If Tokyo is the serious, businesslike, gourmet big brother, then Osaka is the fun-loving, party-animal, foodie little brother. Japan’s second city is wonderful, and there are many reasons to visit. Follow this guide to make the most of your time in Osaka.
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Get Your Bearings in Dotonbori
Start by checking into a centrally located, high-end hotel like the InterContinental Osaka, and hop in a cab. Your first destination should be Dotonbori, in Osaka’s Minami district. This is fun hub of Osaka, and it’s where everything happens. The two main thoroughfares include a narrow pedestrian street and a canal. Izakayas, street food vendors, and attractions line the pedestrian street, where everything happens at eye level.
A short walk from the main street to the Dotonbori canal reveals an entirely different world. Here you’ll see gigantic, flashy neon ads, some of them more than five stories high. The ample entertainment and countless food options make this area a never-ending playground.
Dig into Osaka’s Mandatory Eats
There are hundreds of wonderful izakayas in Osaka, and one of the best is Tayutayu Nambasennichimaeten. This spot serves grilled pork with beer and sake. It’s both simple and wonderful. You might even end up craving it years and years after your visit.
Sample Osaka’s Two Most Famous Street Foods
Takoyaki and okonomiyaki are two of Osaka’s most famous dishes, and they’re both street food specialties. You can get both topped with the same condiments: mayonnaise, sweet barbecue sauce, and bonito flakes.
Takoyaki are somewhere between a crab cake and a pancake. To make them, vendors mix chunks of tender octopus with batter and cook them on a waffle-iron-like surface with half-circle indentations. As the batter cooks and rises, the vendors flip them to produce a perfect sphere of soft, gooey, aromatic squid goodness. The most famous place to get takoyaki is Tako Tako King. It’s easy to find, since it’s right on the pedestrian street and boasts a storefront with a huge octopus wearing a crown.
Okonomiyaki is a sort of seafood omelet, and you’ll find it everywhere on the streets of Osaka. Restaurant Ajinoya offers some of the fastest made-to-order food in the world.
Try Something Off the Beaten Path
The beautiful omelets and squid cakes are tasty, but they’re not exactly off the beaten path. That’s where horumonyaki comes in. This is a unique way of dining that’s popular throughout Japan. Clients order horumon, or offal, that’s cooked, or yaki, on a barbecue grill right in the center of the table. It’s both different and challenging. Located right off the main street, Yakiniku Horumon Nikurou is a great bet.
Want to sample more food? Save room for ramen, sushi, teppanyaki, udon, and soba. Whatever you do, don’t forget about the delicious Kobe beef.
With a full belly, it’s easier to make your way through the many spectacular attractions in Osaka. Make your trip complete with visits to places like the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka Castle, or other pedestrian streets like Shinsekai and Doguyasuji.