There’s always something mildly amusing on Japanese TV, so waking up at 6AM wasn’t that bad. TV programmers in Japan seem to suffer from ADD — they can be showing one story and cut to something completely unrelated for a couple of minutes before going back (and no, it’s not an ad break!).
By 8:30AM, we’d been up for long enough. It was time to hunt for breakfast!
Directly opposite our hotel is this old building. By the end of our time in Osaka, we’d walk past it multiple times, but it would never seem to be open for business. On the night before we left Osaka, I sidled up to the tiny menu next to its door, and it turns out that it’s a restaurant serving omurice (omlette rice). We didn’t eat here for breakfast, evidently.
This is the first of very many vending machines we’d encounter.
The streets were rather empty and shops were still getting ready to open.
On the way, we see tanks of live fish as well as wax models outside two different kaiten sushi restaurants…
McDonald’s didn’t seem like a good idea for our second meal in Japan, so onwards we go.…
The Coca Cola polar bear is super cute.
We eventually stumbled upon this udon restaurant just off Doguyasuji that seemed like a regular haunt for locals. Indeed, we saw a man pulling a large cart take a break from his errands, when he parked the cart outside and popped in for a quick meal.
The food here was ridiculously cheap. Food in general is very cheap in Japan compared to Australia to begin with (actually, food in Australia is just ridiculously expensive), but this place had to top the list — it was cheap even by Japanese standards.
Ordering food from the vending machine is so convenient — you put the money in, press the button for what you want, pick up the tickets (above, right), give the ticket to the person behind the counter, and receive your food after a short wait.
I ordered the deep fried shrimp & vegetable udon (¥280). The udon was deliciously chewy. I only wish they put them tempura on the side instead of in the soup, because it was all soggy and falling apart by the time I got to it. Nonetheless, it was a cold morning (my breath was coming out in puffs) and this warmed me right up. They serve food super hot in Japan. Yum.
D ordered the udon and tempura bowl (¥460). D thought he was ordering what I had ordered, just a bigger portion of it — after all the menu had bowl in the singular. So we were surprised to find out he received a bowl of udon and a rice bowl topped with tempura and egg.
D was so completely full from this meal, we headed to Nanba station to kill some time before takoyaki.
Commuters are scurrying to and from the train station.
There’s a dedicated corner to vending machines near the entrance to the subway station.
I mentioned that we had a favourite takoyaki store, and this is it: Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka. This was the first place we tried takoyaki on our first trip, and none of the other places we’ve tried come close.
The takoyaki ( (¥450 for 8) here is never soggy. It’s deliciously crispy on the outside, while the inside is piping hot (so hot, that even on a cold winters day, you could walk around for a while before eating them, and they’d still be burning hot inside). If your previous experiences with takoyaki have made you think takoyaki is so-so, eat here and you will be a convert!
We’d picked up a black forest cake from Demel while in the food basement at Takashiyama. When I have too many choices to pick from, I seem to always fall back to the brownest cake possible. You can’t go wrong with Western chocolate cake! This was a hexagonal chocolate mousse cake with a light sponge and cherry jelly inside. Fancy cakes are about half the price in Japan as they are in Australia. Japan will make anyone who loves food happy.
After completely stuffing ourselves, the shops were open now.
So we head back to Doguyasuji, Osaka’s version of the kitchen street that is Kappabashi Street in Asakusa, Tokyo. It’s shorter in length with fewer shops, but the shops are just as varied and specialised — you can get wax models of food, industrial takoyaki makers, knives of all sorts, and even the chalkboards or neon signs you see outside restaurants and cafes. D was after some coffee ware — unfortunately, unlike Tokyo’s kitchen street, Osaka’s doesn’t have stores specialising in coffee.
At the supermarket on Doguyasuji, we spot cute bottles of plum wine and pick up some yuzu drink for later.
We headed back to Dotonbori and spot all the tourists imitating the Glico Japan man sign.
There’s the Don Quixote Ferris Wheel…
Dotonbori is just as busy during the day as it is at night it seems.
We visit the Glico Japan store for some Tomato Pretz and Pocky. I’m not usually a fan of biscuits — I get sick of them after eating one or two, but Pretz and Pocky are the exception. I’ll talk about the various types of Pretz and Pocky I amounted during my trip in a separate post (after I’ve finished trying all the flavours!). Also, the name and appearance of Collon biscuit never fails to amuse me.
By now it was mid-afternoon. On our way back to the hotel before heading to Tennoji, we tried to find floresta nature doughnuts. They decorate their doughnuts with colourful frosting so that they look like cute animals.
