Updated: July 23, 2018

One of Japan's favorite traditional snacks, and a popular item among foreign tourists, taiyaki are hot cakes made with pancake or waffle batter, grilled in a fish-shaped mold and filled with an 餡 (sweet red bean paste). According to one theory, since the tai 鯛 (Japanese red sea bream) is considered a lucky fish (the sound "tai" is contained within the word medetai, meaning "auspicious"), it was chosen as the shape of the cake and popularized in the Meiji Period.

There have been many variations of taiyaki in recent years. For example, the Pokemon Company saw an opportunity and created a limited-time Magikarp taiyaki. The taiyaki concept even swam across the Pacific and was reborn as an ice cream cone.

However, if you're going to make a cake in the shape of a fish and you want to make some waves, why limit yourself to sea breams or carps? Why not tackle the granddaddy of all fish, the one called a "living fossil," the coelacanth?

There are two important reasons why such a concept came from Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture. To begin with, the coastal city is home to the Numazu Deep Blue Aquarium & Coelacanth Museum, which has the distinction of being the only aquarium in the world with coelacanths on display. And second, Numazu is the setting for the highly popular anime, Love Live! Sunshine!!, about a group of high school girls who become idols and form a group called Aqours in order to save their school from shutting down. In homage to the coelacanth, one of the girls in the anime, Ruby Kurosawa, is often seen hugging a plush toy shaped like the unusual fish.

The popularity of the anime has turned Numazu into a so-called "anime pilgrimage site," with local businesses capitalizing on the influx of fans. In fact, our grape Japan staff visited the city last year to try a rental car decorated with all nine members of Aqours, a popular way for fans to get around town.

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

Thus was born the Coelacanth Cafe, a popup store selling coelacanth-shaped taiyaki-style cakes, operated by a diver who decided to do something "big" in commemoration of his 8,000th dive. According to our informant in Numazu, Yutaka Yanagida, most of the visitors are Love Live! Sunshine!! (and Ruby) fans, so he has put up a few posters on the walls and decorations on the small counter inside. However, you don't have to be a fan of the anime to enjoy his delicious coelacanth pancakes.

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

Their menu is only in Japanese, so we've translated it for you here:

  • Shaped Pancakes
  • Banana: bananas, brown sugar (w/ whipped cream, and caramel sauce available)
  • Sakura-ebi (tiny dried shrimp): sakura-ebi and a savory cream made with Camembert cheese.
  • Banana plate: whipped cream, and you can choose from the following seven sauces: chocolate, orange, strawberry, blueberry, kiwi, vanilla, mixed fruits
  • Sakura-ebi plate: Added balsamic vinegar
  • Drinks
  • Deep-roast coffee: brewed with Kakita River Spring Water
  • Whipped cream latte

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

In case you were wondering, the eyes of the coelacanth are made with dried syrup

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

Yutaka tried one of the banana pancakes first and found them to be wonderfully tasty. Then, he tried a sakura-ebi pancake:

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

He wanted to show us the camembert filling too...

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

OK, that was a bit too graphic, so we'll spare you the details

photo: Yutaka Yanagida

One thing we can tell you, though, is that the sakura-ebi version is also very tasty, with the umami of the sakura-ebi blending nicely with the Camembert cheese in the creamy filling. Too bad he didn't try the plate with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. That sounds really good!

photo: Yutaka Yanagida


As of June, it seems they have added a parfait to their menu as well!

The Coelacanth Cafe takes pride in using quality ingredients. This panel tells us that they use eggs from chickens raised in the Asagiri Plateau on high-quality feed and vanadium-rich water from the subterranean rivers of the neighboring Mount Fuji, extra rich milk from Tanna Dairy Farms, and Kakita River Spring Water, selected as one of the best in Asia.

If you'd like to visit the Coelacanth Cafe and try out the new wave in Taiyaki for yourself, the store is open irregularly on days when the shop owner goes diving. You should check his schedule on his Twitter account of his Facebook page. The next date he has posted is March 21st (Wed) from 10 am to 4 pm.

Here are the details:

  • Name: Coelacanth Cafe
  • Hours and dates: TBA
  • Address: Opposite the Seven-Eleven, 88-7, Mito, Numazu-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture 410-0223 静岡県沼津市三津88-7 410-0223
  • Tel: 09014792224
  • Twitter: @shirakansu_cafe
  • Facebook: Shaped Pancake>

By - Ben K.