Oyatsu (afternoon snack) (おやつ)
The term "oyatsu" (おやつ), also written in katakana (one of the Japanese syllabaries) as オヤツ, refers to an afternoon snack that was originally eaten at yatsudoki (approximately 2 p.m.) according to the old Japanese way of counting time. It is also referred to as osanji (afternoon snack).
People eat mainly sweets, fruits, etc. as an afternoon snack. It is also said that people came to eat a snack to shake off sleepiness when they had not taken a midday nap. The United Kingdom also has a similar custom, which refers to afternoon tea (also known as high tea). There is a tendency to eat mainly sweets including sugars and snacks including carbohydrates as between-meals refreshments so as to get nutrition, especially calories, in the daytime.
As an aside, there is the following joke or conventional expression: "Is a banana an oyatsu?" "No, it is not an oyatsu because it is a kind of fruit." This joke can be explained in connection with the fact that people eat mainly sweets as an oyatsu in modern times.
People tend to eat a high-calorie snack between meals. But they do not want to get such a feeling of fullness that they can not eat regular meals that supply other nutrients. This is because such an unbalanced diet will damage their health. Therefore, the volume of snacks between meals is less than that of a regular meal in many cases. Such a snack can be also regarded as a light meal.
If the terms "a light meal" and "oyatsu" are compared, oyatsu tends to be used for sweets, the flavor of which people enjoy. As there is a great variety of confectionery in modern times, there is also a tendency to enjoy its flavor first, and to relieve hunger with it until the next regular meal.
The origin of the term
It originally meant a snack between meals eaten by farmers to maintain body strength during a break when people took only two meals a day in the morning and evening. The term "oyatsu" originated in the custom made at yatsudoki (about two p. m.) according to the Japanese clock. It has not used in the original meaning since the latter half of the 20th century up to now when people have come to eat meals universally three times a day. At present, it generally means a snack between meals, which does not correspond to a breakfast, lunch or dinner (or an evening meal).
Afternoon snacks eaten at about 3 p.m. There is a tendency to eat an afternoon snack generally at about 3 p. m. in Japan now.
It is unknown when this custom took root.
Bunmeido Shinjuku Inc., which is known as a brand of castella sponge cake and Japanese confectionery, produced a TV commercial in which the following catch phrase was broadcast with a lilting tune: 'Our castella is No. 1, our telephone number is two, let's stop at 3 p.m. for a snack (produced by Bunmeido).'
For this reason, there is a theory that the time to eat an afternoon snack averaged out to 3 p.m. under the influence of this commercial, although each family had enjoyed it in various periods of time before.
Bunmeido intended that its catch phrase would help consumers remember the telephone number of the store. The company was among the first to take advantage of the telephone for commercial purposes when telephone users still required operator assistance to be connected. Because the telephone number of the company was 'two,' this catch phrase was coined. As the catch phrase was related to the telephone number, it had been used also in an advertisement on the back cover of a telephone directory since 1933. The part 'let's stop at 3 p.m. for a snack …' may be replaced with a different phrase in some cases.