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.
This is Dotonbori looking west.
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.
All Komeda’s Coffee stores have a wooden interior with red seating.
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.
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.
We pass by this famous ramen joint with the dragon breaking through the wall.
And we’re back at Dotonbori with the giant blowfish and sashimi adorning shop fronts.
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.
At another souvenir store we spot this gigantic eraser that’s at least 40cm x 25cm and costs a whopping ¥10,800 (~AUD120).
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.
We head across the road to visit Don Quixote, a new branch in Osaka that recently replaced a multi-storey sports good store.
We spot some adhesives to turn you non-human (non-bear), and Nissin Cup Noodles in various up sizes and flavours.
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!
And a Calpis/Yakult/yoghurt flavoured lipbalm that I couldn’t resist. Yum!
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.
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.
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.
After lunch, we head down the main shopping strip for some last minute clothes shopping at GU, a child company of Uniqlo.
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.
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
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.
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…
…And then cuts if up, laughingly showing examples of spaghetti and spatzle using the offcuts from the offcuts.
After Hironobu’s demonstration, D and I get to try our hands (and feet!) at making udon.
Hironobu compliments my noodles for being cut evenly and not too thickly, and laughs at D for his super thick noodles!
We wait for the water to boil so we can put the noodles in.
We’re given two sauces. The left is a sweet soy dashi and the right is a thicker curry.
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!
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.
There’s no surer way to test if the noodles than with a gentle squeeze with your fingers.
Our noodles are cooked and ready to be dipped in sauce en route to our tummies.
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.
Hironobu presents us with a diploma for completing the upon making udon. Yatta!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.