Holiday – Japan: Osaka

Tuesday 22 June

We left the monastery early after breakfast which was delicious.
Cable car ride down from the top of Koyo-San
After a bus, cable car ride, and 2 trains, we arrived at Osaka. A quick stop at the hotel to drop our luggage off and we set off on the subway to Umeda for an interactive cooking session – takoyaki at Pizza Ball House.

First, octopus is added to a greased metal grill plate that is heated with gas and has spherical indents to make the takoyaki balls. Spring onions are added, then Japanese croutons, before the pancake mixture is poured all over.
Making takoyaki
When it starts to firm, you use a skewer tipped instrument to bring the edges closer to each ball. Then you make a kind of scooping motion and flip the ball. Repeat till cooked and golden brown.
Osaka, Pizza Ball House - Takoyaki finished
We also were served a salad, tofu, rice, and miso soup.
Osaka, Pizza Ball House - miso soup and rice to go with the Takoyaki
After the takoyaki is prepared, help yourself to sweet soy, spicy soy, mayo, benito flakes, seaweed powder, and pickles.
Osaka, Pizza Ball House - Takoyaki with spicy soy sweet soy, mayo, benito flakes, seaweed, and pickles
Now enjoy and that I did. What a delicious meal! Everything in a Japan is yum!
After that feast, it was time to see Osaka so we made our way to the Umeda Sky Building which has a suspended plaform joining two towers, 40 levels up.
From there you take an escalator which goes another 3 or so floors giving some amazing views before reaching the top.
You can kick back and relax and enjoy the views, visit a cafe, or a restaurant.
You can climb the stairs to the observation deck and get lovely views of Osaka. Unfortunately, there’s lots of haze and smog so you can’t see out into yonder, but it’s enough to see how massive and building strewn Osaka is.
On ground level you can see the floating gardens which are beautiful.
Then it was off to see Dōguya-suji  Arcade – all  things  food,  kitchenware etc. You could easily furnish a brand new kitchen by visiting here. Finally, it was back to the hotel for some sleep before dinner.

Unfortunately, our food tour has come to an end and this a farewill dinner. I’m keen to try the poisonous puffer fish, fugu, a Japanese delicacy. We finally got hold of an English menu and made our choices. Some even choose to catch their own fish from the tank for some fun and a discount! I tried a few different things which I’ve not had.

Jellyfish in spring onions in a vinegar sauce – this is a non-complimentary dish they serve you which is a little odd to me but common in Osaka. It’s pretty nice and nice and refreshing.
Osaka , Fugu Restaurant - parboiled fugu in sesame oil, jellyfish salad
Par boiled fugu skin in sesame oil – tastes a bit slimy and fatty, but the sesame oil adds flavour. The fugu doesn’t really taste like anything.
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - fugu sashimi
The fugu sashimi is quite nice, a little chewy, doesnt really have any flavour, but the ponzu sauce, spring onion, and ginger adds more flavour.
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - whale
The whale has a gelatinous feel but doesn’t really taste like anything. Two sauces were provided and I thought it tasted really nice with the sweet mustard sauce.

The dinner started off like an episode of Seinfeld “a show about nothing” – a dinner that tastes like nothing. But it did get better.
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - sashimi
Others were enjoying their seafood choices. Above is a sashimi set served in a wooden boat. The fish is so fresh that after some time the tail started flicking back and forth even though the fish is supposedly dead! Freaky!
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - you know the fish is fresh when it's still moving!
They also were able to ask for the fish skeleton to be deep fried once all the meat was eaten. I’ve never seen that before but  I had a piece and it tastes lovely. I guess it’s like soft shell crab.
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - fugu shabu shabu
After calling for service since I was waiting for quite some time I got my next course, fugu shabu shabu. The fugu definitely tastes far better cooked and with some soy, is pretty tasty. Also enjoyed with the vegies too.
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - fugu shabu shabu cooked

Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - after the fugu shabu shabu is cooked, the stock is used to make a tasty rice porridge
Instead of throwing the water out, it’s saved for the next dish, a rice porridge. The scum is taken off the water, the rice is added with some black sauce (not soy, maybe black sesame), spring onions are added and then the final ingredient, egg. The egg is beaten up, then added to the slotted spoon and moved around the pot to form a kind of net. Done! Just serve and eat and wow, is it delicious! Lots of flavour from the fish and bones help turn this into a light, flavoursome dish.
Osaka, Fugu Restaurant - green tea ice cream
Lastly, green tea ice cream was served and that disappeared quickly. All that for just over $50 AUD.
Dotonbori on a Tuesday night after 10pm
Lastly, our final activity is a walkthrough the entertainment district, Dotonbori. This is a must visit at night. We’re here on a Tuesday night after 10pm and it’s packed. LCD screens light up the area but there’s arcades too.
Dotonbori on a Tuesday night after 10pm
Lots of bars, restaurants, and other questionable places open. Quite amazing.
Osaka - Dotonbori

Wednesday 24 June

I’m staying in Japan a little longer to see more and today it’s more of Osaka.

