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Adventures in Osaka

Continuing our trip around Kansai, Grace and I travelled to Osaka after a few days in Kyoto. I was really,really excited for Osaka because it’s the best place to get takoyaki and okonomiyaki, both foods I really love. And because we were hungry and in Osaka, of course we had to spend an evening at Dotonbori.

Dotonbori is justfullof food stands, arcades, souvenir shops, and restaurants with their massive storefront displays. Walking through Dotonbori feels a little like walking through San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s seafood restaurants everywhere, a lot of the bigger restaurants have giant plastic ‘mascots’, and many of them are also decorated in a way that vaguely reminds me of San Francisco.

There were endless takoyaki stands where we could watch the merchants cooking fresh batches of takoyaki, with lines stretching past several other shops, and countless restaurants advertising 100 yen fried skewers of meat. The fried skewer restaurant we went to had a huge variety of food on sticks, including a seasonal special of alligator.

Trying to leave a little room in our stomachs for other foods, we held off on ordering another round of skewers and made our way to a small okonomiyaki shop farther down the street. Okonomiyaki are kind of like Japanese omelettes, except bigger and with less focus on the egg. A lot of these restaurants have grills installed in the tables so the okonomiyaki can be made to order at your table, either by staff or diners. Because, like omelettes, okonomiyaki is infinitely customizable, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one I didn’t like. (Or I’m terribly biased toward omelettes.)

Although it’s a pretty tourist-y destination, Dotonbori was well worth the time we spent there.The place is lively and exciting, especially at night when all the decorations are lit up spectacularly. There’s good food everywhere you turn. It’s awesome.

Less awesome, though, was the second day we spent in the area, having met up with a friend. After discovering myriad varieties of fun rhythm games in the arcades, we headed for the ocean/bay since it didn’t seem that far away on Maps. Over an hour of walking and some very deserted/sketchy industrial areas later, we were no closer to the bay than when we started and it was getting dark, so we found the nearest train station, ate dinner nearby, and got the heck out of there. It was quite a contrast to see the less glamorous side of Osaka, right behind Dotonbori. But it did serve as a lesson that despite also being a large tourist attraction, Osaka is more importantly a major industrial center of Japan. (And, the food was still great.)

Joanne Li