A Travellerspoint blog


Goodness gracious, great balls of octopus!

Osaka, Japan

semi-overcast 75 °F

View of Osaka Castle, which we visited on our last day in Osaka.

We're back on the beach (in Zanzibar), in the final days of our trip. Before this - and right after Bali - we spent three days exploring Japan's second-largest city, Osaka.

This wasn't our first time in Japan; we first visited Tokyo and Kyoto in the summer of 2004, and had left with mixed opinions. Tokyo seemed overwhelming, expensive and generally disappointing -- though in retrospect our negative opinion was likely due in part to the fact that it was our last stop on a month-long trip around Asia and we were ready to get back to the States. On the other hand, we really enjoyed Kyoto, and wanted to give Japan another shot on this trip.

We're glad we did, as we both found Osaka to be a perfect mix of "traditional" and "modern" Japan. Plus, the food was great! (Osaka is apparently the food capital of Japan, which is one of the main reasons we wanted to visit.)

We spent the bulk of our first day exploring the Dotonbori section of the city, which is known for having good shopping and great food stalls dishing out Osakan street food specialties like takoyaki, which are little balls of fried dough with octopus inside (hence the title of this post). The stalls were everywhere, although the one pictured below seemed particularly popular. And for good reason - the takoyaki were delicious, if a little overloaded with toppings (an odd combination of mayo, barbeque sauce, and fish flakes).


Dotonbori got especially vibrant as sunset approached. Crowds of young Japanese people dressed in all kinds of crazy get-ups were walking around and checking each other out, which was lots of fun to watch. My favorite were the guys sporting what I could only describe as a kind of cleaned-up Russell Brand look...tight black jeans; tight, unbuttoned shirts; longish, styled-to-look-messy hair; and lots of eye makeup. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to surreptitiously snap a photo.

The neon lights of Dotonbori at night

On the other end of the fashion spectrum, we also walked through the America Mura district of Osaka and got an interesting perspective on how the Japanese view urban, American styling. This mainly consisted of graphic tees with all kinds of odd English phrases, baggy jeans and lots of New York Yankees caps. It was weird and funny at the same time. The photo below almost captures it:


We spent the bulk of our second day visiting the Osaka aquarium, which housed the largest fish tank we've ever seen! (It had whale sharks in it!) We also made a brief stop in one of Osaka's numerous "food theme parks". We had read about another one in Dotonbori, but had been disappointed to find it closed the night before. After wandering around for a bit, we found a stall that specialized in okonomiyaki, another Osakan treat we had read about and wanted to try. Okonomiyaki is sometimes called a Japanese pizza - supposedly because it looks a little like a pizza. I didn't really see the resemblance...in appearance or in taste. It's more like a pancake made with cabbage, shrimp, fish, and other veggies, topped with barbeque sauce (the universal condiment here!), fish flakes, and green onions. We both liked it, but probably won't try to recreate it at home:


We finished the day with a visit to the Shin-Umeda Sky Building, located in the northern part of the city. The building was a sight in itself, and the views from the top were really something:




We ended our time in Osaka with a quick visit to Osaka Castle (pictured above), and then headed back to the airport to go to Tanzania, the last stop on our trip! More on that in the next post...

Posted by jkirsch 05:06 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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