Japan’s food Mecca – Osaka

We left Nara at around midday for Osaka and after negotiating yet another type of subway system, we made it to our hotel (note: hotel not hostel). We were pretty excited for this one as it was the most expensive of all our accommodation, plus our only private twin room. We were staying in a traditional ryokan hotel. Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns with tatami mats.

The hotel had provided green tea, biscuits and yukatas (indoor kimono style garments) for us to wear in the room if we wanted to. Of course we wanted to!

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After that, we decided to go for a wander and soon found ourselves at Doutonburi Street, famous for street food and generally eating and just across the road from our hotel! 

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We decided to have street food for dinner and tried loads of things including more takoyaki, which I hadn’t been such a fan of in Hiroshima but my goodness, these were amazing! 

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We also had delicious yakitori chicken skewers and gyoza dumplings. 

It wasn’t long before we decided that Osaka was pretty mad! There were people scaling a rock climbing wall down the side of a huge building, a man with dogs in a pushchair, someone belting out’Bennie and the Jets’ for karaoke and just so many food places! 

We walked along the river and saw the infamous Glico man sign…

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…spotted a few alternative dressers…

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In one of the many shopping strips, we came across a cheesecake shop, ‘Pablo’ and having read amazing, mouthwatering things about cheesecake in Osaka, it would have been rude not to try it! You could watch the cheesecakes being made while you were waiting, which was fun! 

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We bought a whole cheesecake and it was only on the walk back to the hostel that we wondered how we’d actually be able to eat it…given that we had no cutlery. Panic ensued as we scoured shops for cutlery or even anything that could be used as cutlery…then we remembered that we were staying in a hotel, they’d have cutlery! Phew! 

We pilfered a couple of spoons from the lobby and when we got back to the room, it wasn’t long before we opened the long-awaited treat. 

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My goodness. It was heavenly! Any plans or hopes of saving some for the next day were gone. The top was like a creme brûlée, the middle was light and creamy and there was a soft buttery base. It was incredible. We didn’t want it to end. Soon after we’d finished our first round of cheesecake, there was a knock on the door and two ladies had come to put our futon beds out for the night. Fortunately, they didn’t come when we were in the middle of eating but unfortunately, I was wearing my yukata…probably incorrectly!

One of the features of this particular hotel was a public communal bath in the basement…now I don’t know how much you know of Japanese bathing etiquette but, long story short, it involves complete nakedness. Fortunately, there were separate ones for men and women, otherwise that might have been the end of our friendship…but we decided to try it, when in Rome eh? *gulp*

Nervously entering the female baths, I was greeted by about five Japanese ladies, in various states of undress. Fortunately, I quickly realised that they were getting redressed so I decided to wait, awkwardly until they left. You are allowed a ‘modesty towel’, more akin to a flannel…and that’s it! You take all your clothes off, cover what you can and head inside to the baths. Next, you sit on a tiny stool and wash yourself completely, then you get into the hot water. Thrilled that no one else was in there but in a constant state of worry that someone would walk in, I couldn’t really relax until I got into the water. After a few minutes, you are meant to get out and re-wash before going back in. The hot water was a relief for  my achey, tired muscles but public nakedness isn’t really for me. 

The next day, we went to Osaka Aquarium, which was pretty awesome! I was sad not to be able to shake hands with an otter (click here to see what I’m on about!) but it was a really good aquarium. 

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Next we went for a ride on the Tempozan Ferris wheel, which was once the biggest in the world. Offering great views of Osaka and the chance to ride in a completely see through carriage, this was good fun!

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Nearby to both the aquarium and the Ferris wheel was Naniwa Food Theme Park, which we went for a stroll through, picking up a delicious fried pork bun and potato stick on the way!

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We then decided to head to a sake brewery museum which we’d read about, it was a bit of a faff to get there…but it was a really interesting museum – a heck of a lot of work goes into making sake! Or rather it did…the process is largely done by machine nowadays. It’s amazing what you can do with rice! The free samples went down quite well too!

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That night, we decided to try one of the many restaurants in Doutonburi street and went to a place where you barbecue your food yourself! On the sign outside, it said there was an English menu…win! However, once we’d ordered the buffet tasting option, we were faced with another menu where we had to choose what exactly we wanted – none of this was in English. We literally picked our food based on a tiny photo…most of the time, this worked well, some of the time not so much…let’s not speak of that…I really couldn’t tell you what we ate in any more detail than ‘pork?’, ‘beef?’. By the end of our meal, we had reached peak meat. The experience of cooking it at the table was quite fun, though there were a few times that I thought we’d lose an eyebrow or two!

The next day, we were due to head to Kyoto but decided to go and see Osaka castle first. On the way, we popped into Kuromon Market and had a good mooch around, trying more food as we went! This market is renowned for having really fresh seafood and it didn’t disappoint!

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I had the most delicious grilled scallops, they were so fresh, they just melted in my mouth! Yum! We also tried obanyaki which is a bit like a pancake with various fillings inside, I had custard and Alex had red bean paste.

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Then we made our way to Osaka Castle. Similar to Hiroshima Castle, the original was destroyed so what stands today is a replica. It was very impressive!

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Later, we jumped on the train bound for Kyoto…

Laura and Alex

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