No my Japan posts are never going to end. The day after Christmas, we caught a shinkansen to Osaka. I’d previously caught a bullet train to Kyoto before and it was a lot of fun so I was really looking forward to it. You can’t really enjoy the scenery because it’s basically a blur but there’s something exciting about travelling at that sort of speed on land.
There’s also 電車弁当/densha bento/train bento to look forward to.
This one is my stepdad’s because he adores unagi. It also comes with clams that were both sweet and sour.
Mom and I greedily want a large and extravagant bento but knowing that neither of us could finish one on our own, we opt to share. I really love bento not just because they are gorgeous but because you get to try minute amounts of a variety of food. I think bentos can be quite healthy too even if some of them incorporate deep fried foods because of the portion sizing e.g. getting a small piece of karaage as part of a mix of food versus going all out and having karaage rice for lunch. It really is about approaching everything in moderation.
Bento also really reminds me of my maternal grandmother who painstakingly cooks a minimum of six to seven dishes for a big family occasion. Three is if she’s “lazy”. I belong to the generation of microwaves and one-pot cooking so I don’t know how I will ever have that level of tenacity to provide a plentiful meal for the ones I love.
After checking in to our hotel (Swissotel Osaka-Nankai) we make a beeline for 道頓堀/Dōtonbori. It is quite a touristy destination due to its popular nightlife and entertainment, a development from its historical roots as a theatre district.
From the Namba train station (conveniently, our hotel is connected to it) you simply step out and follow a passage in between two large buildings. My instructions are vague but if you are planning to stay around this area, you really can’t miss it. There are a plethora of snack outlets, the usual make up drug stores, clothing shops and more food. Our first stop is Rikuro cheesecake. If you observe the sign you can see two queues for whole cheesecake takeaway, one for cake that is fresh out of the oven and another for cake that was made a couple of hours ago. The latter queue is empty.
Obviously intrigued we step inside to the cafe which serves you slices. Here is a family sharing a whole cake between the three of them, can confirm they ate it in its entirety on site.
We got ourselves a slice to share between three of us knowing we would be making more food stops soon. The cake is exactly like how you’d imagine eating a cloud would be like. It definitely feels like the softest thing I have ever put it my mouth that almost melts upon my tongue.
Not sure if the fluffiness is apparent here but you can see the pockets of cheese which are oddly sweet and also melty.
After that brief cake distraction we’re powering on ahead to burn it off. It’s not long before we’ve hit Dōtonbori itself and I all but fall on my knees to pray to the iconic giant robot crab sign belonging to Kani Doraku. The crab even moves!
The busyness, the vibrance, the people and the abundance of neon signage, they all collectively remind me of another one of my favourite streets, Myeongdong in Seoul. I love countryside scenery and nature walks too but cities are just as beautiful.
It becomes abundantly clear as I progress down the street that my new mission is to document every single large mechanically moving sign possible. The popularity of big moving signs stem from the original crab at the beginning. Japan you are so weird but I like you. Here is giant gyoza, quite stationary but I guess even the Japanese are not creative enough to make animated gyoza.
Giant red octopus wielding the tools to make takoyaki. Typing that just made me realise how horrifying a caricature that is, an octopus cooking itself/it’s friends. I’m instantly reminded of the mental image burned in my mind from my exchange to Nagasaki back in 2008, a live squid sitting on a bed of ika, squid sashimi.
A fugu lantern,not quite as modern as the last few but how cute is it.
The Kuidaore Ningyo is another icon of Osaka. I believe it used to be part of a restaurant/a restaurant’s mascot but it has since closed.
Back to big things, this is one of my favourites not least because it’s sushi! Looks like maguro/tuna because of the redness.
One of three Kinryu ramen joints, this is the one located in the middle of the street. All three of them have three dimensional dragon billboards.
It’s approaching dinner time/Sam is hungry time/Sam is cold and wants to go indoors time. We do a quick Google search to find one of the better crab restaurants which I was so incredibly stoked that we were going to be eating at! Parents were less so because they’ve had the real deal in Hokkaido..
Kani chawanmushi. Cannot fathom how many cups of Japanese egg custard I have eaten in my lifetime.
Happy Sam is happy for crab hot pot and warmth.
We utilised an english menu to do most of the ordering but as everything comes at once, we kind of lost track of which bits of crab we ordered. They not only serve crab parts separately but different types of crab, crab sashimi, crab that’s already been grilled and of course crab roe. It’s just one big crab-a-lacking party.
I don’t have raw crab very often but this was so so soft and succulent. The texture is so different to cooked crab. It was a little too slippery for mom’s taste so she opted to cook it, which was still good anyway!
Some of the grilled crab lent a nice depth of smokiness.
This is meal has been my dream since I was 16 and got addicted to Ouran Host Club. A dream to eat crabs so big that the flesh from their legs come out shaped like a pillow.
At the end of the meal they use the stock from all the crab boiling with did to create uber tasty congee.
Simple bowl of carb deliciousness.
It’s even colder by the time we get outside. In all honesty I didn’t think Japan was going to be this cold and brought my cat beanie as a joke but I’ve worn it almost everyday.
Giving mom and education in host clubs. She told me to go inside and have a look! It’s usually just an empty white room though with a guard or attendant that (presumably) brings you into another room.
Went to my all-time favourite store Don Quijote to look for ridiculousness and wasn’t disappointed. Hey Armin (and Jordan), they made a biscuit out of me!
As this blog post wraps up I leave you with this shining beacon, what I would arguably say is the heart of Osaka, The Glico Running Man. The very first Glico candy was the Glico-caramel which contains 15.4 kcal. This happens to be the exact amount a person (based on Glico’s chosen height/weight measurements) needs to run 300 metres Many things in Japan seem downright crazy like host club culture and big moving crabs, but sometimes there is method to their madness.