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Trip Report Osaka Food Guide - Travel Report

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The Kansai Region lies in the southern-central region of Japan’s main island Honshu. In general, the region includes seven to ten prefectures, and the urban region of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto (a.k.a. Keihanshin Region) is the second most populated area in Japan, with numerous traditional and historic sites, countless shopping malls, world class entertainment and theme park, and much more to offer. Of course, many of my great memories in the area, not quite surprisingly, are linked with food.
You are welcome to visit my blog for photos and more details about the food!
https://knycxjourneying.com/2017/08/20/yummylicious-osaka/

*Umeda: Immerse yourself in the underground maze*
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If you want to put your sense of directions to the test, try the underground of Umeda. The Umeda underground mall is a maze connecting not only department stores but also several metro and train stations in one of the busiest areas in the city. Lines of shops, restaurants, and supermarkets (which almost look the same to me), are on both sides of the tunnel, which make it even more confusing (and distracting) for me to go back to ground; not to mention the troops of army-like business people that flooded me every two minutes as they were rushing for, or just got out of a train.
You might think I exaggerated but there’s a reason for it in the books. First, Umeda is still undergoing a lot of construction projects and the entire area is expanding and ever-changing.
Secondly, recently I read a book about Osaka that Umeda was not the first choice of building the JR station - it was a backup location with lots of protests against having the station built at Dojima, the original location. In the end, the train station was built on Umeda diagonally to the city’s grid street plan, due to the direction of the rails. As a result, the buildings were in a different direction that makes the road plan and tunnel design more complicated.

Anyway, once I took a deep breath and calm down from the “trauma”, the shopping and dining experience was fabulous. In fact, I could spend days in the area shopping and eat. Looking at the signage of Grand Front Osaka, I almost entered another panic – how could it be so big?

Tempura: 芦屋天がゆ Ashiya Tengayu

With a recommendation from a friend, I found the best place for Tempura in Lucua, a department store connected with JR Osaka’s North Gate. My friend was right! The food there was excellent and I have never tasted anything like it at a very reasonable price. The highlight was a Cod fish Tempura that it was so fresh and juicy.

*Dotombori & Shinsaibashi: Shopping and eating day and night*
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While many shops and department stores in Japan close at 7 or 8 pm, Shinsaibashi never sleeps. At night, Dotombori-dori is ablaze with neon lights and the symbolic Glico Running Man billboard would be lit until midnight.

Shop like Don Quixote is where you want to be. Don Quixote, or the locals like to call it "Donki", as charming as its name, is a discount chain store that carries a vast array of goodies from groceries, snacks, cosmetics, to electronics and clothing. These stores work late (some even 24-hour), and a lot of interesting products could be found in good value.

Okonomiyaki

A warm and savory Japanese pancake always perk up my appetite, it’s called okonomiyaki. okonomiyaki is Japanese cuisine mainly associated with the Kansai region and Hiroshima. “okonomi”, in Japanese, means “however you like it”; the restaurants, therefore, offer the liberty for diners to select the toppings which include bacon, octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, Konjac, mocha, noodles, and more. Explore the alleys in Dotombori-bashi where you could find a lot of local joints that serves authentic and cheap okonomiyaki. Watch they are grilled in front of your eye until perfection. If you don’t know what to do, the servers would be happy to assist.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki, or more commonly known as octopus balls, is a Japanese snack that could be seen anywhere in the world these days. In fact, this snack gained popularity from an Osaka street vendor, Tomekichi Endo, who was credited as the inventor of this amazing food. So it would only make sense that the world’s Takoyaki could be found in Osaka. True, there are lots of Takoyaki stores on the side of the road, especially in Dotombori-bashi. Which one to go? Well, just follow the crowd, look for the queues, and they will take you there.

