Osaka

Osaka
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This is the tourist area with all the neon lights that makes you feel like you are in the future or in the movie Blade Runner. It's a lot of fun walking around looking at all the signs, tourist shops, and crowds of people. Located in this area is Sennichimae, a shopping arcade dedicated to cooking, and towards the end there is a famous knife store, Ichimonjichiki, where you can get a nice Japanese knife that they will carve your name in on site while you wait a few minutes, or whatever you want engraved.  

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Shinsaibashi

This is where we spent the most time in Osaka, because it has the best boutique stores and record stores. When you walk along the main streets it's mostly name brand stores, but you just have to go to the side streets to find all of the boutique shops, vintage shops, record stores, and cafes. A good place to start is at Mondial Kaffee 328, at 1 Chome 6-16, to people watch while you plan the best route to visit all the shops you want to check out. Here is a couple of cool record stores that have great clothing shops near them: King Kong (good for hip-hop and new jack swing records ) and Time Bomb (good for rock and punk records).

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Nakazakicho

The bohemian area of Osaka that wasn't bombed during WWII, so it's super cool pre-war buildings are now occupied by hip cafes and vintage stores. It's a small area with everything within walking distance. It's best to just walk around and discover each place for yourself, and maybe have a favorite cafe picked out to eat before or after your fun shopping day.

 Elulu by Jam

Elulu by Jam

 Salon de Amanto 

Salon de Amanto 

My Favorite Cafes in Nakazakicho:

Salon de Amanto- Another amazing cafe with a perfect environment set in a 120 year old house. I ordered the cafe au lait and the pumpkin cake, but they also serve lunch items. When you enter there is a kettle on a fire in the center of the room, and people with their shoes off sitting on mats around the room.  It feels like a cafe made by artists for artists. 

 Noon + Cafe

Noon + Cafe

Noon + Cafe- a great cafe/bar beneath a train overpass, which means that ever so often the building shakes as the trains go by, completing the perfection of the atmosphere. They were playing Beirut, which I haven't heard in a very long time, but it worked at this cafe. At night they have live performances. This is just one more place that will make you fall in love with Japan. 

 

EAT

Osaka is known as "The Nations Kitchen," in Japan, so you should be prepared to eat. 

 Fugu!

Fugu!

 Zubroya Dotombori/ photo by J. Yuenger 

Zubroya Dotombori/ photo by J. Yuenger 

Zuboraya Dotombori- My partner really wanted to try fugu, so we came to a well-known restaurant in Osaka to try it for the first time. The setting was similar to a 70s style diner. Our server was wonderful, like a character out of a tv show, who tried to understand the voting system in America and why Trump won when the people didn't vote for him. We tried to explain it, but of course it doesn't make sense to Americans either, so why would it make sense to her. She then threw up her hands and said, "some fish can be smelly, smell, but aht our fish was not smelly, smell fish." I loved her. We went back to eating our puffer fish in many different ways, and in the end, we didn't die!

 Daruma

Daruma

Daruma- We came here for kushikatsu, fried meat and veggies on a stick, that comes out on a a conveyer belt train like system that is tons of fun to watch, and you order from a touch screen, which can be dangerous, because you keep ordering more. They have a little angry mascot that is super funny, and it was all around a fun experience. This would be a perfect place if you happened to be hungover, or if you are just starving like I was. 

Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M Hozenji- We came here because we wanted to try the Matsusaka beef, so that is what we ordered, and it was fantastic. The restaurant ended up exceeding our expectations. It is located in a historic alley, and you go upstairs to enter where you are directed to a private booth with curtain, and your own grill to grill all of the meat yourself. It's basically like a private hibachi all for you where you get to try different cuts of beef. Make sure you get the garlic rice on the side too.  It was a romantic and special experience. You must book a reservation in advance as it does book up. 

 Houzenji Sanpei

Houzenji Sanpei

Houzenji Sanpei- Hiroshima and Osaka are known for okonomiyaki, a savory pancake with a variety of ingredients,  and since we tried it a few times in Hiroshima we had to try it here too, and this one actually might have been my favorite. I ordered the scallop, mushroom, and cheese with green onion okonomiyaki, and it was heaven. This style doesn't come with noodles (you can add them if you want), and I think I prefer it that way, but  mostly the flavors were just incredible.  

 Arabiya

Arabiya

DRINK

 Bar Freedom

Bar Freedom

Arabiya Cafe- This was my first kissaten, so it was the start of my obsession. This American style cafe from the 50s, with an interior of dark brown wood and an amazing logo on everything from the ashtrays to the plates, is super welcoming. They love baseball at this cafe, so there is a lot of vintage baseball memorabilia in cases. An extra bonus is that they make their own American style pancakes with syrup, and they are yummy! When was the last time you had pancakes? I haven't had them in years, but apparently pancakes are a thing in Japan. At these types of cafes they have always been served, but for now pancakes are a trendy thing in general in Japan too. This is a perfect place to escape the crowds of Dotonbori and relax. *They do allow smoking just so you know. 

 Dart Cafe

Dart Cafe

Bar Freedom- A welcoming bar with a helpful whiskey connoisseur behind it. It's a tiny bar that plays great jazz music, and serves Japanese whiskey as well as whiskies from around the world and cocktails. Two things that go with Japan: whiskey and jazz. 

Dart Cafe- Ahhh! Another perfect kissaten! The sweet owner of this beautiful kissaten served us strong coffee and fantastic french toast, but the most important thing about this kissaten is that she has the best playlist of doo-wop songs, and other musical gems. A cool locals cafe.

 Bar Nayuta

Bar Nayuta

Bar Nayuta- It's a type of secret bar that you have to find in a large building. Look for the symbol with a bunch of triangles located on their website on the building, and you will find it. The bartender loves to make cocktails, and they call themselves a nocturnal apothecary. It's a bar to meet other travelers and swap stories in a candlelit setting providing a cozy atmosphere. 

 Jun-Kissa

Jun-Kissa

Jun-kissa- Kissa is kissaten for short, and yes this is another kissaten. What makes this one special is its 1940s Art Deco decor, and even though it's called the American cafe it was filled with Japanese locals when I was there. The thing to get is the coffee and pancakes. 

STAY

Rozy Hotel Namba- This is a budget hotel that is clean, comfortable, quiet and in a good location. It's close to Dotonbori and many train stations, and it's surrounded by love hotels, which is fun to peek in and see if you might want to stay in one. 

 Hotel Bail 

Hotel Bail 

Hotel Bail- Besides staying at a ryokan while in Japan, I also wanted to stay at a love hotel. I really wanted to stay at a cooky themed love hotel, but because there is very limited info about them online one was hard for me to find. I settled on this love hotel, which included in the room was a sauna, a karaoke room, and a spa tub. If it's your first time staying at a love hotel this is what you do. 1) Walk into the lobby and look for the screens 2) Go up to the screen and choose your room and the amount of time (we chose the entire night) 3) Find the payment machine (they often only take cash) and pay for the room you have chosen 4) Your room key will come out of the machine. 5) You go to your room for the time you have chosen. At most love hotels you cannot book in advance. You pay for the room for the same night you are staying. **Some older places have a person that is behind a curtain. This place had a person that I could ring the bell to call, but they spoke zero English, and I assume that many of the love hotels will not have English speaking personnel. You can see from the photo that they have really cheesy images in the rooms, and of course different colored lights. Once we were able to figure out the system, it was super fun staying at a love hotel!

EXTRA

Watch Samurai Gourmet! It's available on Netflix, and it is so good. A show about a charming retired man that loves food, and now has time to eat at all of his favorite restaurants.