Our first day in Osaka. Breakfast plan was to eat our way through Kuromon Market. But such a pity to waste the pastries bought by our host last night. So we toasted some in the oven. They were divine. Buttery and crispy. A plus point staying in an Airbnb apartment with a fully equipped kitchen and a dining area to have meals together.
The maps above show the 2 main areas of Osaka – Kita (Umeda and Nakanoshima) and Minami (Shinsaibashi and Namba).
Our original plan was to stay in Kita, near Umeda and Osaka stations, gateways to many of the places we wanted to visit. Unfortunately, our Airbnb booking was cancelled by the host 2 months prior to our trip. His previous guests were too noisy and he was barred from renting out his apartment by the building management. This was our first Airbnb experience. Not exactly very reassuring. Perhaps we would be better off staying in a hotel. But it was the peak autumn season. 2 rooms for 6 nights would cost around $3,000. Airbnb for 5 persons was about $2,000. We decided to give it one more shot. Afterall, we got a $230 voucher from Airbnb as a goodwill gesture to offset our new booking.
By then, most of the apartments near the stations were already taken. So we started searching in Minami instead. It was a choice between Shinsaibashi and Namba. One was near the main shopping street, the other was near the airport limousine bus-stop. We chose shopping! No regrets with our decision in spite of the panic situation last night. Our apartment was within walking distance to shops, eateries and the Shinsaibashi station.
Well, that concludes the story of our accommodation. Back to the itinerary. We left the apartment and cut into the Shinsaibashi shopping street via one of the side lanes. It was early and most of the shops were closed. We emerged from the street and found ourselves on the famous bridge across the Dotonbori canal.
The famous Glico Man billboard. I could not figure out why everyone was taking pictures of it. But I followed the crowd and took a shot as well. On the other side of the bridge were lots of restaurants. Most had huge 3D mascots mounted above the shop front.
Spot the Starbucks sign in the above picture? We stopped to get our matcha latte fix in take away cups then continued the walk towards Kuromon Ichiba Market.
Passing BIC Camera and a few more streets, we arrived at 黑门市场. In Chinese, it means black door market. But trust me, there was nothing black or sinister about this place. All it had was lots and lots of yummy treats.
We stepped in and walked along the main path lined with shops selling all kinds of delicious looking food.
First stop was a seafood stall to sample a tray of otoro (fatty tuna), one of the 5 Kuromon eats I wanted to try. Although we had a taste of it at Tsukiji Fish Market, it was still a pleasure to eat it again.
Next up was a stall specialising in mochi. Strawberry seemed to be the flavour of the season so we bought a few to try. The texture of the mochi was really good, chewy yet soft.
While waiting for my friend and daughter to choose their mochi, I wandered inside this tidbit shop to see what snacks they have and found this particular flavour of KitKat.
I bought a box to try. After polishing off a packet each, my friend and I went back to the shop and bought more. The roasted tea was very fragrant and complimented so well with the sweet chocolate. It became and still is my favourite KitKat flavour.
From something sweet to something savoury. Oden from Ishibashi Syokuhin was another Kuromon eat on my list. The daikon was sweet and soft, the skewered meat was tender but the best part was the soup. We could not get enough of it. Should have asked if we could have a refill.
This was another seafood stall, まぐろや黒銀. A lot of customers were ordering this 3,000 yen promotional item. At first it looks like tuna don. But there was the Chinese word for cow, 牛 on the signboard. Later we realised it was a tuna and waygu beef don. The beef was from the shop, 丸善食肉店 beside the seafood stall. We were keen to try and asked for Kobe beef but it was out of stock that day. Then something caught our eye.
It looked like beef rib but it was actually tuna, grilled with terriyaki sauce and served with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.Very, very oishi. まぐろや黒銀 had some tables and chairs, so we took the chance to rest our feet and enjoy the grilled tuna.
We were reaching the end of the market when we passed by these wooden glass covered drawers displaying very traditional looking snacks. The stall name is 芳月堂 and is run by an old couple. I saw the words, 黑糖, which means black sugar, on the round brown buns and knew I must try. My younger girl fancied the round balls of mochi on the stick that were covered with peanuts. Reminded her of muah chee. Well, my bun turned out to be bitter. Not exactly the kula melaka taste I was hoping for. But the mochi was excellent.
Those who know me well know that the only pudding I eat is mango pudding. So when I told my husband about this egg pudding, he was rather surprised. Turned out to be one of the best pudding I have ever eaten. It was silky smooth, creamy with just the right sweetness.
Leaving Kuromon, we walked back to the road junction where BIC Camera was. As we waited to cross the road, I spotted a taiyaki shop in front of us. With such a huge signboard, the taiyaki must be good.
And it was. Not just good but extremely good. I thought I chose custard but it was actually sweet potato puree. I love sweet potato. There would be other taiyaki later on in the trip but Naruto Taiyaki is the winner.
We found ourselves back at Dotonbori. This time we were on a look-out for souvenir shops. In particular shops that carry Kuidaore Taro products. While researching on Osaka, I read about this word kuidaore, which means to eat oneself into total ruin. Sounds terrible but it describes how much the people of Osaka love food. And the icon for this is a drummer boy named Kuidaore Taro.
If you want a photo with him, he can be found at Nakaza Kuidaore Building, right in the heart of Dotonbori.
