Full first day of Osaka, here we go! We decided to hit up downtown Osaka otherwise known as Minami (Namba), which consists of smaller shopping and restaurant districts. The main shopping and restaurant districts we explored were Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. But first stop, lunch! So what you will find in Japan in general is that at a lot of subway stations and inside malls, there will be restaurant floors, where you either go to the basement, or the 10th/11th floors of the building to find restaurants galore! And if you are little piggies like we are, this is either Heaven or Hell, depending on how you look at it. It is Heaven because there is food everywhere! It is also Hell because if you are indecisive, then it will take you a long time to decide where to eat.
Also, word of advice: before you go to Japan, learn how to read/speak Japanese. A lot of Japanese restaurants actually don’t offer English menus so just keep that in mind. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t learn anything, but it will definitely help since Japan has much less access to English than Korea did, therefore making foreigner-native interactions very charades-like with a lot of pointing, nodding, and bowing..haha. Anyway, Pork and I downloaded 2 Japanese language learning apps (“Learn Japanese Phrasebook” and “Learn Japanese”) to learn some common words/phrases. For those interested in downloading these apps, “Learn Japanese Phrasebook” is by Codegent and “Learn Japanese” is by Bravolol. The apps definitely came in handy at certain points of our trip but we will get to that in a different post.
So anyway, back to the restaurant Heaven/Hell. It’s GREAT seeing so many restaurants in one area but it makes your decisions that much harder because Japanese restaurants put out a lot of fake displays of what’s on their menu (as you see at Japanese restaurants in America), so every restaurant has something that looks delicious but then you also don’t know if it’s good. So another tip: do as the Japanese do. If you see a lot of Japanese people waiting at a restaurant, that restaurant must be pretty good and you should probably wait too. If there aren’t that many people in the restaurant, then I bid you good luck. Haha, I’m kidding, it’s not that scary. Just don’t expect the food to be great. Our first glimpse to this restaurant Heaven/Hell was in Osaka station. We decided on this ramen restaurant and once seated, the waitress quickly realized we didn’t speak any Japanese so we ordered our food by walking to the outside of the restaurant with the waitress and pointing at one of their fake displays of ramen sets. Thank goodness for those fake displays! 🙂
Once we finished and paid, it was time to shop! Woot! We stumbled past a lot of different types of stores selling clothes, shoes, accessories, you name it. We didn’t really buy anything though. I bought shoes because I definitely wore the wrong pair of shoes that day, so yay! New shoes for me! ^^
And then we stumbled upon this…
So if you guys don’t know what UFO Catchers are, they’re claw games. Pork and I got ridiculously addicted to these claw games when we studied abroad in Taiwan for 3 months way back in 2010. So, OF COURSE we went crazy and spent a ridiculous amount of money on these claw games in Japan because we’re such suckers for cute things and anything that has to do with LINE or any anime that we know/watch!!! This hobby is not recommended for anyone. You feel so much pride and joy from winning the prize, whatever it may be, but then you end up with a bunch of things that you don’t even know what to do with, and you can’t part with them because like I said, they’re your pride and joy. Please don’t judge us. (Okay okay, judge all you want. We shall pretend that you guys are all jealous of all the stuff we won, so HA! Ignorance is bliss.)
After our fun, we explored more through the downtown area.
Oh, another thing that we found very common in Japan is restaurants having gigantic mascots (I’m not sure if this is the right way to describe them) above their location to attract attention and boy, did they get our attention!
We found more claw machines! Of course, this machine has things that only Japan can get away with… Not sure if you guys know, but the subject of “sex” is way more common and open in Japan. No one really talks about it, but it’s just understood that Japan has an entire industry involved around sex. I’m not talking about prostitution. Yes, Japan has that, but Japan takes the sex industry to the next level. I’m sure a lot of you have heard, but we can save that talk for another time. Anyway…the next picture, haha. 🙂
So we got to Dotonburi and this area is filled with more shops and restaurants.
And it was time to try some takoyaki (octopus dough balls)! Pork and I didn’t look up any really famous takoyaki places to go to, just because we figured any place in Osaka would be good. Osaka is known for having the best takoyaki and okonomiyaki. So the takoyaki that we’ve had back in the states were more fried and chewy, whereas this takoyaki that we had was very soft and runny. All the foreigners I spoke to about it said the same thing as well. I’ve noticed a lot of Japanese dishes have egg and most of the time, the egg has that soft boiled or poached texture. (I also noticed a lot of the eggs we ate in Japan had an orange-red colored yolk, as opposed to a yellow yolk that’s so common in the states.) So if you’re into that type of texture, then definitely try some!
It started to rain later so we rushed inside a department store to get some coverage. Near the entrance of the mall, we found a small group of people gathered, examining at first glance, what looked like a girl dressed up in a kimono. But when you step closer, you notice that she’s not exactly a human. It’s pretty crazy where technology is going these days.
Anyway, after we checked that out, we left and went to go find more UFO catcher places. 🙂
So before you plan that trip to Japan, make sure you have a handy coin pouch. Everything below $10.00 US is a coin in Japan. So if you don’t have a coin pouch, be prepared to jingle. Pork and I won these silicone coin pouches from (what else) a claw machine!
After all of this spending (ahem, I mean WINNING), we needed some dinner! Pork and I were determined to get some good sashimi/sushi (since we weren’t so impressed with last night’s sushi), but we kept finding Sushi Train/Boat places, and knowing the reputation of those types of places in U.S., we wanted to avoid them. So we finally settled on this rice bowl place and both ordered the Deluxe size of the rice bowl pictured below. It honestly wasn’t…great. Truth be told, there weren’t that many people inside the restaurant either. That was our first mistake. The uni had a bit of a fishy aftertaste (bleh). So, we spoke with a friend (hi Tim!) we met at the Osaka airbnb about it afterward and he was the one that told us we should just follow as the Japanese do. We should still go into a Sushi Train restaurant if it seems popular, and if we see the Japanese people taking sushi off the train, then the sushi should be okay to eat it, but if we see the Japanese people ignoring the sushi train and ordering directly from the chef, then we should follow suit too. Good advice, however, we never even set foot into a Sushi train restaurant for the rest of our time in Japan (heh..we kinda forgot about them). But nonetheless, the advice still generally applies to dining out at Japanese restaurants. So remember guys, I know I’ve already repeated it a lot, but when in Japan, do as the Japanese do.