Here it is, Osaka, the final stop on our little jaunt around Japan’s largest island of Honshu. All we allocated, as the title suggests, was one night in the Dotonbori precinct – right in the heart of the city’s entertainment district.
We may have managed to fit just one day in Osaka, but I can’t say I wasn’t satisfied with everything we got up to. Let’s start with coffee . . .
This tiny cafe is the furthest we ventured from where we were staying; a whopping 10 minute walk from Dotonbori. Mill Pour can be found in the Shinsaibashi neighbourhood, Osaka’s best known shopping district. No shopping for us, though, as it was the stellar espresso we were here for.
Most of the clientele is of the takeaway kind, but the few cube seats out front help take a load off as you enjoy your expertly made coffee, hot chocolate or affogato. They even whip up a hotdog.
Visiting Kuromon Ichiba Market is an absolute must for any first-timers to Osaka. Known locally as Osaka’s Kitchen, this 580m stretch of 150 seafood and fresh produce vendors, pickles, sweets, meat and dried fish is a sight to see.
It’s a big draw for tourists as there are dozens of eateries and numerous stalls offering on-the-spot snacks, meals and samples. It’s the first place I’ve come across whale being sold for consumption, and despite not eating it, it’s obvious this delicacy is enjoyed by some.
Architecture fiends may find Namba Parks an interesting spot to admire some unique design, right by Nankai Namba Station. Nine floors of fashion, food and entertainment are set in a canyon-like shopping centre that’s softened with cascading greenery, terraces and roof-top parks. Whether you’re up for some shopping or a little sunshine and beautiful views over the city, Namba Parks is one to explore.
The thumping heart of Namba is none other than Dōtonbori, one of the city’s biggest attractions. This area is an unashamed tourist trap – busy by day and absolutely heaving at night.
Here you can take a river cruise for ¥900 and ride the bright yellow ferris wheel for ¥1200; although if you make a purchase at the Don Quixote variety store, you supposedly get a free ride.
Everywhere you look you see food, so it goes without saying that Osaka is dubbed as the “Nation’s Kitchen”. There are stand-up noodle bars, okonomiyaki vendors, and if you look out for the huge guy that looks like he’s snarling or squeezing out a fart, you’ve found Daruma.
This is the famous kushikatsu store, where golden, crumbed skewers of chicken katsu (cutlet) and vegetables are snap-fried, then dunked in kushikatsu sauce before being eaten.
Then there’s the famous takoyaki (fried dumplings with octopus) which seems to be on every street corner. The most famous are those from Konamon Museum, where for ¥750 you get 8 piping hot takoyaki. Head upstairs after your takoyaki fill and try your hand at making wax takoyaki as a souvenir!
Just steps away from Kuromon Ichiba Market is a little joint we discovered for lunch, when nothing much around it was open. Ten-ti-jin uses the meal ticket system where you order and pay at the outside vending machine, then squeeze into the tight 10-person space and grab a seat at the counter.
What a little gem this was! The solo cook chars meat and whips up bowls of goodness in a flash, and it’s mighty delicious. For ¥1000 you can indulge in the mini pork rice bowl set. The braised pork is impossibly juicy with charred edges, and the ramen wades in beautifully rich, collagen-thick soup.
You can temporarily escape the Dōtonbori madness if you head down the backstreets, and you just may come across Hozen-ji Temple. This tiny oasis of calm was once a much larger complex including stalls and teahouses, but sadly destroyed by bombs in WW2.
All that remains is the statue of Fudo Myo-o, a Buddhist spirit that represents discipline and moral character. The statue is now completely covered with moss due to visitors making a wish and tossing a ladle of water over it.
Staying in Dōtonbori quite likely means you’ll be spending your evening in the precinct. You could easily spend the night wandering the waterfront and streets gazing on snacks, but there are plenty of restaurants to try, too.
Grab a few snaps of Dōtonbori canal in its reflective splendour, then settle in at a bar, get pissed or chow on some really good food.
Start off with a sake tasting session at Gyozaoh!, found at the quieter end of Dōtonbori, and stay for some divine Japanese-style braised Iberian pork belly (¥690). Deliciously juicy and fatty! You can’t leave without sampling their gyoza (¥280), which is served in a variety of ways, including vegetarian. The perfect spot before diving into the Dōtonbori madness.
Like it? Pin it!