First stop is the Osaka Castle. You can enter from several areas around this massive castle guarded by a 75m wide moat with a wall stretching 1.5kms, but you have to take a certain path to three main tower.
Here, there is a cafe and restaurant housed in the castle, but in the other is the pagoda which acts as a museum and has an observation deck at the top. I made the trek up there and the views are wonderful.

From there you have to take the stairs down and you can visit each of the 7-8 levels. An enjoyable experience and first visit to a castle.

Noodles and pork. You can add sweet, spicy, or light soy, benito flakes, mayo, and seaweed powder. Really tasty.
Next I grabbed lunch at the nearby Tenmabashi Station. Level 8 has a bunch of restaurants and I ordered noodles and pork on a hotplate at Rouges. It’s already cooked but the hotplate keeps it warm and develops caramelisation. You can add sweet, spicy, or light soy, benito flakes, mayo, and seaweed powder. Really tasty.

I then spent the rest of the day getting lost in the insanely mass of shops at Umeda and Namba stations. You don’t go to the shops, they find you. I could easily see wonen missing their trains with all the shops on display. The choice seems endless. Finally found a seat – why all these shops and no seats! Where’s a foot massage when you need one?

Dinner at the hotel as they have Kobe beef, but the menu is in Japanese
Beef in a vinegarette
Beef in a vinegarette – an amuse bouche of sorts, a thin slice of beef was placed in an interesting concoction which was like a vinegarette but had a slight salty kick.
Beef marinated in vinegar, Beef tongue cooked in red wine, Pork and foie gras deep fried
Beef marinated in vinegar – this is sooo delicious. The vinegar marinade had tenderised the beef and the flavour is a bit like an Indian curry. I really like this dish and the flavour is so unique, nothing like what I’ve tasted.

Beef tongue cooked in red wine – super soft beef tongue which is rich but the red wine gives a lovely sweet flavour. This is amazing! I drunk the sauce and juices – liquid gold.

Pork and foie gras deep fried – the pork is a bit firm and I can’t detect the foie gras but there is a tad amount of richness counteracted by the sweet sauce and bitter mizuna leaves.

Stick vegetables with salt
Stick vegetables with salt – seems rather pedestrian but the vegetables are really fresh and they may have been lightly pickled. A touch of salt can be added. This balances the meat.
3 meat skewers, the first 2 from the left are beef, the third pork
3 meat skewers, the first 2 from the left are beef, the third pork. The first piece of beef on the left hand skewer was nice, but the next bit was gristle. The middle skewer was moist and tasty, the pork was reasonable. All skewers did carry a lovely grilled flavour.
No idea what I just ate. I’ve eaten it before on this trip. It’s a bit like fish with rice. Its tasty though. I like the gooey sauce which is like a soup.
Shabu shabu time! Pork and beef are the meats tonight, with a serve of mushrooms, lettuce, and onions.
Shabu shabu time! Pork and beef are the meats tonight, with a serve of mushrooms, lettuce, and onions. Sweet soy and sesame are the sauces. There’s also spring onions and minced ginger to flavour the soy. I really loved the beef.
Beef Sushi and Udon Noodle
Beef Sushi and Udon Noodle
I really loved the beef sushi. The beef is extremely tender and slightly sweet on top of the compacted rice. I liked the udon in a slightly sweet but sesame flavoured kind of vinegarette.
Orange and ice cream (I think it's guava)
Finally, no more food, but dessert. A rather bitter orange with a cool refreshing ice cream (I think it was guava). Lovely finish to the meal.

But there’s still more. Tea. Excellent finish to another delicious meal.

Thursday 25 June

After my day trip to Nagoya I made my way to Dotonbori and was looking for Kinryu Ramen but Google Maps led me astry. In the end I gave up and walked along till I found a place, Gourmet Map, which tells you what restaurants to go to. I asked the guy for this place and it was right behind me!
There was the large 3D dragon. Sources say Kinryu Ramen is open 24hrs. You order from a vending machine, get a ticket, queue for a table, then eat quickly. I was hot walking around. I was wven hotter downing a bowl of noodles and tasty but still hot broth. Big bowl of yum!

Friday 26 June

After returning from Hiroshima, I stopped by the mini supermarket near my hotel for dinner. I was pretty full after the sweets, so I didn’t need anything fancy. I got a now cold piece of crispy chicken which still had some crunch and tasted similar to KFC, and sushi.

This supermarket has a range of freshly baked breads and pastries, tempura, other deep fried delights, and lots of interesting things, including Japanese dishes I’ve been eating on this trip.

My time in Japan has finally and sadly come to an end. What a wonderful country with the nicest people you will meet.