Bizarre Japanese Arcade Game: Live Lobster Catcher
May 6, 2008 | by Brett

Remember those coin-operated “claw” games in the 80′s, where you could snag some fuzzy dice if you moved the robot hand with enough skill?

Well the Japanese arcades have a weirder, more sophisticated version. Having long moved on from useless stuffed animal prizes, the clientèle are hungry for something more interesting and substantial… like a delicious live lobster!


This “Sub Marine Catcher” arcade game, photographed in Osaka’s trendy Namba district, allows Japanese gamers to try their hand at catching live lobsters. It takes some skill, because lobsters are wary of being grabbed by an electric claw and they dash away.

If you do manage to snag one, you’ll really impress your date – and the arcade manager will give you a plastic baggie to take it home for a nice romantic dinner. Or, at the very least, your junior high school friends will think you’re cool.

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But what happens if you don’t get any (lobster) tail? Don’t worry! There’s plenty of weird, delicious snacks available in downtown Osaka. The city is famous for tako-yaki, or roasted octopus balls.

Rubbery bits of chopped octopus tentacles are mixed with a flour batter and roasted in a golf-ball-sized fry pan, and then smothered in barbecue sauce, fish flakes and seaweed dust. It will set you back only 600 yen, and it goes down great with a lime or mango slushee.

Tako Yaki - Japanese Octopus snack in Osaka

Don’t laugh: this fast food snack is every bit as legit and popular in Osaka, as a Philly Cheesesteak or a New York hot dog are in their own hometowns. And it tastes way better than it sounds. If I had some fresh octopus in the fridge and bonito flakes in the cupboard, I’d be tempted to fry some up right now!

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Brett Borders spent 4 years living and traveling in Asia. He now runs a Denver SEO company that specializes in online reputation management.

  • that is cool and weird at the same time………

  • It’s only a game if you win but if you lose it’s a stinking waste of time.

  • I’m not against eating animals, but turning it into a game? That’s kind of cruel.

    • I personally feel that its all the same, since they are still going to get eaten no matter what.
      For them, its just a difference between “murder” and “torture-before-murder”

  • Wouldn’t the easiest ones to catch be the weaker and probably the less healthy of the pack? On the other hand, they could simply be the dumbest ones (phew!).

  • I’ve actually seen that lobster thing in Jacksonville, FL, in a touristy part of town, looked almost exactly the same as that machine. If you caught a lobster the restaurant it was outside would cook it for you. I saw it about 4 years ago…

  • Yeah, I also saw the same exact type of game when I was in vacation at St. Augustine Florida. It was inside of a restaurant and they would also cook it for you if you got one. I almost had one too… They put up a good fight with that claw.
    It could have even been the same place.

  • Isn’t that a bit…. Evil?

  • lol noice

  • …this is a bit disturbing to me ….hehe

  • Uh, couldn’t do that in the states… Peta would go nuts.

    • They are all over in florida it seems like from the comments.
      The place that had one in Daytona Beach doesn't exist anymore. But it was the same as the others, the restaurant would cook it for you if you caught one.

  • actually the game is kinda fun. we had a few in hawaii. but the lobsters are hard to catch since they always move around when the claw falls.


    • No, the translation of たこ焼き is literally "fried octopus." Tako (たこ/蛸 = octopus) + Yaki (焼/焼き/やき = fried/cooked)

      It's totally true that they're really popular–mostly in Osaka and the Kansai region, but certainly also in Ishikawa, and of course in Tokyo too–everywhere! Some Japanese restaurants in the States have them too.

  • Doctor Zoidberg is very pissed off right now.

  • ugh….octopus balls have been around for a LOOONNG time

  • I would be in to trying that. Hmmmm…Now if I could just get to Florida.

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