The Nation’s Kitchen. Any city that has a moniker like that is definitely worth a visit, especially if the referenced nation is Japan.
Osaka is the capital city of its Prefecture, as well as the second largest city in Japan (after Tokyo, obviously). It is a city steeped in history, and perhaps personifies Japan’s rich culture far greater than metropolitan Tokyo does – there is a certain “old world” charm in its streets and the people’s mannerism.
Some go to Osaka to chase Kuidaore – a Japanese slang that means “to ruin oneself by extravagance of food”. Others use Osaka as a travel hub for its proximity to Kyoto and Nara (the former capitals of Japan), and to see the art on Naoshima Island. Either way, Osaka is an intriguing destination for a quick and energetic getaway.
Here’s the thing, sushi tastes better for breakfast than at any other meal of the day. The Osaka Central Fish Market is no Tsukiji, but it is home to Endo Sushi – a cozy little sushi place that has been in operation since 1907. There are 4 courses of 5 different pieces of Nigiri Sushi, with each course available to you after you finish the course at hand. Consuming all 4 courses allows you to taste the best that the restaurant has to offer, and finishing that final piece of sushi is akin to finding enlightenment. If you can’t trust a restaurant that has been serving sushi for over a century, who can you trust?
– Endo Sushi
〒553-0005 Osaka Prefecture,
Japan has hosts of tiny bars, and this is one of them. Nestled on a busy corner of the Dotonburi area, you slide open a wooden door to find an absolutely shocking lack of space. The bar somehow naturally inspires a calm and quiet atmosphere with its warm wooden interiors and its maximum capacity of 6 people. The bartender, a reserved fellow with salt and pepper hair, will serve you some of the popular Japanese whiskeys at affordable prices. Have a shot or two from a Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 bottle, and pair that with a smoked egg whilst you’re at it.
– Bar Core
1-8-6 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku; 81-6-6211-2228
A good middle ground between Japanese and Scandinavian design
Pop by BIRD for a coffee, and browse the furniture at Truck. Truck was founded in Osaka in 1997 by designers Hiromi Karatsu and Tokohiko Kise, and has grown a strong reputation for their design ethos and the pieces that they produce – a good middle ground between Japanese and Scandinavian design.
– Bird Coffee / Truck Furniture
〒538-0054 Osaka Prefecture,
There is a legend around these parts of steak made from cows that drink beer. This is true of Matsuzakaya beef. The cows are fed beer to increase appetite, and then massaged with a mixture containing shochu to ensure proper blood circulation throughout the cow. The result is very tasty beef with proportionate marbling. M is a small 36 seater Yakiniku grill that specializes in serving this beef. Sample the platter of varied cuts, along with a side of garlic fried rice.
– M Yakiniku
1-1-19 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka,
Osaka Prefecture 542-0076, Japan
For a snack, pop into Yotaro Hoten for an early seating. Opened in the 1940s and housed in a traditional Japanese unit, this 2 Michelin Star restaurant serves up some mean tempura. Watch the chef batter and fry the ingredients delicately as you sit by the bar, and be amazed by the unbearable lightness of the batter – so gently fried that the paper which separates the food from the serving plates has almost no oil stains. This ensures that the batter does not detract from the freshness of the ingredients, but complements it.
– Yotaro Honten
2 Chome-3-14 Koraibashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka,
Osaka Prefecture 541-0043, Japan
A leading contender for the ugliest best tasting dish
Okonomiyaki is one of the Osaka-centric dishes that gives the city its distinguished reputation when it comes to food, and Mizuno is one of the best places to go for it. A Japanese pancake made of flour, egg, shredded yam and dashi Okonomiyaki is a leading contender for the ugliest best tasting dish. The doors at Mizuno open at 11am; perfect for a slightly longer sleep-in.
1-8-6 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku; 81-6-6211-2228,
Osaka is the home of Evisu, Denime, Studio D’artisan, Warehouse and Fullcount, also known as the “Osaka 5”. Using the celebrated shuttle loom production, they continue to make some of the toughest, yet most elegant pairs of jeans in the world. The Osaka 5 still run retail outlets in Osaka, and we can’t think of a better souvenir.
Did you know?
The birth of Japanese denim culture
Contrary to popular belief, the first brands that started to produce jeans on vintage looms were from Osaka and not Tokyo. Their history ties back to the Japanese obsession with American products from the 1970s and 1980s – Levi’s denim being a strong example because of its quality, and also because it was viewed as a symbol of mainstream American culture
As the popularity of denim grew globally, brands began to mass manufacture jeans in factories by projectile looms. This process produced fabric that was deemed to have less character than those produced on shuttle looms (a more industrious, artisanal method). Inspired by the quality of old, some Japanese folk in Osaka decided to acquire shuttle looms in the 1980s and early 1990s and re-start production of a higher quality good. Soon more followed, and this led to the establishment of the Osaka 5. Denim culture in Osaka was thus born.
No sport is in Japan is celebrated with such vigour as baseball. Hanshin Tigers is Osaka’s team, and the games are truly an experience. Immerse yourself in a sea of gold and black, and be calmly lost in translation by the melodious orchestra of drum beats, Japanese chanting and whistles. Just like at an American baseball game, snacks and beer are a must.
The presence of an Ichiran Ramen shop within the vicinity does not detract from the aura of this Osakan Ramen joint. A 24-hour joint, Takaku Arakawa has perfected the art of making soup stock from pork cartilage. This legendary forms the base of the restaurant’s signature “Happiness Bowl” which is topped with slices of naruto fish cake, aji tamago, copious amounts of negi and a pork rib. Satisfying, especially in chillier weather (or after drinks).
– Hanamaruken Ramen
1-2-1 Nanba, Chuo-ku, Osaka,
Osaka Prefecture, Japan
This establishment is over 100 years old. Come here for a plate of Meibutsu Curry Rice. Unlike the regular Japanese curry dishes that you may find (white rice, with curry on the side), this curry is already mixed with the steamed rice, and is served with a raw egg in the middle.
1 Kaigandori, Minatoku, Osaka 552-0022
Known for its art as well as its architecture, the museum was designed by Cesar Pelli, and is unique as most of the museum is underground. The museum is home to mainly post-war era artwork and also works from some renowned Pre-War names such as Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst. Makes for an interesting afternoon of quiet observation.
– National Museum of Art, Osaka
4 Chome-2-55 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward, Osaka,
Osaka Prefecture 530-0005, Japan
If you have not nearly experienced the state of Kuidaore, this would be your last (and easiest) chance to do so. Dotonburi is flushed with options for great food, and great food after you’ve had great food. The Cheese tarts from Pablo Cafe are popular, but it’s the cheese soft serve ice cream cone from the same cafe that is worth queuing for. Although not from around these parts, Luke’s Lobster makes an appearance, and lobster rolls are always a good idea. Get in line early at Daruma for some Kushiyaki – deep fried bread-battered ingredients on skewers that go extremely well with barbecue sauce, mustard and a very cold beer. There is no excuse for you not to try Takopachi (Octopus balls), an Osakan favourite that is a common commodity with dozens of stalls lining the street. Dotonburi is truly a glutton’s paradise.
The Japanese obsession with American culture spawned a concentration of retail stores within Osaka hawking miscellaneous items from the United States. The area became synonymous with youth and subculture in Osaka, and has since been known as Americamura. Small retail stores, eateries and bars still populate the area, along with a youthful style-centric crowd that is certain to catch your attention.