Ramen: 一蘭 Ichiran

With such a variety and competition, Ichiran Ramen managed to make the cut and stand out from the crowd. Ichiran Ramen specialized in Tonkotsu Ramen, and it’s originated in Fukuoka (well, Kyushu, the paradise of Ramen). Customers are served in an individual booth, and the food was put out behind the curtain. In other words, you do not see the server (or your friend) which is quite an “innovative” dining experience. Ichiran Ramen Dotombori opens 24-hour but sometimes a queue could be seen outside the restaurant day and night.

Crab: かに道楽 Kani Doraku

Across the busy Ebisu bridge in the hub of Dotombori-bashi, there’s a giant mechanical red crab that visitors could hardly miss. Welcome to Kani Doraku (original). Kani Doraku has become a restaurant chain that could be found all over the country, but everything began here in Dotombori. The restaurant specializes in crabs, and they have crab dishes in hotpot, barbeque, grilled, or even raw. If you are too full to have a full meal, or you forgot to make a reservation, try to buy a take-out charcoal grilled crab legs at the booth at the entrance of the restaurant as a midnight snack. I still remember the sweet juicy tastes of how the crab legs were.

*Nipponbashi: So, here is where the locals are*
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Sashimi: Kuromon Food Market

Nice sashimi could be of thousands of yen in the city center. But not in there, Kuromon market, a spacious food market with vendors selling street food, fresh produce, seafood, and so much more. As we were wandering in between the covered streets I finally realized this is where the locals come to search for fresh ingredients for making dinner. This is where I could find giant leeks, asparagus, spring onions and all sorts of Japanese vegetable selling at a valuable price. Even if you are too tired to cook, you could simply pick out your favorite seafood and ingredients and bring them to a nearby restaurant and have them prepare the perfect meal for you!

*Shinsekai: passing through the time machine*
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Old shops and traditional things can be found here, like chess house, traditional toy stores, and old-fashioned Pachinko shops, and of course, the mascot, Billiken. Legend has it that it brought good luck to those scratch the sole of Billiken.

Fugu: づぼらや Zuboraya

Am I going to do this? I asked myself again as I was waiting for the food in Zuboraya, an expert for Fugu ryori. Fugu is puffer fish and it is a special cuisine in Japan. Since the tetrodotoxin in the puffer fish is lethal, some might think you would consider trying this cuisine if you have a death wish. So, was I risking it? Hmmm, Fugu dish is prepared and served by experienced and qualified chefs here in Zuboraya, and only chefs who had rigorous training for three or more years were allowed to prepare Fugu dishes to customers. So I have confidence in them, and I ended up safe and sounded. Was it worth trying? Hmmm, everything worth trying if you have never tried it, and honestly I couldn’t tell the difference between chicken and puffer fish if I was in a blind test.

Cafe: サンミ Sangmi

If you want to eat healthy and happy, there are lots of nice cafes in Osaka and Sangmi is one of those places. Abeno is a local neighborhood with lots of traditional alleys and design boutiques; and the new skyscraper, Abeno Harukas, is named the tallest building in Japan; The top floor of the building is an observatory which offers an unobstructed view of the entire Kansai Region. After exploring the area, enjoy a healthy lunch in Sangmi, which serves tasty organic dishes and their food is gaining popularity among the locals.

Souffle pancake: 幸せのパンケーキ Shiawase no Pancake

Souffle pancakes have become so popular in Japan right now somehow I fell into one of those “I have to have it” conundrums. I love, love, love waffles but I am not quite a sweet-tooth for cakes and desserts. I also don’t want to push my sugar level which I tried desperately to avoid. After my first bite, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t come at all.

Japanese are really the experts of bakeries. The fluffy pancakes are so rich yet light, tasty yet not too sweet, satisfying yet not overwhelming… I sat there bite after bite I finished the entire dish and simply could stop myself, and I felt like I just ate three clouds….

For the photos of the food and more details about the locations, you are welcome to visit:
https://knycxjourneying.com/2017/08/20/yummylicious-osaka/

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