Friday, September 20, 2013


Osaka, a place far off the radar for many tourists, was our next destination. Not known for much in the tourist circles aside from some local foods, Osaka was a pleasant surprise for Hannah and me. The feel of Osaka, one of Japan's 3 largest cities, was much more grungy and a slight bit more chaotic. That being said, a chaotic city in Japan far exceeds the peace and tranquility of any US City. We took the recommendation of fellow travelers, our friends Ocean and Geoff who had recently done a similar trip in Japan, and took Osaka for what it incredibly fun city with lots of culinary treasures and much less pricey than other large Japanese cities.

Welcome to Osaka!

We took the Shinkansen bullet train for the under an hour trip from Kyoto to Osaka. Upon arriving the main shopping arcades of Osaka we were completely and pleasantly overwhelmed by the overabundance of video game arcades, bowling alleys, ramen shops, sushi restaurants, and countless more authentic but tacky establishments. It was so Japan, and so much fun. As is clear from most of our other posts, we don't need museums to see culture, give us some food and beer and we'll create our own cultural experience.

It all started with ramen....of course. We had already begun to wonder what we were going to do without ramen. We couldn't possibly live in a world without real Japanese ramen. Ordering and eating ramen was such a great ritual. You'd start by selecting what you wanted from a vending machine. We had no idea what we were selecting because it was all in Japanese and one picture was indecipherable from the next. The machine spits out a ticket which you then hand to the person at the counter. Within 2 minutes you are handed a piping hot bowl of broth, pork, and delicious ramen noodles. You then take to the kimchi and load up as much spicy kimchi into your bowl as your taste buds can handle. Next you carefully take the steaming bowl to a table, and slurp away. This ritual is something we will search for in every US City we go to forever and probably never be able to equal.

I wasn't ever sure exactly what the balls were that we saw chefs on the street making all over Osaka, but as I waited in line for who knows what, I was sure that I wanted some. It turned out to be something like a mayonnaise covered fried squid ball...amazing, or as Hannah says, disgusting.

We had no idea what this place was serving, but we liked the host.

Munchie's Osaka

The next morning we had a great day wandering around the malls and shopping centers with the Namba Park on the roof. We picked up some dumplings and buns at the famous 551 Horai and had a picnic on top of the shopping mall in a beautiful park overlooking Osaka.

We finished the afternoon at a local bar that specialized in craft beers that Hannah found in the NYT's 36 hours in Osaka . This was a great scene at this tiny bar with Japanese baseball playing on the TV in the background, and of course us making friends with the owners. It makes it easy when they think you are Adam Sandler. 

After overstaying our welcome, we asked the owners where we should head for an authentic, local meal. In true Japanese fashion he didn't only suggest a place, he walked us there himself to ensure that the restaurant took good care of us, and told us what must-haves were on the menu. We preceded to eat and drink everything on their menu.

The next day was a lazy shopping day. We spent the day trying to figure out what the best souvenirs would be for our nieces, nephews, parents, siblings, neighbors...whoever Hannah could think of! It seemed like a no brainer that Japan was the best place to bring presents home from considering it was the farthest and most expensive. After shopping we decided that bowling was the obvious next choice. 

As I've said, the Japanese people are always there to help whether you think you need it or not. The couple bowling next to us, who spoke no English, decided that my game could be improved by learning how to bowl spinners. While Hannah wasn't so happy to bowl my best games yet, we made friends as always. 

Our final meal in Osaka was really just a Jonathan meal. We had eaten so much over the past 72 hours that it was impossible to fit another in, but it was necessary. There is a another local Osaka specialty called Okonomiyaki, which appears to be a large flat pancake with an unbelievable amount of unidentifiable ingredients. It had to be done, but the potential for regret was huge.

Goodbye Osaka, thanks for the extra 10 lbs!


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