On a spur of the moment one morning last September, D and I bought tickets to Japan. It was a ridiculously cheap deal ($540 return, including checked luggage) that we couldn’t resist, so we were off to Japan come November 2015.
Ridiculously cheap means that we woke at 3:45AM to catch a 6AM flight to Cairns.
We have a three hour transit in Cairns, so having learnt from our previous transit that there is a dearth of food options in the International Terminal, we stick around the Domestic Terminal for some Hungry Jacks before collecting and rechecking our bags for the Carins to Osaka leg.
It’s a surprisingly mild 25 degrees in Cairns (a 40 degree heatwave was forecasted for Sydney that day), but it’s still sticky and humid as you can expect in tropical north Queensland.
The evening we arrive in Osaka is one of the wettest days we’d experience throughout our time in Japan. We spot a coin laundry (and later find out there’s one on the top floor of our accommodation).
Our Airbnb host picks us up from Nippombashi Station so we get to our accommodation in one piece , although he does this even in fine weather (according to the reviews left on his airbnb profile) in typical Japanese hospitality fashion. We chose airbnb this time around out of necessity — all hotels within our budget were booked out for November/December. Hotel rooms in Japan are known to be small, but the navigable space in this room is by far the smallest not least because they put in two single beds, rather than the usual semi-double. For the same price or less, we’d usually be able to get decent sized rooms (albeit small by Western standards) with the added luxury of turn down service in Japan, which we managed for all our stays in other cities. It turns out Chinese tourists have arrived in droves.
It’s pouring buckets, but we head out to get some dinner. We forget our map in our accomodation so we wander around in the general direction of Dotonbori. It’s our third visit to Osaka, so we weren’t entirely wandering blind!
And we find it! Much to D’s relief.
We don’t stay around Dotonbori for long and venture into the covered areas of Shinsaibashi.
There’s a place selling takoyaki with whole baby octopus but we pass in anticipation for dinner.
Dinner is at Isono Ryoutarou, a kaitenzushi where all the plates are ¥100.
The interior is decorated with lanterns and there’s a shrine like booth at the back. Matcha green tea is complementary and self service from matcha powder and a hot water tap at your table.
You can sample a generous variety of dishes either by picking them off the conveyer belt or by ordering from the screen in front of you.
D loves his fried food, so we end up getting panko crumbed prawn (top left), battered prawn (bottom left), battered calamari (top right) and bartered white fish (bottom right). Japanese deep fried food avoids tasting oily so we quite enjoy these, the panko prawns for their crunch especially.
I love corn, so we were quite amused to see a plate with corn kernels piled high (top left). The corn kernels were tossed in mayonnaise and super sweet. The nigiri with extra tuna (top right) (extra tuna means you get twice the fish but only one piece of nigiri on the plate) was deliciously fresh — I’d eaten half the fish before taking a photo — and the fatty salmon that was also beautifully melty. The tuna maki rolls (bottom left) hit the spot — there’s something satisfying about these simple rolls that neither D nor N appreciate. Finally, the salt water eel (bottom right) — without being grilled and slathered in sauce you taste more of the subtle flavour and texture of the eel.
After a healthy serving of sushi and green tea, our sleep deprivation catches up to us. We’d come back to Dotonbori at the end of our trip.