We walked around and around the area but couldn’t find it, sadly. But we did see this giant ebi (fried shrimp) atop a sign for tobacco, which was quite confusing, and another takoyaki store with revolving takoyaki on its signage.
There’s a clothing store themed ‘Alice in Wednesday’, with an entrance that’s a shoulder-height door (far right).
And a super blinged out Mercedes Benz on display.
After a short rest at the hotel, we’re back on our way to Tennoji.
A cute panda campaign at JR Tennoji Station is advertising for some region in Japan.
Since our last visit, Abenos Harukas had opened up in Tennoji. It’s the tallest skyscraper in Japan and has expansive views of the Osaka skyline. We didn’t go up to the top, but the sunset views from the 13th of the shopping complex underneath it were ample.
I’d read online that it was more of a shopping mall than a giant department store, but it turned out to be more of the latter.
None of the restaurants on the top two floors struck our fancy, so we headed to the basement where we found Curry Shop Bruno. Japanese curry our favourite sort of curry. It has a certain sweetness to it and a slight heat to it that’s very moreish.
I ordered the beef tongue curry (¥920). I was quite surprised by my beef tongue curry — the beef tongue melted in my mouth, and didn’t have the bite that I previously associated with it. I guess that’s what comes from cooking it for a long time, but then it all seems like a waste. But it was really quite delicious the way it melted in my mouth so I can’t complain.
D ordered the either the pork or the beef curry (we can’t remember…).
We had a look around the types of food on sale and found this interesting take on instant noodles: frozen portions of udon complete with soup, meat and greens!
D was after a coffee fix to get him through the evening, so we stopped by Tully’s Coffee in Abenos Harukas. An iced coffee in Japan, we’ll soon learn, is always black coffee with ice (and sugar syrup to taste). It’s not the fancy cafe au lait with whipped cream on top that we’re used to in Australia. But that’s all right, black coffee with ice is an acquired taste, and I think we certainly ‘acquired’ it to some extent by the end our time in Japan.
After getting bored of Abenos Harukas, we headed over to Q’s Mall for some more laid back shopping.
Not everything was more affordable, though. In anime, you often come across school kids (usually kindergarten age) sporting one of the backpacks in the above right photo. It turns out they start at AUD200 and go up to AUD500. Spending that much on a kid’s backpack blows my mind. We later saw an advertisement telling grandparents to buy one of the backpacks for their grandchild.
After our late lunch, we weren’t all that hungry, so we headed back to Namba to enjoy the Christmas lights at Namba Parks.
Namba Parks was one of the most expansive, and hence impressive, Christmas lights displays we saw in Japan. Others were more technically brilliant, but in terms of scope, Namba Parks blew us away.
Here we’re at the bottom of the display.
The artificial Christmas tree is quite beautiful.
We kept climbing up and up the stairs to get to the illuminated trees…
Mid-way there are suspended disco balls.
We keep going up the stairs and still there were more lights to see!
Some rainbow-illuminated trees…
And an expansive view of Nanba below.
At the very top, there was a light show accompanied by some very tranquil music.
Just towards the end of the route, there was a gazebo and carpet of lights. Along with the number of couples enjoying the night lights at the very top (it was absolutely freezing!), this seemed like a lovers’ spot.
Coming back down, we see lights cascading down the central atrium of Nanba Parks.
Back on street level, we came across a Disney Christmas display, showing Mickey Mouse in various settings.
Here are Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at a train station called Namba-Hikaritabi. Cute!
They were situated in front of a what seemed like a small scale Inari Shrine with a number of torii gates.
More gazebos with a small scale Mickey Mouse within.
And Mickey Mouse on a train!
Having exhausted ourselves with Christmas lights, it’s McDonald’s for dinner! We’d previously agreed that any McDonald’s we eat in Japan could only be an item we couldn’t otherwise get in Australia. So we ordered the Tonkatsu burger, essentially a pork cutlet in a burger drizzled with miso-inspired tonkatsu sauce. It wasn’t the tastiest burger, but it was definitely Japanese!
On the way back to the hotel, I was reminiscing to D about these delicious crunchy cream puffs that we bought last time in Osaka, and how delightful it would be if we could find that place again. And what do you know, the shop pops up not two stores after I said it! This is Hop Choux a la creme.
We ordered the vanilla custard (top right), the chocolate (bottom left) and the green tea (bottom right). We wanted the chocolate chip one too, but they had sold out. They tasted just as delicious as I remembered them — I’m glad my memory doesn’t seem to embellish tasty foods.
And phew, that concludes day 2 of our Japan 2014 trip!