Octopus (タコ)

Cirrina (enCirrina)

Incirrina (enIncirrina)

Octopus is the general term for animals categorized in Mollusca Cephalopoda Octopodoformes Octopoda. It is a marine mollusk that mainly lives in shore reefs and sandy areas. Though various species are known, the term octopus usually refers to a common octopus.

Biological Characteristics

It is characterized by eight tentacles having multiple suckers. Though the tentacles are generally referred to as legs, they are often expressed as arms in academic books (as is the case in English). The spellings for "octopus" (English) and "octopoda" (Spanish) come from the Greek word 'Eight-legged' (oktopous; ὀκτώπους).

It has the highest intelligence of any invertebrate and can distinguish colors, recognize shapes, as well as learn and solve problems.

It is known that the animal can take on a protective coloring and change its shape according to the geographical features to protect itself, and remember that coloring and shape for about two years.

Most of its flexible body is made up of muscles and can at times exert powerful strength.

Its life span is short.

There is no successful commercial cultivation of octopus in Japan due to the difficulties involved in managing the eggs (as of January 19, 2009).

When it senses danger, it spews black ink to conceal itself. This ink contains abundant umami (especially amino acid) when compared to that of a squid, but it is considered difficult to process and not fit for cooking since the ink has less viscosity and is easier to dissolve in water, in addition to the fact that the ink sac is difficult to take out.

The suckers on a male vary in size when compared to that of a female, and of the eight legs, the tip of one of the legs acts as a reproductive organ; fertilization can occur when this arm enters a female body (copulatory arm).

When attacked by an enemy, the octopus can cut loose the captured leg which is later regenerated, but at times this can grow into two legs, and an octopus with more than 8 legs is not uncommon. As an extreme example, an octopus with 96 legs has been captured in Japan and it is currently being displayed as a specimen in Shima Marine Land aquarium.

Also, there are cases in which it eats its own leg from stress, but in such a case, the leg does not regenerate.

The large round part that looks like a head at a glance is in fact a body, and the base of the legs is the head. In other words, it can be said that the legs (arms) are growing out of its head (which is also the case with squid, and the Japanese word for cephalopoda is derived from this fact).

Its blood looks blue since the blood contains green colored pigments called hemocyanins.

Food Culture

As a commonly available source of protein, octopus has been consumed as food in coastal areas worldwide. Octopus fall under 'fish without scales' and cannot be eaten according to the dietary laws of kashrut in Judaism. In some sects of Islam and Christianity, consumption of octopus is considered to be a taboo due to similar laws.


Man potteries in the shape of an octopus trap pot have been excavated from the Yayoi period ruins such as the Ikegamisone Historic Site in Osaka Prefecture. Japan accounts for about 60 percent of the world's octopus consumption. In recent years, imports from Africa and Morocco have increased to a level surpassing 60 percent of the whole production, but fishing prohibitions due to overfishing have been frequent, and imports from other production centers are increasing. It is frequently cooked, and most types turn scarlet when boiled. In terms of cooking, it is used as an ingredient for sashimi, sushi, vinegared octopus, boiled octopus, and oden (a Japanese dish containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc.). It is also popular as an ingredient for takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and for tamagoyaki (round balls made from eggs, flour, etc.) (Akashi City), which is thought to be the origin of takoyaki.

It is low in calories, but rich in protein and especially taurine. It also contains a lot of zinc. The ones captured during the summertime are considered especially tasty. In the Kansai region, there is a custom of eating an octopus on hange (45 days into geango, a 90 days summer seclusion), but it is said that this is to supplement taurine and to prevent summer heat fatigue. Eggs found inside the body of a female in early autumn are wrapped in an ivory colored sac and are called the octopus' fukurogo ("sac child"); these are eaten boiled with soy sauce and sugar. Also, spawned eggs are called kaitoge ("sea wisteria flower") from their shape, and these are soused.

Europe and America

Called "devil fish" in England and Germany, it has been anathema to many due to its appearance and has been avoided for consumption, but it is beginning to be consumed at Japanese restaurants such as the sushi shops. There are also regions in the western countries such as Spain and Mexico that consume octopus. A boiled octopus dish in the Galician region of Spain called 'Polbo á feira' (literally "fair style octopus" in Galician), or 'Galician style octopus' outside the Galician region, is especially famous.

In regions such as Greece where there are many believers of the Orthodox Church, there are many traditional foods that use octopus; while meat is prohibited during Lent (during Great Lent, even fish is prohibited), there is no such problem with octopus or squid.


Octopus is an everyday cooking ingredient in the Republic of Korea, and sannakuchi (live octopus ocellatus in Korean) dish in which the octopus is cut into pieces and eaten alive is famous. There are no octopus dishes in Chinese traditional foods, and most octopuses that are consumed in Taiwan and China are cooking ingredients used by Japanese and Korean restaurants in that region.


Fishing Method

Octopus trap pot and trap box fishery that use octopus behavior of hiding between narrow rock crevices are unique to octopus fishery.

There is also an 'empty fishing method' that hooks the octopus with a wire with no bait.

The sight of empty octopus trap pots being piled on the beach has become part of the fishing village scenery in some regions. Also, Octopus ocellatus has a strong preference for white colors, and an irregular form of lure fishing where a needle is applied to a white object such as Japanese leek (edible plant, Allium bakeri, Allium Chinese) and used to fish the octopus that wraps itself around it is also famous.

Uploading ports in Japan

It is a fish species subject to class 1 common fishery right.

Year 2002

1st - Matsukawaura fishing port (Fukushima Prefecture)

2nd - Soya-misaki Cape (Hokkaido)

3rd - Ochiishi fishing port (Hokkaido Prefecture)

4th - Hachinohe fishing port (Aomori Prefecture)

5th - Shoya fishing port (Hokkaido Prefecture)

Other Cultures

It is often depicted as a character in comics, movies and television because its form and ecology are so unique and humorous, and because it has a characteristic of becoming bright red when boiled (it is frequently portrayed as a figure with a hachimaki headband wrapped around its torso). It is often compared to squid as an animal that similarly spews ink clouds.

[Original Japanese]