A Culinary Guide To Osaka
Eating in Osaka
A few weeks ago I went to the second largest city in Japan, Osaka, for the first time.
With over 17 million people in its greater metropolitan area, Osaka is the central metropolis of the Kansai region.
Osaka can be qualified in many way, commercial-centric, the anti-Tokyo or the old capital, but for me it was simply the best place to try any kind of Japanese food ever invented.
Some would also say it a great city to party, and I would agree, but I would not say it rivals Tokyo on every level.
Of course when talking about Osaka it hard not to compare it to Tokyo: one has Shibuya the other Dotonbori, Tokyo Tower versus Tsutenkaku, or Akihabara versus Den Den Town. But I think comparing those two city is like comparing New York and L.A. It not their similarities that make them unique, but their differences.
So let's start talking about the unique thing I loved about Osaka.
Well first the people, who really make a city after all, are much more friendly on the first approach. Don't get me wrong, Tokyoites are really cool, once you know them, but usually it's dead silent on the Yamanote Line.
On the other hand, people in Osaka will often talk to you first, especially if your not Japanese I guess. "Where you from?" "I like your shoes" "Your kid is so cute!" people there love to engage in conversation with strangers.
View of the redevelopment of Osaka Station
The Dotonburi area of Osaka is packed with bars, restaurants and cafes
Next, as I said earlier, if you want to experience all Japanese cuisine has to offer in one day, you can!
Every restaurant has it's own speciality, and often you won't have to look at the menu for long since everybody orders the same thing!
There is also the Osaka food stand which some people say offers the best takoyaki in the world. Of course you also have to try the okonomiyaki, which is considered the city-wide speciality. If you want advice on where to go to experience it, just ask the locals, they are the best people to advise you.
Takoyaki - Osaka's signature octopus ball snack
And of course at the end of your day, after all the walking and eating you want to relax with a nice cold beer.
Well Dotonbori is the place to go! With many small local bars, with some very friendly staff it's hard to go wrong. Most of them are often really cheap, and if you don't like it you can easily hop from one to the other since they are all in the same area.
Osaka probably looks its best at night
Buildings reflected in the water of one of Osaka's many canals
If you plan to visit Osaka soon, my best advice would be; "try everything" food, drinks, games stations, shopping, everything is cheaper than Tokyo. Here some good restaurants to try out:
Tsuruhashi Fūgetsu, Hankyu Building 29F next to Hankyu Umeda station. Okonomiyaki and yakisoba place, 00-800, English menu available.
Tako Tako King, north side of Dotonbori river and west of Midosuji. Great Takoyako and great service too. Look for the big red octopus wearing a crown.
Axum, Marusei Building 5F, For those who are a little tired of Japanese food, you can check out the only Ethiopian restaurant in the Kansai region. Found in Shinsaibashi, this small restaurant offers personal service, African beer, and plenty of Injera. While the dishes are pricier than one might expect, the food is tasty and with a nice bit of spice compared to average Japanese fare.
Words + images Guillaume Marcotte
See more images of Japan by Guillaume Marcotte