from Nara City (奈良市 Nara-shi) in Nara Prefecture (奈良県 Nara-ken), and Itami City (伊丹市 Itami-shi) in Hyogo Prefecture.
② Culture: Sake plays an important role in Japanese culture
Sake was deemed to be a sacred offering and you can observe this belief in modern Japanese culture. For example, at weddings and rituals, there is an event called Omiki (御神酒) in which sake is offered to gods. In Japan, there are some seasonal events like New Year’s celebration, cherry-blossom viewing, and moon-viewing events to enjoy the four seasons, and it is customary to have sake at such events as well.
③ Varieties: There are many types of sake
Sake is categorised into several types, not only by the brewers but also by the differences in the manufacturing method and raw materials.
Typical examples are Ginjo sake (吟醸), which uses alcohol during manufacturing, and Junmai sake (純米), which is made without alcohol. Among them, Daiginjo sake and Junmai Daiginjo sake are used depending on the degree of polishing of the rice used. By the way, "Dassai" (獺祭), a popular sake overseas, is classified as a Junmai Daiginjo sake!
Also, these names cannot be used on the label unless the sake has fulfilled certain requirements by the country’s standard, so rest assured that you can pick good quality sake with confidence by understanding the labels.
④ Tourist spots: sake breweries, shops, and shrines are aplenty in Kansai
(Image credit: @cheeserland)
In Kansai, there are plenty of places to visit if you love sake. For example, in Nara Prefecture, Naramachi (奈良町) is a quaint town that retains the old-fashioned scenery of Japan with many shops where you can drink sake in the streets. To get to Naramachi, you can simply take a relaxing stroll from either Kintetsu-Nara Station (近鉄奈良駅 Kintetsu-Nara-eki) or JR Nara Station (奈良駅 Nara-eki), or hop on a local bus.
Next, also in Nara Prefecture, you should pay a visit to Omiwa Shrine (大神神社 Ōmiwa-jinja), located 5-minutes away by foot from JR Miwa Station (三輪駅 Miwa-eki). Not only is it one of Japan's three major sake shrines, it is also the birthplace of sugidama (杉玉), which is hung in sake breweries. The hanging of sugidama signifies that new sake has been made. Originally, it was a sign of gratitude to the god of sake. By the way, the other two major sake shrines are also in Kansai—Umenomiya Shrine (梅宮大社 Umenomiya Taisha) and Matsuno’o Shrine (松尾大社 Matsuno'o Taisha) are both located in Kyoto Prefecture (京都府 Kyōto-fu).
Address: Naramachi, Nara-shi, Nara
Nearest station: JR Nara Station (奈良駅) / Kintetsu-Nara Station (近鉄奈良駅)
Omiwa Shrine (三輪神社)
Address: 1422 Miwa, Sakurai, Nara 633-0001
Nearest station: JR Miwa Station (三輪駅)
Tel: +81 744-42-6633
Other types of alcohol in Japan
(Image credit: @cheeserland / Location: Nakano BC Brewery)
Besides sake, there are other famous alcohol in Japan. Many of you may be familiar with umeshu (梅酒 plum wine).
Umeshu is an alcohol that has been popular for a long time, as it is generally made by keeping plums in distilled liquor and handmade at home. And in Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県 Wakayama-ken), which is known as the production centre of plums in Japan, delicious umeshu is produced by professionals. When travelling to Kansai, be sure to try the freshest authentic umeshu in Wakayama!
I hope you liked the article and discovered something new about our favourite takoyaki and sake. On your next trip, please refer to this information and experience it for yourself! By doing so, I think that you can enjoy your trip from a different perspective.
Most of the spots introduced this time can be easily accessed using the convenient Kansai Railway Network.
Let’s discover a deeper side of Japan with the help of convenient transportation on your next trip!
Header image credit: JR West
This article was contributed by JR West.