My 24-year-old nephew, Cavin has just returned to the United States after living in Japan for a couple of years. Cavin is a foodie, and as my guest today he is going to share about Osaka, why it should be on your bucket list if you are a foodie too.
Lea: Where is Osaka?
Cavin: Oska is a port city roughly in the middle of Japan. From Tokyo it’s easiest to fly into Oska or take the shinkansen (bullet train). The cost for shikansen is about $160 for a 3 1/2 – 4 hour train ride. I recommend the shinkansen over flying, for experience itself. Plus there is just more room to stretch your legs and you can see some of the beautiful countryside whiz by.
Lea: Why should anyone go to Osaka?
Cavin: For the food! While Osaka is famous for the Glico running man sign, it might surprise you that Osaka is also famous as a Japanese food mecca. Lodging is cheap, freeing up more money for food. Get an Airbnb for under $50 a night. From wherever you stay, take the train to Dontobori. It’s a district of Osaka that is famous for it’s neon lights, restaurants and bars.
Lea: As a foodie tell other foodies what they can expect.
Cavin: It’s hard not to walk from food stall to food stall or restaurant to restaurant. In fact, that is exactly what I did. Kukuru is famous for its octopus dumplings, Zubora-ya specializes in pufferfish. Kushikatsu Daruma serves up fried Kebabs, while Hariju dishes up Japanese beef shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. If you love crab, try Kani Douraku, but be prepared to wait in line. Nagahori Izakaya won’t disappoint when it comes to gyoza. I can eat my weight in gyoza!
The thing is, you can order a bunch of starters, or you can order a full-on meal. There is just so much good food to try. It can be as inexpensive as an order of edamame or as expensive as Kobe beef. If you are coming to Osaka for the food, make sure to generously budget for it.
Pick up takoyaki at a food stall. It’s traditional and delicious! They are fried dough balls filled with minced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion topped with sauce. It’s sweet and savory with a little mayo drizzle.
Other foods you might try from a street vendor is yakitori (chicken on a stick) or Yakiton (pork on a stick). If you need something sweet, try the Dangos (tiny dumplings made from sweetened rice flour.) It’s hard to stop after just one.
Tons of food places in Japan have English menus, picture menus or realistic wax displays of what the dish looks like. Osaka is tourist friendly, so they make it easy to order, even if you don’t speak the language. Most restaurants take credit cards, whereas the food stalls will expect payment in cash.
Lea: What tips do you have for someone going to Osaka.
Cavin: Try to use the chopsticks if the meal requires. You might not master it but the Japanese appreciate the effort. You can resort to a fork if you have to, but at least make the effort. Do not stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice. It’s disrespectful. You can slurp your soup or noodles. Watch the local people around you and follow their cue. (For more chopstick etiquette click here.)
The Japanese love to share their culture so don’t be embarrassed to ask if you don’t understand something or if you are unsure what the etiquette is.
It’s also important to be on time. It’s considered to be rude and disrespectful to be late. If you are running late be sure to give your party ample notice.
Take advantage of the culture, history and food. Learn all you can. The Japanese have a rich history and their culture and customs are fascinating. They are some of the most hospitable and gracious people on the planet.”
Lea: Would you go back again?
Cavin: In a heartbeat.
Stay tuned for more of Cavin’s experiences in Japan. We’ll unpack his experiences as he unpacks in San Diego.