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Japan 2015 — Day 13: Osaka

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Back in Osaka, this is the day we’ve set aside for last minute shop­ping for the things we knew we could get in Osaka so didn’t have to lug around all of Japan. On our way to break­fast near Nippombashi we pass by the National Bunraku Theatre. There are droves of obas­ans pil­ing into the theatre this morn­ing, pre­sum­ably to see a per­form­ance.

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This is Dotonbori look­ing west.

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Komeda’s Coffee is some­where we warmed to after find­ing it one of the few open and afford­able food options in Gujo. After vis­it­ing in Gujo, we’ve been see­ing it every­where in Japan.

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All Komeda’s Coffee stores have a wooden interi­or with red seat­ing.

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They offer morn­ing ser­vice, which is com­ple­ment­ary egg and toast with every drink pur­chase. The store also provides com­ple­ment­ary break­fast for the adjourn­ing hotel, and the menu for those pat­rons trans­lates American cof­fee (in Japanese) to ‘weak cof­fee’ in English.

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We like our iced cof­fees so much that we opt out of using the milk in the tiny jugs. The com­ple­ment­ary toast is thick and fluffy and well-buttered, and togeth­er with the hard boiled egg makes for a decent break­fast to get us through the morn­ing.

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We pass by this fam­ous ramen joint with the dragon break­ing through the wall.

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And we’re back at Dotonbori with the giant blow­fish and sashimi adorn­ing shop fronts.

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We head into one of the souven­ir shops for Rainbow Pocky, and spot a Rilakkuma shaped bottle before sightjng the fam­ous red striped clown that Osaka is fam­ous for.

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At anoth­er souven­ir store we spot this gigant­ic eraser that’s at least 40cm x 25cm and costs a whop­ping ¥10,800 (~AUD120).

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To our dis­ap­point­ment, the blah blah blah museum with its ah blah blah as lis­ted on the inter­net is no more and exists only as a shop selling takoy­aki. We’d tried the takoy­aki in 2014 and were dis­ap­poin­ted by how soggy they were.

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We head across the road to vis­it Don Quixote, a new branch in Osaka that recently replaced a multi-storey sports good store.

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We spot some adhes­ives to turn you non-human (non-bear), and Nissin Cup Noodles in vari­ous up sizes and fla­vours.

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These tiny crabs keep pop­ping up in the snack aisles we vis­it and we’re not sure if they’re real tiny crabs meant as a crunchy snack. They look rather sharp!

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And a Calpis/​Yakult/​yoghurt fla­voured lip­balm that I couldn’t res­ist. Yum!

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There are so many food options in McDonald’s that it’s only this far into our trip that we get our first exper­i­ence of their lunch menu. We try to avoid McDonald’s and eat it as a means to try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent that we can’t get in McDonald’s in Australia.

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D’s been eye­ing the chick­en taster on posters out­side vari­ous McDonald’s we walk past. Unfortunately, it’s not the tasty bur­ger he ima­gined, and a lot of ginger has gone into mar­in­at­ing the chick­en patty. As for me, I love corn soup and after 2 weeks in Japan was sorely miss­ing it. Yum! I sug­gest to D that I should be ordered extra corn ker­nels (they sell them!) for my soup.

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For an extra ¥50, you get cheese and bar­be­cue sauce on your fries. These were infin­itely bet­ter than the ver­sion we tried in 2014 being less runny.

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After lunch, we head down the main shop­ping strip for some last minute clothes shop­ping at GU, a child com­pany of Uniqlo.

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We have a udon cook­ing class book for the after­noon, so after rush­ing back to our hotel to drop off our shop­ping, we’re back near Dogayusuji try­ing to find the loc­a­tion of the res­taur­ant. It’s the first side street on the left head­ing south on Dogayusuji.

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Between D and me, I’m usu­ally bet­ter with dir­ec­tions if 1) I’ve been to the area once before or 2) I’ve seen it on Google Street View. If I’ve done that, I’ll still carry a map around but I’ll be rely­ing more on intu­ition than nav­ig­at­ing using the map. D’s the oppos­ite — he can have vis­ited the place mul­tiple times or be driv­ing on the same road in the oppos­ite dir­ec­tion and not know where he is or where to go from there. Anytime, we actu­ally need to use a map, I take a back seat and let D take us there. This is one of those times!

D sets up his trusty GPS and we’re at Udon Miyoshiya in the nick of time — 3pm when the store is closed between its lunch and din­ner ser­vice

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There’s a bit of ker­fuffle with Hironobu not being aware we’d booked a class. But it’s all right as his daugh­ter-in-law quickly sets up the equip­ment in the corner of the store. He’s rather proud of his round face and huge grin, which you see on his store’s sign and on vari­ous pho­tos around the store.

