Osaka, the land of Takoyaki, Dotonbori, and Universal Studios Japan (where Super Nintendo Land resides). The land where I ate and ate and ate.
Japan, my beloved Japan. Many people wouldn’t believe that it’s my first time in Japan (especially if you know me well enough), but I FINALLY WENT TO JAPAN (celebrates)! So I’m here to share my Wandering & Wanderlust food adventures with you! Big Shout Out to my friend A for being the best person to travel Japan with (Sorry NSSSO).
When we got off the plane in Tokyo, we rushed to catch our Shinkansen to Osaka, so by the time we got to the station, we were hungry. This meant one thing and one thing only, Ekibens. What is an Ekiben? An Ekiben is short for Eki Bento, aka Station Bento or, maybe loosely translated, Station Take-Out? Essentially, you can’t eat in public spaces in Japan. If you’re lucky, there are designated eating areas, but other than that, you’re pretty much out of luck. This, I’m assuming, is because the Japanese prescribe to the philosophy that food is to be savoured and not eaten in a hurry. The Shinkansen is the only exception. You can eat on these trains, either by bringing your own food or getting one of these Eikibens. The choices you have are varied, from a small snack to a full meal.
My friend and I shared a Katsusando, aka Katsu Sandwich. Two fluffy pieces of bread with a wonderfully fried piece of pork in between. The sandwich was large enough that my friend and I just shared it and was pretty much good to go for the rest of the evening. The quality of these Ekibens are a lot better than I ever thought, especially given its train station food. If you’re going to take the Shinkansen, I’m going to recommend you give an Ekiben a try.
Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0073, Japan
After spending a day in Kyoto, we hunted for breakfast at the Kuromon Market, which is full of wonderful things to look at and try eating. But because we got there at 10 AM, nothing was really open. Due to hunger, we kind of wandered into the first store that was open. Took a peek at the menu and decided this was it. Let me introduce you to one of the most extravagant breakfasts I’ve ever had: Kaisendon.
What is a kaizendon? It can be translated to seafood rice. In Japan, seafood is so prevalent that it feels like a part of their daily lives there. One of my goals for Japan was to eat Uni, or Sea Urchin, and I can’t believe it was fulfilled as a breakfast option.
My pick for that morning was a salmon roe & sea urchin kaisendon. The uni and the salmon roe are completely different from what I’ve had before, in an excellent way. The roe was briny, bordering on too salty, which is tempered by the sweetness found in the soy sauce. The uni was melt-in-your mouth buttery and I could honestly eat it every day (trust me, I tried). The portion size was pretty small, excellent for a snack or a small breakfast.
I would recommend visiting Kuromon just to wander and try the food stalls that are everywhere. Trying a little of everything is the best way to eat isn’t it? But be prepared to wait, since the market opens gradually. We got there for 10 AM and almost nothing was open and stalls were just setting up, and it picks up around 11 AM.
お好み焼き てっぱん焼き かめちゃん
3 Chome-4-16 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002, Japan
We met up with my friend’s friend (who splits his time between Canada and Japan) and he took us to Shinsekai. Shinsekai is a district in Osaka that houses the Tsutenkaku Tower. All of it is an explosion of nostalgia, as it was apparently built with Paris as its model for its northern half and New York (Coney Island) as inspiration for its southern half.
We were brought to OkonomiyakiTeppanyaki Kamechan for some authentic okonomiyaki. The person working there did not speak English, so having a local really helped us with that. But who cares about language when the food was *chefs kiss*. They specialized in okonomiyaki, which I guess can be called a Japanese pancake.
We ordered two okonomiyakis, but there was shrimp in the other one and I am sadly allergic, so I could only try the Negi one. Negi = Green Onion, so I had a pancake that was filled with green onions. I hate green onions, they make me gag and I never want to eat them. But this okonomiyaki, this magical man making it, managed to not only remove the taste, but make it delicious.
The restaurant is small, which feels very typical in these markets, but because it’s so small, they cook in front of you. That’s my favourite kind of experience, being able to watch chefs cook in front of you. The best sort of entertainment.
My friend and I managed to sort of hold pseudoconversations with the person working there with my horrible Japanese skills and my friend’s much more fluent Japanese. We had a small conversation about Kimura Takuya and laughed about how he was the same age as the chef.
As mentioned before, it’s pretty difficult to find restaurants open for breakfast. While we were there, we relied on 7/11, markets, and occasionally found a restaurant that was open. Even then, it’s not the typical breakfast that we think of. Being Chinese, I’m pretty used to rice, porridge, or even noodles for breakfast, but the Japanese take it up a level.
The breakfast that I had during the trip included onigiri, pasta vongole, a full soba set, and seafood.
Japan, 〒542-0071 Osaka, Chuo Ward, Dotonbori, 1 Chome−10−5 白亜ビル １階
For our last day in Osaka, we really couldn’t leave without having takoyaki, aka octopus balls. We stood in Dotonbori, probably the most tourist portion of Osaka (in my estimation), and were surrounded by different takoyaki stalls. Decisions, decisions, decisions. We eventually decided to go with Kukuru, based on how long the lines at the other places were (haha).
The takoyaki here were huge! A lot bigger than I’ve ever seen before. They were also very soft, which I wasn’t expecting. Once you bit into it, the texture was more or less what was expected, but it’s certainly different from the sturdier and smaller ones I’ve had in Toronto. I honestly feel like I didn’t have enough takoyaki when I was in Osaka, that might be my only regret.
So that’s the end of my three days (two days?) in Osaka. Look forward to my Tokyo post coming soon!