It took about 20 visits to Tokyo before I felt like I, instinctively, knew where things were. And I still get lost.
Osaka is a similarly befuddling animal. The dialect is different. The city is huge. And if it weren’t for Google Maps, I’d be scratching my head more than I already do.
But the one thing I love about Osaka is this: Osakans love food. They, in fact, ascribe a word (phrase) to their love affair with food: くいだおれ. “Eat until you drop.”
So that’s what I do when I go to Osaka.
I started in an izakaya with some smoked daikon.
Then I moved on to an Osaka specialty: takoyaki. There’s a lot going on here, but the main ingredients are finely chopped octopus and a batter that helps enclose the octopus into a ball-shaped treat. The rest is garnish that consists of things like seaweed, mayonnaise, Worcester sauce, and katsubushi (aka bonito, aka dried/smoked tuna flakes).
Then I moved onto taiyaki. This is a pastry that resembles a fish, stuffed with sweetened azuki beans. They are hot and oh, oh so yummy.
If you’re reading this and you’re still at the airport, or worse, trying to figure out how to get around in Osaka, just know that you likely arrived at KIX (Kansai International Airport).
Take the Rapi:t (that’s how it’s spelled). It’s a Limited Express train that leaves twice an hour. It’ll cost you roughly 1390 yen (USD$13) to take the 35-minute ride to the city.
Then, unless you want to pay exorbitant fares via taxi or Uber, just get a Suica card. (Go to a train station and ask for a Suica card.) Once you have a Suica card and you’ve loaded some yen to it, you can take the subway with a generous level of wild abandon. Have fun, and see as much of the city as you can.
You might start with Namba and Umeda. (For Umeda, find the labyrinth of restaurants and bars near Umeda by googling “Bar Earth,” and it’ll put you smack dab in the madness. Or google “Doyamacho.”) For Namba, google “Doguyasuji.” (If you’re using Google Maps, these places are searchable.)
When people ask me what to do when they go to Japan, the best advice I have is this: “Walk and Eat. Walk and Eat. Repeat as necessary.”
And if you want a smooth, flavorful, potent cup of coffee, where the dude takes his craft seriously, go to Yamawaki Coffee. It is take-out only, as the area where one might sit is blocked by industrial-sized coffee grinders, roasting machines, and bags of beans.
Lodging is plentiful in Osaka. I’ve previously stayed at the Ritz Carlton Osaka and written about it here, but this time I chose the Moxy Osaka Honmachi, champion of space-saving economy and little things, like sensors at the foot of each bed that light your path when you get up to relieve yourself in the middle of the night. Those sensors, coupled with the blue light that some Japanese toilets have (not the ones at the Moxy), are among the things that make me think the Japanese people might have taken human evolution to the next level. (I’ve already written about the Moxy brand here, as the Tokyo Moxy is also first-rate.)
As always, should you have any questions, feel free to contact me.