Okonomiyaki お好み焼き

The first time I came to Japan, my tutor asked me and my classmates if we had ever tried Okonomiyaki. “Okonomi-what-now?” we answered in barely comprahensible Japanese, and we were promptly taken to an Okonomiyaki restaurant. After getting a simple explanation about what it was, and ordered, we waited for a little while, and in came the bowl of batter. Our tutor poured it over the cooking plate in the middle of the table, and skillfully fried it up. Then he cut it into easy-to-handle pieces, and we were told to put Okonomi-sauce, mayonnaise, and shaved dry fish on top. The heat from the Okonomiyaki made the dried fish dance on top, and it all looked like it was alive. I then bit into this creation, and what I tasted was the start of a long love with Japanese food, other than Sushi.

Okonomiyaki is a sort of savory pancake, with a variety of ingredients in the batter. (Different from the French Crepe, or other “foody” pancakes, that are wrapped around an ingredient.) Usually one would find cabbage, pieces of meat, or seafood, and spring onion, etc. Basically, you can put whatever you want in it, as the name tells you: Okonomi (お好み), meaning “what you like”, and Yaki (焼き), meaning “grilled, baked, cooked, fried”.


Halfmade shrimp and cheese Okonomiyaki
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This dish is usually associated with Osaka and the Kansai area, and with Hiroshima. However, one can find restaurants and chains all through Japan that sells Okonomiyaki. Next time you feel a little hungry when out in town, whether you have tried it before or not, why not try to find a nice Okonomiyaki place, and dive a little deeper into the Japanese cuisine?

OBS! Okonomiyaki in Japanese is easily confused with Sukiyaki. Heres why:
好 has two readings, 好む (konomu “to like”) and 好く (suku “to like”). Both are verbs, and when used in other words they usually take the form of 好み (konomi) and 好き(suki).
焼く (yaku “to bake, grill, cook, fry”) undergoes a similar transformation when used in other words: 焼き (yaki), and in this form it is a common word in Japanese cuisine, in everything from sukiyaki, to yakisoba, teppanyaki, etc…
We therefore have two words with different readings, meaning about the same thing. To separate them, we put an お in front of one of them. This お is just a little decorative politeness prefix, and has no real meaning in itself. Hence we have:
お好み焼き (okonomiyaki)
好き焼き (sukiyaki)

Bushido – The Soul of Japan

Starting from today, we will be introducing the books that we are available in our mini-library. We recently bought a number of Japan-related books and we hope that we can slowly add more to our collection. If you have any books that you would like to recommend to us (related to Japan of course!), please let us know through g-mail, twitter or facebook!

Today we will be introducing the book:


“Bushido – The Soul of Japan”

by Inazo Nitobe

If you have watched “The Last Samurai” or any other movie related to samurais and samurai culture, you probably have heard the characters mention at some point, the idea of bushido.

Bushido which implies “the way” of the samurai life is similar to the term “chivalry,” in that they both refer to a warrior’s moral code of conduct.  However, the Japanese bushido is slightly more complicated and particular.

The seven virtues of bushido, according to Inazo Nitobe are:

  • Justice – 「儀」 (ぎ・gi)
  • Courage – 「勇」 (ゆう・yu)
  • Benevolence – 「仁」 (じん・jin)
  • Politeness – 「礼」(れい・rei)
  • Sincerity- 「誠」 (まこと・makoto)
  • Honor- 「名誉」 (めいよ・meiyo)
  • Loyalty – 「忠義」 (ちゅうぎ・chugi)

In this book, Nitobe first thoroughly examines each of these virtues. He then goes on to explain how these virtues are strongly rooted in Japanese society and provides his insight on the future of bushido.

It is interesting to note that Inazo Nitobe, who was an educator and civil servant to the Meiji government, wrote this book in English in 1900. Like Tenshin Okakura, who wrote “The Book of Tea” first in English as well, he hoped that he could be some kind of bridge between Japan and the West. Since Japan at this time was rapidly Westernizing and constantly trying to promote itself as a modernized nation like the West, books such as “Bushido” and “The Book of Tea” were read with great fascination as it exposed the more traditional and delicate side of Japanese culture.

Students of COSMOS may borrow this book and any of the other books in our collection🙂

A Geek In Japan – Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony

Another book from our mini- library that you have to check out!


Author: Hector Garcia
ISBN 978-4-8053-1129-5
Tuttle Publishing

Chapter 1 – The Origins of Japanese Culture
Chapter 2 – The Traditional Arts & Disciplines
Chapter 3 – The Unique Japanese Character
Chapter 4 – Curiosities & Symbols
Chapter 5 – The Japanese at Work
Chapter 6 – Japanese Society & Daily Life
Chapter 7 – Japan Today
Chapter 8 – The World of Manga & Anime
Chapter 9 – Modern Japanese Music
Chapter 10 – Movies & Television
Chapter 11 – Visiting Tokyo
Chapter 12 – Traveling Around Japan

This book, A Geek In Japan, reinvents the culture guide for the Internet age. Packed with articles and photographs, it ranges from the touchstones of traditional culture like bushido, geishas, Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism to chapters on traditional arts and disciplines like ukiyo-e, ikebana, Zen meditation, martial arts, and the tea ceremony. There are also cultural code words and values; society and daily life; business and technology; the arts; and symbols and practices that are peculiarly Japanese. A quarter of the chapters are devoted to pop cultural genres, with attention to the stars, idols, and urban subcultures – otakus, gals, lolitas, visual kei, and cosplay – associated with them. For visitors to the country, the author includes a mini-guide to his favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo as well as tips on other places of outstanding interest.