Osaka: Dotonbouri & Namba

Once we finally dragged ourselves away from the incredible Osaka Aquarium, we headed to more central Osaka to meet up with Don and explore.

Osaka is known as “Japan’s kitchen,” an unpretentious foodie’s paradise that specializes in such pedestrian dishes as okonomiyaki, takoyaki (octopus balls), katsu (some fried thing?) as well as more delicacy-style dishes such as…oh I don’t know. Meat/fish stuff. I’ll ask Don and update later, I was too hellbent on getting Osaka Okonomiyaki to play much attention to anything else.

Osaka is also the place to go if you want to buy cooking supplies – fancy knives, beautiful chopsticks, tea whisks, etc. or restaurant supply items – paper lanterns, the flags that hang over the doorways in Japanese restaurants, and the fake food that restaurants place in their window displays to serve as a menu of their offerings (Tokyo has an area for that as well, and is of course also an omnivore’s foodie paradise. But it always seems more fun – and slightly less hectic – in Osaka.)

According to Don, there’s a saying that “In Kyoto the people go broke for fashion, but in Osaka, they go broke for food.”

So we hit up some foodie areas. (Even though, you know, as a vegetarian I’m pretty limited in what I can enjoy here.)

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They go all out with restaurant awning decor. These are for takoyaki, the octopus balls.

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A few other restaurant awnings.

Of course, there are lots of vegetarian sweets offerings 🙂

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These are little pancakes stuffed with different fillings. This stall offered sweet bean paste,  a lighter sweet bean paste (shelled red beans) and custard. Chocolate is a frequent filling choice as well, and as we’ve been getting further into autumn, marron or chestnut, and sweet potato are other options. Here these are handmade, but there are also many machine made ones, like these we saw being made in Kyoto later that night:

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Giant restaurant lantern. And a cutie pie enjoying one of the treats from above.

Sometimes the little pancake treat things take on very complicated shapes, like these replicas of….I have no idea who these guys are…maybe some J-Pop stars? There were life-size versions of them across the street (Aardvark wanted a pic of her and Don with them…but then decided, rightly so, they were a little freaky up close), and a long line of people apparently waiting to see them at a theater next door.

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Aardvark was really into posing for pics with Daddy and characters.

I loved browsing all the food-related stuff. Here are taiyaki pans (not to be confused with takoyaki, the octopus balls, taiyaki are fish-shaped pancakes that are, perhaps oddly enough, entirely vegetarian and filled with sweet filling, like red bean paste, chocolate or custard.) Aardvark is dressing up as taiyaki for Halloween (of COURSE there will be photos later) so I had to snap a picture of the pan.

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And check out these knives. They are 1) HUGE and 2) hugely expensive.

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That bottom knife is way bigger than my arm – possibly bigger than my thigh.

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It is also $1,245 USD.

I’m not a big knife person – I basically have one favorite knife I use for everything, much to Don’s consternation. (He appreciates specific knives for specific purposes much more than I do). But these knives are made using an ancient Japanese technique of blending and layering different metals, a technique that was originally developed for making samurai swords.
And our wedding rings, which we designed and had made in Tokyo in 2011, are made with the same technique. So I’d loved seeing extra-large versions of it on these very big knives.

We also found Aardvark a happi coat – coats traditionally worn at festivals, especially in summer. We’d been looking for a very specific one, but in child’s size, and were delighted to find it in Osaka. (We didn’t take pics then, but we ended up using it as part of her Halloween costume so pics soon to follow!)

EDITED TO ADD:
When I was grabbing photos from our wedding website for our engagement story recap, I found this photo of our rings, from the atelier shop that made them, which gives somewhat of a close-up enough to see the metal layers and firing work:

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(Ours are different metals, hence the different looks: Don’s is white gold and platinum, to match my engagement ring, which is also in this mokume-style, and mine is silver, titanium and tantalum, which gives a bolder contrast between the metals and shows the mokume-style more, which I really wanted.)

Osaka was fun, but we didn’t get to spend enough time there…and it turns out to be, of all the places we went during this western Honshu/Kansai week, the place Don’s students wished they could have spent much more time in, as well.

 

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