Within the building was a souvenir shop, Little Osaka. We bought more than 10,000 yen worth of Pocky, Collon and matcha snacks, and was exempted from paying tax. Similar to Uniqlo at Tokyo, the sales staff stapled the receipt on one of the pages in my passport. The difference was she packed all the purchases into transparent bags and sealed the bags. I was asked to read a notice stating that I was not to consume the products and that the customs officer at the airport would check them. I was ok with not eating the snacks I bought but I was worried about hand carrying them. Later in the day I checked with a friend who just visited Osaka. She assured me that the customs officer would not check and I could unseal the bags and pack the items into my luggage.
These were the Kuidaore Taro products I wanted and I found them in Little Osaka. But I did not buy any. The actual products did not look as good as the pictures, especially the T-shirt. Also, my family was irked by Kuidaore Taro’s face. They could not understand why I would want any of his products. Oh wells, no big deal.
We crossed over the Gilco Man bridge and again I spotted food. This time it was Pablo, one of 5 Osaka Eats I planned to try. This outlet had 2 floors, level 1 was for take away and dine in orders, level 2 was the sitting area.
None of us was actually hungry so we ordered a slice of premium cheese tart and a cheese tart set to share. The premium tart looked like cheesecake and tasted like creme brulee because of the top layer of burnt sugar. The tart in the set was what Pablo is famous for. We chose the rare cheese tart over the medium one. It came with a scoop of ice-cream and a tiny jar of honey. The crust of the tart was flaky and the rare cheese resembled custard. All of us concluded that it was nice but not fantastic.
Half-way into our desserts, one waiter appeared out of the blue in front of our table. Then One Direction’s Live While We Are Young started playing on the PA system and the waiter broke into a dance. His sheer enthusiasm and exuberance got us all clapping along with the music. When the song ended, Pablo’s music video appeared on the screen and the waiter launched into another dance. It was super entertaining and more than made up for the disappointment in the cheese tarts.
After a good rest in the cafe, we began our Shinsaibashi shopping spree.
We spent most of our time in Sanrio and 3Coins. There were just so many things to see and so hard to choose what to buy. Disney was the most crowded store. We had to squeeze through to get to the second floor. And a number of popular products, like Tsum Tsum Christmas wreath, were sold out. Uniqlo marked the end of the shopping street. We could see Tokyu Hands across the road but everyone was hungry. Since we were on a pretty tight budget, we bought lunch at Daimaru food hall and ate it on the roof-top garden. It wasn’t as well-kept as Ginza Mitsukoshi but it has tables and chairs and vending machines.
We took our shopping bags back to the apartment and ventured out again after a short rest. First things first, dinner.
This was a 3-in-1 food court style place within the Shinsaibashi shopping street that served Hanamaru udon, Yoshinoya beef bowl and pasta. Hanamaru is a chain of udon restaurants. We tried it at both the Skytree and Ikspira food courts. You order a bowl of udon and there’s a selection of tempura items you can choose to go with your noodles. It may not be restaurant standard in Japan but it sure taste better than many of the Japanese restaurants in Singapore.
Finally got to visit Tokyu Hands after missing the one in Shibuya. This outlet has a few levels and we took our time to browse. The general feel was that the things were more expensive than Loft, somewhat classier. I did find a pretty Laura Ashley 2016 planner and my daughter bought a $20+ bag to put her Chrome. I saw a similar one in Takashimaya Singapore selling for $50+ so it was a good buy.
Our last stop for the day was Don Quijote or Donki for short.
We took this photo in the day but we were in a hurry to go Kuromon market so we decided to return at night. After all, the shop is opened 24 hours. We explored every level but only the ground level with all the food interest us. Perhaps we had seen too much accessories, cosmetics and clothes at the other shops. What made my day was being able to find Deonatulle Deodorant and Kracie Popin Cookin.
This antiperspirant roll-on was one of 20 beauty products I read on Tsunagu. A couple of other websites also highly recommended it. Before Donki, I tried asking a few cosmetics stores. All did not carry the product as it was autumn. Apparently, it’s only popular in summer. Hmm so Japanese don’t perspire in autumn?
I only knew about this DIY candy making kit from a friend who bought the hamburger kit during her recent Tokyo trip. Her kids loved it so much that she asked me to look out for it. At first, I tried finding it at the toy section of Donki. Then I discovered whole shelves of it at the food area. Besides getting the takoyaki one for my friend, I also got several hamburger kits as Christmas gifts for friends’ kids. They cost only 200+ yen! I wanted so much to buy more but they were rather bulky and would take up too much luggage space.
We ended the day with takoyaki.
Not exactly my top 10 favourite. Maybe because we ate it cold back at the apartment. The next time I visit Osaka, I’ll try it at the stall.
- When choosing an Airbnb apartment, reviews and location are very important. For me, apartment facilities too. Besides a fully equipped kitchen, mine came with a clothes washer and the dryer was the entire bathroom. You hang all your washing on the bars above the bathtub, close the bathroom door and turn on the heater. Within 2 hrs, all the clothes are dry and you have a toasty bathroom to have your shower.
- Visit Kuromon Market with an empty stomach. There’re seriously lots of things to eat.
- There’s tourist tax rebate for shopping within Shinsaibashi Shopping Street but only for certain stores. Some you have to spend within the store like Laline and Uniqlo. For others like Sanrio and 3Coins, you can combine receipts and get tax refund from customer service at Daimaru South Building.
- Eat takoyaki straight from the stall while it’s hot. It becomes mushy and soggy when cold.