By Ana Nicole Vigueras LaRochelle
My university campus is about a ten minute walk from Naniwaya, the famous taiyaki shop located in Azabu Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo. For those of you who do not know, taiyaki is a fish shaped cake that is filled with Japanese sweet bean paste called anko. This particular shop was established in 1909 and is credited for being the creator of taiyaki. Nowadays, taiyaki can be eaten all over Japan and you can even buy ice cream versions of taiyaki in konbini, Japanese convenience stores. Taiyaki can also have a variety of fillings including custard and chocolate.
Taiyaki is a huge part of Japanese food culture. For example, taiyaki has a large role in Kanon, a visual novel turned anime by Toei Animation which aired from January to March 2002 in Japan. The series was rebroadcast at an anime convention in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007 while an english dubbed version of the second series was also released in that same year. The protagonist Ayu Tsukimiya, absolutely loves taiyaki and makes it her favorite food after her love interest Yuichi Aizawa buys one for her. Fans of the anime can enjoy taiyaki the same way Ayu Tsukimiya does at Naniwaya taiyaki shop. Steven Tyler, lead singer for the famous Aerosmith bandalso always gets taiyaki when he visits Japan. Taiyaki is an indispensable aspect of Japanese food culture.
The other day, after a gruelling class debate, my friend and I headed over to grab ourselves one of these warm, bean paste cakes and we were very satisfied with the experience. It was a quiet spring afternoon but we still had to wait 30 minutes for our taiyaki. The taiyaki itself cost 150 yen and if you get three, you are allowed to sit in the restaurant. We only got one and when I first bit into the dessert, I was greeted by a sweet, textured, strong azuki bean taste but with an extremely enjoyable sense of the baked crust around it. It was heaven and I want to go back and enjoy a Naniwaya taiyaki again soon. If you are a fan of Japanese sweets, Kanon, or any unique Japanese experience, I recommend getting a hold of this Japanese confectionary as soon as possible. You will not forget the taste.