Octopus (tako)


Octopus (tako)

***** Location: Japan, other areas
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Animal


In the Edo period, money was called "o-ashi" 足 legs,  
and things with many legs, like ika cuttlefish and tako octopus were considered auspicious gifts.

source : www.shippodoscroll.com

Octopus by Megata Kaian 目賀田芥庵


Japanese people like to eat octopus. One speciality of Western Japan is "fried octopus bits in a coat of batter" octopus balls, takoyaki. The octopus from Akashi (near Kobe) is most famous. Akashidako 明石蛸.

The animal has eight "legs", but in fact, they are the arms arranged around the mouth. These arms are full of round sucking discs,suckers (kyuuban 吸盤). A female giant octopus is said to have 280 suckers on each arm.
At the other side of the body, there is an opening where the animal can also discharge a black liquid, called "ink" (takosumi 蛸墨) in Japanese. This again is used in dishes like "noodles with octopus ink sauce". But the ink of squid (ikasumi イカ墨) is used more often for food.
Click HERE to look at some black squid dishes !

I once ordered octopus sushi in a small pub. The cook took a plastic bag with a life animal out of a small aquarium, grabed the tako, whacked off one limb in front of my eyes, squeezed the squeaming animal back into the bag and the aquarium and then cut the one arm into small slices, kneading them on my sushi.
By the time it was served to me we had decided to leave the place.
Yet, freshness of food is highly valued in Japanese quisine.

Octopus is also used as a lure for halibut fishing.

There are various kinds of octopus in the sea around Japan. All these names are kigo, but some for other seasons. Some saijiki place octopus also in the SPRING season.

By the way, the bald head of a Buddhist priest leads to the nickname of "Octopus Priest, tako boozu 蛸坊主 ". This is also the name of a famous race horse right now.


Tako kokeshi こけし wooden doll
- from ebay -


auspicious octopus

tako, written like this 多幸 is a pun for
"a lot of happiness"
and a red-white boiled octopus is essential for an auspicious dish of the New Year.

hipparidako ひっぱり蛸 "pulling octopus"
pulled and stretched out and fixed on bamboo to dry, also a pun for a person who can "pull others" for an active, profitable life.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

In the plains around Nara, octopus is served at a feast after rice planting to all who helped, with the wish that the plants will suck up water and nutrients, like an octopus with its many sucking disks, and grow to a good harvest.

Gabi Greve


Click HERE for photos of the famous
Giant Octopus !

Facts about the Octopus dofleini, the Giant Pacific Octopus


Cabbage and octopus pickled in vinegar.

This dish was served to guests by high ranking samurai.
By using a combination of cabbage which was a valuable medicine and the lucky octopus, they wished for the prosperity of the guests' descendants and happiness and health for the guests.

source : Samurai Gourmet, facebook


© Photo Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez

The octopus (Greek oκτάπους, 'eight-legs') is a cephalopod of the order Octopoda that inhabits many diverse regions of the ocean, especially coral reefs. The term may also refer to only those creatures in the genus Octopus. In the larger sense, there are 289 different octopus species, which is over one-third of the total number of known cephalopod species.

Read more details in the
© Wikipedia


In Japan, octopus are lured into pots (takotsubo 蛸壺) over night and then the pots are fished out. Fresh octopus dishes are a speciality in many port cities.




Kigo for Spring

Iidako いいだこ 飯蛸
Octopus ocellatus

a baby octopus; webfoot octopus. Literally it means "cooked rice octopus"
About 30 cm long, with a light yellow-beige color. Between his eyes there is a golden spot. She lays eggs from winter to early spring, which are eaten as a speciality.

Written like this 望潮魚 iidako literally means "full moon tide fish".


Kigo for all Summer

octopus, pl. octopi, tako たこ 章魚、蛸, 鮹

pots for fishing octopus, takotsubo 蛸壺

kigo for mid-summer

mugiwaradako 麦藁章魚 (むぎわらだこ)
"octopus in wheat straw"
..... 麦藁蛸(むぎわらだこ)
Name of the octopus in the season when the wheat starts ripening.


Quote By Simon Rowe
..... in this fishing village on the island of Shodoshima, in Japan's Seto Inland Sea, where hard-bitten fishermen, called ami moto, guzzle hot sake by the bucket and talk of fluctuating prices of octopus and squid.

