The VICE Guide to Right Now

Osaka’s Iconic Giant Pufferfish Is Gone

At 5 metres long and 3 metres wide, the paper lantern was a landmark in Osaka that hung from a restaurant established in 1920.
September 4, 2020, 10:11am
zuboraya osaka japan pufferfish
Photo: Atul Vinayak on Unsplash

For most tourists, a trip to Osaka, Japan wouldn’t be complete without a photo in its busy streets. Countless social media posts show visitors posing like the running man on the giant Glico sign or under a massive 3D crab in front of the Kani Doraku restaurant. These modern landmarks are iconic, which is why many were shocked when another well-known sign was taken down.

No longer hanging from the Zuboraya restaurant in Shinsekai is the giant blue and white pufferfish that has become a symbol in Osaka’s entertainment district. The paper lantern that measured 5 metres long, 3 metres wide, and hung 3 and a half metres above the ground was taken down early on Thursday, Sept. 3.

According to SoraNews24, workers removed it via crane trucks just before dawn and took it to a warehouse in the city. This comes after Zuboraya, known for serving pufferfish at reasonable prices, was forced to close after the pandemic severely affected its sales. The restaurant stopped operations on April 8, as part of coronavirus prevention efforts.

"Sales had been declining drastically from March so I decided to close them down," Takaharu Matsuda, chairman of the restaurant’s operating company, told The Asahi Shimbun in June.

Both the branches in Shinsekai and Dotonbori will close permanently on Sept. 15.

Advertisement

“Thank you for your longtime patronage. Be well, everyone. Well then! Goodbye,” reads the banner posted in front of the Shinsekai store. Established in 1920 as the “first pufferfish restaurant in Osaka,” it would have celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

In June, authorities also flagged that the lantern violated city laws because it extended into the street further than 3 feet (1 metre). Knowing how important the giant pufferfish is to the neighbourhood and its visitors, Spa World, a public bath and hotel located close to Zuboraya, offered to save it. However, they have not confirmed if this is even possible.

"It was a symbol of the New World, so it's sad to disappear," a 60-year-old man who runs a pub nearby told newspaper Mainichi.

Seeing the street without the 3D pufferfish got netizens in a nostalgic mood and posting their fond memories by the sign.

User @eddiecorg decided to virtually revisit the fish in his video game — a place where it could never be taken down.

Even netizens who have never been to the iconic restaurant felt the loss.

Find Lia on Twitter and Instagram.