We spent time in Osaka at the beginning and ends of our recent holiday, staying at the surreal, faux English Monterey Grasmere – complete with replica full size village Church on the second floor, for those quintessentially English country weddings – before jetting off to Seoul. Our intention was to hit the sights and night life of Dotomburi, a suburb of Osaka, nearby.
The train trip from Kyoto – an economical 420 yen apiece, was marred only by the effort of lugging our cases across town and negotiating the still horribly confusing Umeda station complex.
On three separate occasions during the course of our stay, Japanese angels appeared from nowhere to help us when we most needed it; and being lost in the Umeda station complex was definitely one such occasion.
This lovely lady, seeing our bafflement, didn’t just give us directions, she literally took us to the door of our train; a journey that encompassed a 15 minute walk through shopping malls, twists and turns, several levels of walkways, out into the open, across a road and into a new station, through ticket barriers (and buying our tickets) and onto the concourse.
Her English was limited, our Japanese negligible, and so we couldn’t even thank her properly. She seemed not to mind.
This is why I love Japan.
When we finally got out to Dotomburi that evening, we were no less confounded. Dotomburi was an assault to the senses; riotous colours and over-the-top advertising, sensory overload. Tons of neon and kids. Teeming entertain-straunts competed for business on a freezing cold evening. Giant faux foodstuffs as tall as buildings loomed over the walkways.
We were left in no doubt as to what each restaurant specialised in, anyway. The weight of competition made it difficult to choose, but in the end we ignored all the glitzy ads and settled on a traditional joint, Imai Honten, recommended by Lonely Planet, for our one evening meal in Osaka. It was….OK. My stew and rice was frankly bland and over cooked, and I was pretty disappointed. Mr C’s dishes, a soup and a eggy rice dish – complete with raw yolk – were more appealing, but it wasn’t the standout we’d hoped for:
So we didn’t need much persuasion to settle down nearby at an izakaya yakatori joint*, afterwards….
Look at this guy go!
and the advantage of just being able to point and order was too good to pass by! We watched what was popular with the suited, increasingly rowdy clientelle, and chose the same.
Pork belly skewers
Aubergine, chargrilled with flakes of bonito gently settling on top
Food was deftly delivered to waiting diners on a wooden paddle:
This strategy worked brilliantly, right up until the horned turban sea snail was served…It tasted somewhat as it looks…(I’ve described this before, here) Meanwhile, beers were sunk and the drinks menu caused amusement.
We felt as if we’d finally stumbled upon the authentic, post work, Japanese Experience that we’d been looking for, and we were happy. And drunk.
* We initially thought this place was called Hot Pepper, going by the only English word we could see on the calling card we picked up from the till. But I think that’s actually the name of a discount coupon magazine popular in Japan, which was just spruiking it’s connection with the place. So, sadly, I have no idea what this place is called. Here’s the card I picked up, in case that helps anyone who wants to visit….BTW I’m still hoping for a Japanese speaker to translate stuff they see on these posts, and let me know what these labels mean!