Oh Japan, how I miss you so! I’ve always been a big lover of Japanese food (sushi, especially) and so it came to a surprise to quite a few of my friends that I had never visited the motherland of sushi. Everyone was telling me how much I’d love it and how great it was that I was starting to get worried that having high expectations might leave me disappointed until when a friend said ‘your high expectations will not only be met, they will be surpassed!’. And she was so so right.
We started our trip in Osaka, where we spent most of our time eating our hearts out at Dotonbori, the popular food street in the heart of Osaka city. There was lots more to do in Osaka too however as Tom was unfortunately injured from sport before our trip and couldn’t really walk, we were unable to make it to a lot of the other places we wanted to check out. Of course, this means there must definitely be a next trip soon!
This is the eastern end of Dotonbori Street in Osaka. Our first day in Osaka poured down like crazy but as we didn’t have much time here, we decided to hit up Dotonbori anyway. The rain didn’t keep anyone away – it was bustling just like any other day.
Dotonbori is packed with delicious eateries and street food and two things you absolutely must try is the takoyaki and okonomiyaki – both of which originated from this city. There are a zillion places in Dotonbori that do takoyaki and okonomiyaki and they’re very reasonably priced despite it being a tourist hotspot, so you have plenty of choice!
We tried the takoyaki at this place above – it was one of the first things we ate in Japan at the time and boy was it delicious. The thing I noticed about Japanese food in Japan is that it is completely different to Japanese food in Australia. I always thought I knew what takoyaki was meant to taste like (and I do love the takoyaki in Melbourne) but it is even more amazing in Japan! The takoyaki we tasted in Japan had a crunchy (but much softer) outer shell and the inside was fluffy and completely melted in your mouth. It was about 650Y (8AUD) for a tray of eight pieces here.
Of course, you’ll find these little arcade shops along Dotonbori too. I made a mental note to pick up something gudetama during my trip, but totally forgot about it!
Our first bowl of ramen in Japan was had at the ramen place above. There was a queue of people waiting outside and so we decided to join the queue too to see what the fuss was about. It was our first time battling a ramen vending machine and we had great trouble trying to figure it all out haha. We later found out that almost all ramen shops have these vending machines in front of the door where you choose what you want to order and put in money in exchange for your meal ticket. The ramen here was delicious – the soup was especially light but flavoursome and the noodles were so, so good!
The place above is Creo-Ru. We went here to try more takoyaki and okonomiyaki. It was a recommendation from a food blog I was reading so we decided to check it out. We ate at Creo-Ru’s restaurant which was downstairs but they also do take-away at the doorway as well as have a few food stalls along the street. You won’t miss it. The takoyaki we had here was truffle flavoured – sooo good if you love truffle – and the okonomiyaki so yummy too. To be honest, everything was delicious in Japan.
In Dotonbori, there are also quite a few food stores for gifts and souvenirs. We came across this one store that had walls of pocky and green tea snacks and had to try very hard to resist our temptation to buy everything. It was our first day of our trip and we wanted to hold off our shopping until the end – our luggage would have suffered real hard if we started shopping already!
Our first sushi train / conveyor belt sushi experience was also in Dotonbori. On our first night here, there was a really long queue of people waiting for a seat so we decided to return the next day for lunch instead. It was much quieter the second time around so we got a seat straight away. It was my first sushi experience in Japan and it blew me away. Makes my mouth water just thinking about sushi in Japan! Most of the dishes here were about 1.60AU each, a price completely unheard of in Australia and in Melbourne, where the cheapest sushi trains start at around 3.30AU each. In Japan, the salmon tastes like fatty salmon and melts in your mouth. Tuna is just the same. Regular tuna in Japan tastes like fatty tuna in Australia. So if regular salmon and tuna tastes like fatty salmon and tuna in Australia, you can only imagine what fatty salmon and tuna tastes like in Japan. I don’t even know where to begin. Everything was ridiculously delicious, and I don’t even know if the locals consider this place that good. The most amazing thing I had here was the broiled eel. I have never tasted eel so good. It was soft and melted in your mouth and I can’t even explain. You have to try it.
To find this sushi train, just look out for the giant shrimp in front of the building. Note: the shrimp actually sings some funny sushi song, so listen out for that too!
There are also quite a few places in Dotonbori that serve fugu/blowfish including the restaurant above with the massive blowfish out the front. Blowfish have a toxin that is 1200 times stronger than cyanide with no readily available antidote so people love to try fugu, as it’s one of those famous novelty things to do. We wanted to try it too but sometimes your stomach just lets you down and there was just no more room to stuff anymore food. Next time though!
If you have spare stomach space in Osaka, you should definitely also check out this super cute donut shop called Floresta. They are a chain and have multiple stores around Japan however I visited the Osaka one as it was close to Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi, making it one of the more convenient locations to visit when travelling. At Floresta, they made hand decorated animal donuts (‘nature doughnuts’) which are so cute! The donuts are made with organic ingredients and taste very different to normal donuts – they’re not too sweet, more dry and have a more biscuit-like texture. Tom didn’t like the taste but I loved them! We bought six of the cutest donuts there to snack on during our trip. They cost about 240-300Y each which is cheap for Australian standards but expensive for Japanese donuts. I heard it’s best to go in the morning to have the most choice as the cute animal ones can sell out fast!
That’s it for my Dotonbori diary and tips, hope you guys eat your heart out there when you visit too!
Photography: Tom Debono & I