If you are looking for food, fun and action, then Osaka is for you. Who needs cultural attractions, when you have all this street action and street food on tap? During our time in Osaka, we basically snacked our way thru the city streets. Osaka is a bite-sized sample of Tokyo, so much more manageable but, in my opinion, a bit on the cheesy side and lacking the class found in Tokyo. The action is centered around the Dontonburi Canal. The area really comes alive at night when all the neon lights and billboards are lit up. If it’s seafood, sushi and other Japanese chow that you are looking for, then a visit to the daytime Kuromon Market is a must. We are talking some serious sushi available here.
There are two districts to consider staying in Osaka:
1) Umeda Station District (in the vicinity of the JR Osaka Station)
2) Namba Station District (in the vicinity of Dotonbori & Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade)
We walked the streets of the entire bustling Dotonbori area and along the Dotonbori canal. The action packed Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade, a long stretch of street fashion and bargain basement shopping is also located in Dotonbori.
If you’re motivated by food, like me, then you’ll be basing yourself near the Namba Station area, home of the Dotonburi foodie mecca and the Kuromon Market. The food options in the three (3) big Japanese cities: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are simply amazing. In Amsterdam, the general theme to begin the day, was ‘wake and bake’. Once we arrived in Japan, it was replaced with ‘wake and steak’. Other than sushi, tempura, ramen and yakitori, the Japanese do love their steak. The Wagyu and Kobe beef are mouth watering – off the charts. We found ourselves eating steak just about every morning. Consequently, we eventually got savvy and just purchased our Wagyu steaks in the supermarket and Barbie grilled them up herself.
They also do rice really well, here in Japan. Asians love their rice and of all the Asian countries we have visited, the rice has been best in Japan as they have the perfect consistency of stickiness along with moistness. The Japanese are also really good at grilling all sorts of yakatori (some unidentifiable) on a skewer and seasoning the meat to absolute perfection. I have come to realize that cooks worldwide have not really put all their brain cells into the preparation of meat on a skewer like they do here in Japan.
It doesn’t matter what street you turn down, you will always see unique and creative hand foods being served up. There are downsides to all this tasty takeaway street food. Unfortunately, with Japan being such a proper society, it’s considered rude to throwdown your snacks on the street corner or eat whilst you walk. Even if you do have the balls to eat or drink while you walk, there is literally not a single garbage can on any street to be found. It just baffled my mind how every single street in Japan is so spotlessly clean and there is not a garbage pail in sight. That means if you get a drink from one of the trillion vending machines lining the streets, you will be carrying that empty bottle around for the rest of your life.
Japan is one of the most polite and structured societies that we have visited and I did follow most of their cultural etiquette rules. However, the no eating and drinking rule while walking was one etiquette rule that a DUDE like myself simply could not ABIDE BY. A few times, I would wander away with my Japanese snack food in hand and mouth subsequently fully loaded, despite the fact that it’s considered a no-no. I did feel a bit of shame but was never sent to the box.
Usually one would scoff at purchasing any sort of cooked food item at a 7-11 in America and rightfully so. A slushee…….maybe. Basically, you would have to be either really drunk or stoned off your tree at 2AM to even think about pulling the trigger and eating one of those hot dogs on those rotating hot dog grills. In Japan, they have both 7-11’s and Family Mart’s that actually serve up real food and great snacks, all without the risk of contracting Hepatitis A. Upon arrival, I told Barbie that I read the ubiquitous, Family Mart’s convenience store chain sell fried chicken patties that many rave about. Being the food connoisseur that she is, she laughed at Big Doug during our first two weeks in Japan. Then one day, hungry and no other choices in sight, she finally succumbed and purchased a piece of fried chicken. After the first bite, a wide satisfied smile appeared, followed by her proclamation, “This shit is good”. So next time you find yourself in Japan with your lady hungry, with only a Family Mart in sight, just bite the bullet and go buy yourself a fried chicken patty and thank me later.
The other big street food items in Osaka include:
Tonkatsu (pork cutlet), Takoyaki (fried octopus dumplings), Okonomiyaki (savory seafood pancakes), Kushiage (deep-fried skewers of meat and vegetables), Yakiton (grilled pork on skewers), Yakitori and Unagi (grilled eel)
We took a day trip, using our JR Rail pass and headed 45 minutes east to Nara. Nara is known for its temples and deer that roam around the temples. Most people visit Nara for the temples but my animal loving Barbie was on a mission to check out and play with the deer. We had to cut our time short in Nara as the typhoon warning, that we originally thought we skirted was back on our track and nobody got time for no typhoon. We did manage to walk thru town and did a beeline to where the deer hangout in the park.
Usually deer want nothing to do with humans and go nowhere near us human cretens. However, in Nara, the deer are roaming all over the park and nearby temples. You have humans feeding them ‘deer biscuits’. You can purchase a pack of 5 big biscuits from the very business savvy ‘deer biscuit guy’ who seemingly has a hammerlock on the deer biscuit sales in Nara, without any competition in sight. The dude has a true monopoly over here.
I knew this place would be heaven for Barbie since she loves feeding animals (and that includes me). Well, Barbie had a surprise, or should I say scare of her life and almost shit in her pants. Fully expecting tame deer, once she showed her biscuits the deer came running and overwhelmed Po’ ole Barbie. As you can see from the video below, animal loving Barbie could not handle the heat that the deer threw her way. What a wimp, huh?
Admittedly, the deer can be pretty uncouth. But, at least the deer bow before they bite you in the ass and try to steal your entire pile of biscuits.
THRU THE BINOCS –
Have I told you that the Japanese know how to really shrink wrap shit?