The Japanese Festival and Octopus Balls

takoyaki2Food week continues!

Recently a friend mentioned to me that there was a Japanese festival in St. Louis over Labor Day weekend. The conversation went something like this:

Her: Wanna go to the Japanese festival? The food will be amazing!

Me: How much does the festival cost?

Her: $15.

Me: So we have to pay $15 to get into a festival to then pay for overprice festival food? Why don’t we just go to a Japanese restaurant?

Her: (grumbles) Jamey…come on.

She actually won me over by mentioning takoyaki, or octopus balls. They’re not as gross as they sound–they’re just a piece of octopus covered in savory dough, fried, and covered in a delicious sauce. They’re SO good, and they’re hard to find in the US because you need a special contraption to make them.

So we went to the festival and walked around for a while. The cultural stuff didn’t really interest me because I’ve lived in Japan a few times, and I’d much rather be immersed in actual Japanese culture, which is actually quite similar to American culture. When you walk around in Japan, you aren’t bombarded by people on taiko drums and tea ceremonies and banzai trees. They’re just people, like you and me, and they have normal daily lives, just like you and me. That’s what culture is.

But it’s fine. I was there for the food anyway. And the takoyaki did not disappoint. I’m still thinking about it. The only thing that did disappoint was the okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), which was not even close to real okonomiyaki. Fortunately a friend is going to make actual okonomiyaki at game night tomorrow to wash away the taste of the terrible American version.

For you St. Louis readers, have you ever seen takoyaki at a Japanese restaurant here in town? If so, let me know, because I want to put those octopus balls in my mouth again.

9 thoughts on “The Japanese Festival and Octopus Balls”

  1. Octopus balls are the best. Salty, sweet and with a dash of creaminess. I’m not sure if I’m making it sound more appetising or causing the opposite effect. Nonetheless, it’s an amazing dish.

    So all this talk about Japan and Jamey being nostalgic about Japanese culture. Let me put on my Internet Conspiracy Hat on.

    Jamey…Octopus Balls…Japanese Culture…Board Games…A Japanese economic board game about Takoyaki CONFIRMED!

    • Allen: I’d love to design a game set in Japan someday. One of the first games I designed when I got back into game design about 4 years ago was a game set in Kyoto about geishas, but it wasn’t very good. I have Yedo sitting on my shelf right now, ready to play for the first time. 🙂

  2. I just think it’s funny how similar our cultures are in that covering anything with dough and frying it is acceptable. I am disappointed to see that Japanese culture isn’t people running around pounding on Taiko drums shouting “soo-RAYY!” and demonstrating their prowess in dance in martial arts. I was hoping that office life would at least include tea ceremonies and No theatre at lunch.

    But then again we don’t drink muligatawny soup or carve petroglyphs to send messages to friends. And I find our subculture – which is elective – far more interesting than our macroculture – which can be oppressive until you figure out how to get away from under it.

    • Subculture! That’s the right word for these festivals. It’s a Japanese subculture festival. I wonder if there’s a sub-subculture Japanese festival. Now that would be interesting to attend…

  3. I’m still thinking about them balls. MMmmmm… takoyaki… I want! You did get yourself a bag of goodies. 🙂 Not a bad day. Also, I don’t grumble. I want some takoyaki! 🙁

    • I think it was Osaka style, though I don’t remember all the differences at this point. 🙂 I make my own now that is roughly Kyoto style.

  4. Richard and I went to JapanFest here in Atlanta after coming back from our trip to Japan and we were also so excited to have Okonomiyaki and it was not good at all. So disappointing. I hope to find a place here that makes it as good as the place we had it in Hiroshima. We haven’t tried takoyaki (I’ve had octopus in Spain many times but its completely different). I’ll need to try that when I go back.

    • Unfortunately, I think it’s really hard to get good okonomiyaki in the US–I’ve tried a number of places, and it just doesn’t compare. However, I’ve had some pretty good takoyaki here.


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