After our adventures up north in Hokkaido, we took a flight from Sapporo down to Osaka. Although we visited Japan in springtime, Sapporo was still very cold with snow still lining the streets and intermittent snow flurries! So we were quite glad to experience warmer weather once we disembarked our flight.
Spring is also sakura season, so while it was still too cold for sakura in Hokkaido, we were fortunate enough to catch the tail end of the blooming cherry blossoms in Osaka. I’d done a bit of research on where we might be able to find sakura in Osaka, so on our first full day there we headed to the aptly named Kema Sakuranomiya Park to go sakura spotting.
Our little trip to the park showed us that Osaka really is a city of food! We were there to see sakura but Osaka put on a show for us that weekend by having endless food stalls throughout the whole park. We literally walked through the entire length of the park and there was no way that you could have gone hungry with all the food on sticks available. Here is some of what we saw:
Of course, there was plenty of okonomiyaki and takoyaki to be had – we are in Osaka after all! We decided to get some takoyaki balls as a mid-morning snack. The takoyaki are made right in front of your eyes and served piping hot and are absolutely delicious!
We kept wandering through the market until I spotted something I’d never seen before. I saw people holding these large, flat sheets with a fried egg and what looked like rice bubbles and I was intrigued. It turned out to be a shrimp-flavoured senbei (rice cracker) which was brushed with a sweet glaze and topped with a fried egg and the crispy rice bubble/tempura nubbins. Such a simple snack but seriously tasty.
That night, we went out to Dotonbori, probably the one place that exemplifies Osaka’s kuidaore “eat-til-you-drop” culture best. It’s the home of Kuidaore Taro, a drum-playing clown statue who used to sit outside the now-closed eight-storey Cui-daore restaurant.
Dotonbori is also the home of giant food statues. Of course there’s the giant mechanical crab, but there was also a giant fugu statue, a giant octopus with a takoyaki ball, and some giant gyoza!
There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori that it becomes a bit overwhelming. We decide that we’re going to have okonomiyaki for dinner that night and end up walking into the Dotonbori branch of Nishiki Warai – a well-known okonomiyaki restaurant that originates from Kyoto.
The menu is vast with different types of okonomiyaki, bar snacks and yakisoba. We try two types of Japanese-style pancake here – the first is their signature waraiyaki which is stuffed with noodles. We get the option with mochi which is awesomely chewy and I think I actually ended up preferring the waraiyaki over the usual okonomiyaki.
We also get the standard okonomiyaki with pork. Both the waraiyaki and okonomiyaki come pre-cooked but are set on a hotplate in front of us to keep warm while we eat. You don’t get to cook your own okonomiyaki here but I’m kind of grateful for that because I would have no idea where to start!
There is a little condiments station on the side of each table which has a range of sauces and sprinkly things to top your pancakes with. I never really got past the novelty of being able to just cut a slice of each pancake and top it with squiggles of kewpie mayo and chilli powder to your liking – hours of fun!
I was still keen to do a little bit of DIY cooking so we suss out this make your own takoyaki place called Takonotetsu, or Pizza Ball House. There’s a friendly octopus mascot cooking takoyaki at the door, and each table has a cast iron hotplate in the centre with round grooves for cooking your takoyaki.
Choose your takoyaki and the staff will come over with your fixings and pour it all into your moulds. Then it’s just a matter of waiting and turning the balls at the right time. Don’t wait too long or be too slow like we were on our first attempt… but staff will kindly come and save you if you start messing up your food!
We ordered three dozen takoyaki with different fillings – one regular, one with cheese and one with shrimp. I think our first rookie mistake was ordering two at once because it means you have monitor two grills at the same time – not the greatest idea if you have no idea what you’re doing! I have much respect for the people who work the takoyaki grills at market stalls and have to monitor heaps of them at the same time. It’s not easy!
We ordered some yakisoba with pork and vegetables as well. Just because.
The takoyaki place also had condiments on the side of the table so you can top your takoyaki with as much mayo and katsuoboshi flakes as you like. We were pretty happy with our takoyaki after a few goes and I can imagine this being heaps of fun with a group of friends. Now if only I had my own takoyaki grill at home….
Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Osaka
1-5-6 Dotombori Chuo-Ku
Pizza Ball House (Takonotetsu)
Level B2, Osaka Maru Building
1-9-20 Umeda, Kita-ku