When most people think of a trip to Japan they think Tokyo, a bustling city full of technology, food, huge buildings and people (LOTS OF PEOPLE). I was no different. I wanted to see all the seafood at Tsukiji market, shop til I drop in Ginza and Shinjuku, and visit Hachiko Statue in Shibuya. Tokyo was always at the top of my list! That all changed thanks to the travel legend himself Anthony Bourdain when he visited Osaka Japan!
I grew up watching Bourdain on his show, No Reservations. Like most people it was a way for me to escape my day to day life and experience new cultures and countries without having to break the bank or take time off of school/work. The episode that changed my opinion of Japan forever was Season 2 Episode 7 aptly titled “Japan”. He prefaces this episode with the simple statement “I’ve been here to see the face of Japan before (Tokyo), this time I’d like to take a look at it’s heart (Osaka).”
As Bourdain put it, Osaka Japan is the CULINARY HEART of the country and he was not joking around! My time in Japan was completely centered around food. I will mainly be talking about the Namba district of Osaka. Namba is a famous entertainment district with plenty of shopping and dining options. In this post I will take you along my mini culinary journey and share with you my 8 spots for foodies in Osaka Japan.
8 Spots for Foodies in Osaka Japan
Probably one of my favorite places to visit while staying in Namba! This market is a seafood lover’s paradise. It’s a long shopping corridor with food stands and shops lining both sides. Buy all the fresh sushi, grilled shellfish, and sashimi you want!
The sushi picture at the beginning of this post is just an example of the types of sushi and food you will find here. That sushi was pre-packaged but it was still some of the best sushi I have ever had in my life. Either walk and eat or go to the small rest area with communal tables and capsule toy machines for the kids. I could easily spend a few hours going through all the food stands.
Thick and creamy tonkotsu broth usually comes to mind when most westerners think of a good bowl of ramen. This small unassuming ramen shop in the middle of Dotonbori however specializes in what they call Osaka Black Ramen.
This ramen is a light and savory soy sauce based broth that fills you up without making you feel sluggish afterwards. I would happily eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner! In the typical Japan style you place your order outside at the vending machine, hand your ticket to the server, and take a seat. Soon you will have one of the best bowls of ramen in your life!
I stumbled upon this place completely by accident. I’m so glad I did because this place was one of my go to dinner options while in Osaka. Torikizoku is a casual yakitori chain in Japan. As you can tell from the picture above, yakitori is grilled chicken skewers.
Their unique pricing is what makes this place so special: everything is only 298 yen! Chicken skewers, sides, and alcohol; it’s all just 298 yen each. The location I frequented in Dotonbori also used an electronic ordering system where every table was equipped with a wireless tablet for ordering. This came in very handy since it had pictures and English!
This single restaurant experience inspired a bit of an obsession with yakitori. Once I got home to the states I ordered myself a small table top yakitori grill and a Japanese Grill cookbook. For those that prefer a more traditional charcoal grill, this one might be better.
Right next to the Dotonbori river, this popular takoyaki stand always seemed to have a wait. Takoyaki are basically fried balls of dashi flavored batter with octopus chunks inside.
Toppings usually include a slightly salty takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, dried green seaweed, dried bonito flakes, fried tempura bits, sliced green onions and some pickled ginger on the side. Be careful when you eat these because if they are cooked right they should be slightly crispy on the outside but with a molten lava interior!
When people think of Japanese cheesecake, images of those fluffy puffed up jiggly cakes may come to mind. Although those fluffy cheesecakes are definitely good I prefer these cheesecakes from Pablo. I would call them more of a cheese tart since they have a pie crust all around it.
Unlike the fluffy Japanese cheesecakes these are a denser more creamy texture. Also unique to Pablo is the option to get your cheesecake baked to your preference: rare or medium. The medium option is closer to a traditional style cheesecake while the rare results in a softer and more smooth texture. They also offer seasonal and regional flavors like matcha, pineapple, strawberry, etc.
Among the sea of tourists and the large neon signs of Dotonbori it’s very easy to walk right by this small little bakeshop. Come a little closer and you finally see what this place is all about: EGG TARTS!
These specific egg tarts are a Macau classic from baker Andrew W. Stow. He took a Portuguese pastel de nata (custard tart) and added an English twist to it. These little bite sized tarts have a flaky pastry crust, creamy egg tart center and a crispy caramelized top. Perfect little snacks for a walk by the Dotonbori river.
7. Japanese Convenience Stores: 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Lawsons
7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson’s are the kings of Japanese cheap meals and unique drinks. There is literally a convenience store probably about 5 minutes from wherever you are in Osaka. I would say a good 1/3 of my meals during my trip to Japan were from these stores.
Unlike American convenience stores, Japanese versions are packed full of good pre-packaged bento boxes, sandwiches, desserts, ice creams, etc. My favorite meals included: egg salad sandwich, strawberry cream sandwich, katsu sando, and any variety of bento box (especially ones with chicken karaage).
The drink selection at the convenience stores is also amazing from flavored waters, unique sodas, canned coffees and bottled teas. And if you are in need of a few alcoholic drinks they are stocked with beer, malt drinks, sake, and whiskeys.
8. Last and Most Importantly: VENDING MACHINES
Expanding upon convenience, Japanese vending machines are EVERYWHERE! Every few blocks you will find random vending machines along the sidewalks and in between buildings. These aren’t your typical vending machines full of Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite. They offer all kinds of cold OR hot Japanese juices, teas, coffees, and flavored waters. It’s the simple things in life that make me the most happy and Japanese vending machines are by far the one thing I miss most about Japan!
Thanks for following along with me during my recap of my 8 spots for foodies in Osaka Japan. Now it’s your turn to get out there, travel, and experience it for yourself. I know I can’t wait for my next trip to Japan!!!