Okonomiyaki in the post-war period
After the war, everyone was suffering from starvation and searching for anything that they could eat. It was at this time that a certain food called issen-yoshoku became extremely popular. Issen-yoshoku, which can roughly be translated as “one-coin western food,” was originally a food highly popular among children and was sold at local candy shops.
During the pre-war period, issen-yoshoku was not popular with adults as it was considered a children’s snack. However, due to the damage the town had sustained during the war, the people were desperate and gradually issen-yoshoku was adapted into a dish that adults could enjoy as well. Eventually, it’s popularity as a dish increased until it became popular nation-wide. This is how the history of okonomiyaki began in the post-war period.
The Pioneers of Okonomiyaki
The pioneers of okonomiyaki, a number of restaurant owners in the downtown area, began to adapt issen-yoshoku by placing a strip of pork onto it. They changed the name from “issen-yoshoku” (a term that had implied a one-coin price, though in actuality, it cost much more than one coin) to “okonomiyaki.” Along with the name, the food itself was transformed into a dish that adults could enjoy as well. Thus, okonomiyaki ventured onto its journey into a totally new world. During the late 1940’s however, it was still considered a light snack for relieving hunger and was predominantly sold by street vendors or small-scale restaurants of low quality.
The Position of Okonomiyaki is Firmly Established
Toward the end of the 1950’s, okonomiyaki had developed from a snack designed to stave off hunger and into a popular dish that was popular among all age and social groups. The name okonomiyaki comes from two words, “Okonomi” (which means “whatever you like”) and “Yaki” (which means “grilled”). Taken together, it implies that you mix any ingredients you like and then grill them on a special griddle. As such, it can be modified to suit the tastes of each individual person. For example, “negi-yaki” is a form of okonomiyaki with plenty of leeks. You can put as much as you like into the mixture of flour and vegetables and then put other ingredients, such as squid or shrimp. Being able to include any ingredient you like is what makes okonomiyaki so popular today.