Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | August 6, 2013

My visit to Osaka: Welcome to Dotonburi!

IMG_1369After adventures in Tokyo and its surrounding districts (Ueno Park, Harajuku, Akihabara and Tsukiji fish market) we decided to really take advantage of our Japan Rail pass and use it to visit places outside of Neo Tokyo. So before our expedition to the land of the rising sun, we planned out our itinerary in Toronto by first getting our JR Pass. This pass is very important and useful in our cross-country trek through Japan and luckily it’s available in our country. I can’t stress that this pass is a must if you are planning on travelling in and around Japan as it will save you hundreds of dollars in rail ticket prices (warning: you can not get this pass in Japan, it is not available to the locals, only to foreigners and you have to purchase this pass in your own country). Just click on the link to the Japan Rail webpage. It’s basically an all-access-pass to anywhere Japan Rail trains travel. So you can travel from the northern point ofIMG_1144 Hokkaido to the very south of Kyushu. Now we didn’t go as far as Kyushu but we did travel to Osaka and Kyoto. Two places that were on our bucket list of places that we wanted to visit. Why Osaka and Kyoto? Well I heard about all the great foods that were available including a famous poisonous fish called Fugu that I secretly wanted to eat in Osaka. Kyoto was my girlfriend’s bucket list place because one of her customers at her work highly recommended the place. It was an ancient city that still held on to its past honourably and never let it go…I’ll get to our adventure in Kyoto in a later blog but first….Day 1 of 3: My visit to Osaka!

After checking into our quaint little hotel called Mitsukoshi Hotel in Osaka (reminder: all places in Japan are tiny so get used to it) we quickly asked the front desk to ask where’s it happening! Luckily I spoke japanese so we weren’t totally lost in translation (another thing we learned quickly…nobody spoke english -_-). They told us to head down the street and we would not miss “the happening place”. This area was basically their downtown core and tourist hotspot which had everything that one could ask for. It had food places galore, shopping areas, crazy neon signs, a river running through it with boat tours and tons of people to dodge and weave around! Welcome to Dotonbori!

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Okay quick history lesson (don’t worry I’ll KISS it…meaning I’ll Keep It Short Stupid). One of the principle tourist destinations of Osaka, this one street wonder ran parallel with the Dotonbori canal and was originally an entertainment district…whoa not that kind of entertainment. This place ran traditional kabuki theatres in the past…like back in the 1600’s but because of declining interests most were shut down or destroyed in WW2. Now the place is a foodie mecca with many crazy neon signed ramen shops, Osaka crab joints and western influenced restaurants. Along our walk through this fantastic town we also happened onto several of Dotonbori’s famous landmarks. The first famous one was the Glico Man.

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Originally built in 1935, this huge neon billboard showcasing an athlete on a blue track representing the Glico candy has been altered many times to represent the World Cup to the Olympics to their beloved baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers. During our 3 days here we ate at the next famous landmark, The Kani Doraku Crab.

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This huge animatronics crab which has moving legs and eye sockets, was built in 1960 and is in front of the restaurant called Kani Doraku which we had the pleasure of feasting on a 8 course meal of their famous and very tasty crab!

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The last landmark is the blowfish lantern of Zuboraya, this large inflated fish is positioned above the restaurant where I ate the famous poisonous Fugu…and lived to tell about it!

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Okay to be honest I was a little apprehensive to eat this poisonous fish so I tried the deep-fried version first…deep frying usually kills any and all poisons (I think?) so this part was easy…. its kinda like prepping your stomach for roller coasters. You start with the Viking Ship (it just sways) to the rickety old coaster with no loops and then you tackle the vomit inducing behemoth at the end.

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The deep-fried Fugu is the top image.

Surprisingly the deep-fried version was really tasty! Now after tackling that one, it was on to the raw or sashimi style. Gulp! No turning back now…as I ordered the dish I thought to myself that it would suck if I got sick or worse die eating this on my bucket list vacation but if I survived a Sky Jump in Macau, how hard is it to eat some damn fish? Okay a poisonous one that kills 6 Japanese people a year and the occasional daredevil tourist but still it’s a fish….

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As the server brought me this Japanese delicacy, I kid you not she had a grim look on her face as she bowed and served me the dish (probably thinking she better have 911 ready…) and then proceeded to wait to see if I would do it! Not much to look at, cut wafer thin, I guess to minimize the poisonous blow?

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With my gf taking photos and filming this moment, I mustered up the courage and ate the poisonous Fugu! The verdict? Not bad, not much of any flavour other than the soya sauce and wasabi. There was a slight tingling sensation on my tongue. I was told it was the poison, more likely the wasabi but tasty none the less. Would I recommend it? Sure why not…to be honest I think it’s all in the mind. I don’t think they would serve this stuff if it was really deadly…what kind of business would you have if your customers kept dying? Still it was a bit of a rush leading up to it so if you want to “cheat death” and debunk the myth this is an interesting challenge!

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I asked my gf if she wanted to try some? Her answer, “no I don’t want to die”. Nice.

So after snacking on death and more sight-seeing we started our food odyssey by IMG_1213trying some of Osaka’s famous Takoyaki. This tasty street food staple are doughy balls filled with big chunks of tender octopus and baked in these metal Takoyaki pans. After each battered ball is carefully cooked (there is a technique to making these) they’re coated with a sweet Worcestershire type sauce, some japanese mayo and sprinkled with bonito fish flakes (optional). Yum and soooo delicious! Warning these puppies are molten hot so let it cool before you pop them in your mouth or you will be jumping around and tearing up as it scorches the inside of your mouth. Trust me I know…

Up next…Osaka style ramen. What makes this ramen different from say…Tokyo or Kyoto style? Well I had to find out so I hit the coolest looking ramen joint in Dotonbori that I could find and voila I got to taste some of the best ramen in town. Well the first thing I noticed was the texture of the noodles, firm and slightly chewy but thinner than the ones in Tokyo. Also the broth is more opaque, very rich and bold as it is laced with pork fat. It’s a tough call but I prefer the Osaka style ramen to the Tokyo one. It’s the pork fat that kills it!

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Mine is the one with the incredibly flavourful thin slices of roasted pork! The perfectly coddled egg is a nice option too!

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We ended our first day in Osaka by jumping on a boat and having a tour around the place. This allowed our stomachs to rest and digest the Takoyaki, crab, Fugu and ramen we consumed that day. I recommend the boat tour, there is only one company that does it so you can’t miss them. It was nice to see the wacky buildings and structures that align this narrow canal and the first day proved to be an exciting one.

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Hmmm…the Rose Lips Hotel!? Yikes! Lost in translation (The Rose Petal Hotel?) or perhaps its a love hotel and the name suits it then.

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Up next…My Day Visit to Kyoto: Welcome to Old School!


Responses

  1. Fugu!! That’s a thing to tick off the must-do list 🙂 Loved reading about it and now am very jealous!

    • Lol! Luckily Japan is just a stone’s throw from Hong Kong. You can most likely get a nice weekend package and then try some!


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