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Hironobu shows us how to made udon from scratch. The kneaded dough is left to rest overnight so we make the actu­al noodles out of anoth­er ball of dough that’s already been res­ted. He’s shows us how to roll it out…

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…And then cuts if up, laugh­ingly show­ing examples of spa­ghetti and spatzle using the offcuts from the offcuts.

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After Hironobu’s demon­stra­tion, D and I get to try our hands (and feet!) at mak­ing udon.

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Hironobu com­pli­ments my noodles for being cut evenly and not too thickly, and laughs at D for his super thick noodles!

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We wait for the water to boil so we can put the noodles in.

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We’re giv­en two sauces. The left is a sweet soy dashi and the right is a thick­er curry.

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Our noodles are in the water… While we wait for the noodles to cook, an eld­erly couple stumble into the store. Hironobu tells them they’re closed until their din­ner ser­vice at 6pm, but it’s okay, as they can come in and eat any­way. Such hos­pit­al­ity!

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Everytime the pot comes to a boil, Hironobu shows us how to poor cold water in through the hole in the lid to cool the water back down. This con­stant hot and cold shift in the water tem­per­at­ure gives you extra chewy noodles, we’re told.

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There’s no surer way to test if the noodles than with a gentle squeeze with your fin­gers.

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Our noodles are cooked and ready to be dipped in sauce en route to our tum­mies.

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The noodle dip­ping sauce is rather thick, so I prefer the thin­ner soy dashi, which is akin the the thick dashi broth you get with bukkake udon.

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Hironobu presents us with a dip­loma for com­plet­ing the upon mak­ing udon. Yatta!

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With our tum­mies full of udon we head over to the base­ment of Takashimaya to find cakes — it’s become a thing for us to indulge in beau­ti­ful cakes in Japan to cel­eb­rate our birth­days. This is the Casino from Patisserie Antenor.

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While they’re not cheap by any means they’re cheap­er than you can get many in Australia, and it’s very hard to find this level of soph­ist­ic­a­tion and atten­tion to detail in cakes even if price wasn’t a con­sid­er­a­tion. This is the Marquess from Patisserie Antenor.

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We save our cakes for later as we drop by Nana’s Green Tea. Their abso­lutely amaz­ing par­faits hold a spe­cial spot in my tummy.

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We’ve tried vari­ous ones in 2014, so we go back to basics this time and try the green tea par­fait with (from bot­tom to top) green tea pud­ding, green tea jelly, whipped cream, corn­flakes, green tea ice cream, green tea cake, more whipped cream drizzled with green tea syr­up, and a wafer. The many dif­fer­ent tex­tures with the whipped cream cre­ates a deli­cious taste sen­sa­tion that only makes you appre­ci­ate the many dif­fer­ent ways you can use green tea. D is also impressed by the shape of the spoon that let’s you get right to the bot­tom of the glass so you can savour every drop.

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And always keen to try some­thing new, this is the iced hojicha latte. I’d seen hojicha latte once in Sydney at a decidedly Western cafe, so wasn’t brave enough to try then. But there’s no bet­ter place to try it than a place that spe­cial­ises in all things green tea! It’s deli­cious with the pleas­ant roas­ted fla­vours of green tea com­ing through in the drink and the ice cream. D would have pre­ferred it to be sweeter (he’s very sens­it­ive to bit­ter­ness) but I thought it was just right with the same hint of sweet­ness that you get in hojicha.

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At every cake store we’ve been to in Japan, they’re metic­u­lous in pack­aging our cakes for trans­it to make sure it can sur­vive minor bumps and being out­side the fridge.

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The Marquess is some­thing like a black­forest cake with cher­ries wrapped with­in a rich Madagascan chocol­ate and vanilla mousse. The chocol­ate shav­ings, the dark chocol­ate mir­ror glaze and the poached cherry on top just make the cake look regal, but tastes deli­cious too.

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The Casino is anoth­er mousse cake. This time it’s made with a cham­pagne (from France) infused vanilla cream wrapped with­in a cas­sis mousse, topped with a cas­sis jelly, chocol­ate bis­cuit ring and rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries. After the intens­ity of the Marquess, the light­ness of the mousse and cream and the fresh­ness of the ber­ries was refresh­ing. Yum!

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We have a kazun­ashi chu hai made from fresh frozen pear juice from the Fukushima region. This, as well as a lychee, yuzu and apple fla­voured chu hi, pro­mote the eco­nom­ic recov­ery of the Tohoku region, part of which was dev­ast­ated by the the tsunami in 2011.