Japan 2014 — Day 2: Osaka — Namba, Dotonbori, Tennoji

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 itTakoyaki 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).20141118-DSC00923

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!