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.

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!

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