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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.

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Namba

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.…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After com­pletely stuff­ing ourselves, the shops were open now.

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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.

Dotonbori

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We headed back to Dotonbori and spot all the tour­ists imit­at­ing the Glico Japan man sign.

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There’s the Don Quixote Ferris Wheel…

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Dotonbori is just as busy dur­ing the day as it is at night it seems.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tennoji

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After a short rest at the hotel, we’re back on our way to Tennoji.

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A cute panda cam­paign at JR Tennoji Station is advert­ising for some region in Japan.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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D ordered the either the pork or the beef curry (we can’t remem­ber…).

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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!

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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.

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After get­ting bored of Abenos Harukas, we headed over to Q’s Mall for some more laid back shop­ping.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Here we’re at the bot­tom of the dis­play.

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The arti­fi­cial Christmas tree is quite beau­ti­ful.

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We kept climb­ing up and up the stairs to get to the illu­min­ated trees…

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Mid-way there are sus­pen­ded disco balls.

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We keep going up the stairs and still there were more lights to see!

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Some rain­bow-illu­min­ated trees…

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And an expans­ive view of Nanba below.

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At the very top, there was a light show accom­pan­ied by some very tran­quil music.

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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.

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Coming back down, we see lights cas­cad­ing down the cent­ral atri­um of Nanba Parks.

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Back on street level, we came across a Disney Christmas dis­play, show­ing Mickey Mouse in vari­ous set­tings.

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Here are Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at a train sta­tion called Namba-Hikaritabi. Cute!

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They were situ­ated in front of a what seemed like a small scale Inari Shrine with a num­ber of torii gates.

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More gazebos with a small scale Mickey Mouse with­in.

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And Mickey Mouse on a train!

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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!

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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.

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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!