Fishing tradition and seafaring charm remain strong in the wet markets of Akashi, 30 minutes by train west of Osaka. More than any other town on the Seto, it prides itself on octopus cuisine; its tako-yaki (octopus dumplings) rate as one of the most popular late-night snacks in southwest Honshu.

Akashi's obsession with eight legs is hard to ignore. Streets and alleys are festooned with octopus paraphernalia: hoop nets and the oblong clay pots called tako tsubo, which used to lure octopus, hang in store windows; countless racks of drying tentacles line the shopping lanes.
Copyright © 1999 the International Herald Tribune

Read the full story here

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

© PHOTO Flute Kreis

"Octopus Cedar" at Mt. Takao
with roots like an octopus.
Octopus Cedar, by Gabi Greve


Daruma as an Octopus

© ダルマーレ


. Kakinomoto no Hitomaro 柿本人麻呂 or 柿本人麿 .

from Shrine 柿本神社 Kakinomoto Jinja, Akashi, Hyogo

okutopasu - オクトパス - oku to pass - octopus
if you put it up there (on your desk) you pass the examination !

There are two shrines dedicated to Kakinomoto
島根県益田市 / 兵庫県明石市

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro 柿本人麻呂 or 柿本人麿
(c. 662 – 710)
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

. WKD : Kakinomoto .

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


. TAKO Yakushi 多幸薬師 and
the Octopus for good luck .

成就院(たこ薬師)Temple Joju-In, Meguro, Tokyo

TA 多 - much, a lot
KO (koo) 幸 - happiness, good luck

A play on the sound of TAKO.


The Japanese have a saying that the octopus is a symbol for people who have too much to do.

© Photo and Artwork by : locamotion


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

takotsubo ya hakanaki yume o natsu no tsuki

an octopus pot ---
inside, a short-lived dream
under the summer moon

"An octopus that has entered the pot is content with the small world of its own and enjoys a night's dream, never suspecting that it might be pulled up in the morning. A man born into this world is like that, too, as he lives a life as brief as a dewdrop. Such a view is presented in this poem. In view of the site, there may be historical allusions, too."

"Isn't it impossible to imagine that Basho had completely entered the mind of an octopus inside the pot? He became an octopus, so to speak."

And still another interpretation:

"In the Japanese poetic tradition, those who complain of the shortness of the summer night are, above all, lovers who have to part in the morning. Basho drew upon that that traditional mood of romantic love and applied it to the life of an octopus dreaming a short dream in a pot, thereby turning it into humor."

Translations and commentary by
- Makoto Ueda -

source : i-kimoto/Furusato
clay bell from Hyogo prefecture

octopus pots -
fleeting dreams
under the summer moon

Tr. Ad G. Blankestijn

The jars of octopus -
brief dreams
under the summer moon.
Tr. Robert Hass

By Basho 1688, 45 years old
He read this hokkku at Suma of the Seto Inland Sea (Seto Naikai) , where noble Heike and their family died jumping to the sea at Dan no Ura. Basho was reminded of the fact.

Heike mo tako mo onaji yume miru

Noble Heike and octopus
dream the same dream.

Haiga and renku by Sakuo Nakamura

This haiku reminds us of the tsuwamono
- Summer Grass Haiku from Hiraizumi - .

Basho, Oi no Kobumi 笈の小文 , written at at Akashi 明石夜泊
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

The battle of Dan-no-ura (壇ノ浦の戦い, Dan-no-ura no tatakai) was a major sea battle of the Genpei War, occurring at Dan-no-ura, in the Shimonoseki Strait off the southern tip of Honshū.
On April 24, 1185, the Genji (Minamoto) clan fleet, led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune, defeated the Heike (Taira) clan fleet, during a half-day engagement.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


old octopus pot:
does a dream from long ago
still linger inside?

Larry Bole


haunted lobster pot
woven of watery dreams
and insect menus


Related words

***** "cherry blossom squid" , hana ika 花烏賊
sakura ika 桜烏賊
kigo for late spring



CLICK for more photos - from Yamagata.





sakuo said...

I have enjoyed too much about Tako.
I like to eat Tako yaki at festival. .
Thank you Gabi san for sharing.


Gabi Greve said...

tako bikuni 蛸比丘尼 the Octopus nun
and more legends about nuns