Friday was a day ordained for shopping. The four of us split up today as J and S decided to go Universal World, and A and I decided to spend our day shopping in a nearby district. We both woke up relatively late, as we were both exhausted. For the first week of the trip, I was pretty much exhausted every day from lack of sleep. Nevertheless, we got ready and went out. The first stop was lunch. Neither A and I had wanted to eat anything particular for lunch so we stopped at one of the first restaurants that we saw.
The restaurant was sleek and dark inside. The restaurant staff spoke minimal English and there was no English menu either, so A and I looked at the pictures. Judging from the inbuilt barbecues on every table, I guessed that we had come to a yakiniku restaurant.
A decided to order a bento box that came with raw meat, and I decided to order the same. The bento boxes came with a few sides, such as miso soup, salad and kimchi. After I saw the kimchi, I wasn’t sure if the restaurant was Japanese or Korean. A and I cooked the meat on the barbecue at our table until it was cooked to our liking. The meat was marbled, fatty and tender. It was delicious when eaten with the accompanying sauce, which was a sweet soy sauce. The rice was freshly cooked, firm, but soft enough to eat enjoyably.
The bento boxes set us back about Y1,100 each. After we paid and left, we attempted to make our way to Shinsaibashisuji shopping street, which is a street with shops that go on for 2km. A used Google Maps to try and find our way there, but even so, we got lost for about half an hour. When we finally found the street, it was mostly all small Japanese stores, and we didn’t see any selling clothing. I had expected a street full of department stores and chain brands like H&M or Forever 21, so we were both disappointed by this, and decided to go shopping somewhere else.
While figuring out where to go, we decided to stop for drinks at a Japanese cafe franchise called Doutor. Doutor is probably as popular as Starbucks in Japan, and I saw lots of them in different districts of Osaka and Tokyo during my trip, but today was the first time I stepped in one. In terms of drinks, they do coffees and Asian style drinks like green tea milks, frappes and also serve cakes. A ordered something with mango, while I had a green tea milk and a strawberry cake. The green tea milk and the strawberry cake together cost Y800. The strawberry cake was mildly sweet, with a mousse-like texture. It didn’t taste too sugary, and the soft creamy texture made it a pleasure to eat.
After our refreshments, we used Google Maps to navigate and find a more urban shopping area nearby. After walking down a few streets for about 10 minutes, we found ourselves in a more urban area of Shinsaibashi. Our first stop was American Apparel. We have American Apparel in Sydney, but I’m a freak when it comes to American Apparel so I bought stuff anyway even though it didn’t really work out to be much cheaper. After that, I dropped A off at the English speaking hairdresser that she’d found a few streets away and did some shopping on my own.
In Japan, the majority of the clothing that I bought was from American Apparel and a Japanese chain store called Wego. I bought only a few items from American Apparel seeing as it wasn’t a novelty, and lots of things from Wego. They sold both women’s and men’s clothing at Wego. The clothing style was very similar to American Apparel except it was much cheaper. Unlike Western clothing brands, they also did a lot of one size clothing for both female and male attire, which can be problematic if you’re not petite. I had a few friends tell me that they couldn’t buy any clothing in Japan, despite not even being overweight. After about 2 hours of shopping and walking the streets of Shinsaibashi, I came back to the hairdresser where A was getting her hair done. She was just about finishing up, and we walked back to one of the streets we passed earlier, where we had seen a few takoyaki shops.
The entry of the store was tiny, with a kitchen area where they cooked the takoyaki, and a very narrow space to walk through with a few chairs for customers who were ordering take-away. A and I decided to share 8 takoyaki balls, which cost us only Y300.
The takoyaki looked promising, but it was actually too soft and mushy when we ate it. It practically fell apart when we picked it up with our chopsticks. The insides were really creamy and although I like creamy things, I felt like it was too heavy for my stomach.
After eating, A and I made a short train trip home and met J and S there, who’d had a wonderful day at Universal World. The four of us got ready and we went out rather late by Sydney standards, around 11pm. By the time we went out the train attendants were getting ready to close the station.
We caught the train a few stops to Shinsaibashi and walked down a few streets. It didn’t take us long to find the lively streets filled with bars and drunk businessmen. We decided to eat another small meal before drinking, and since we were in Osaka, the home of takoyaki, that’s what we decided to eat. We passed a cute takoyaki cafe called Tako Tako King and decided to eat there (for once I know the name of a place I ate at in Japan). Tako Tako King had a Southern influenced vibe and played Louis Armstrong (was not surprised by another jazz bar at this point). We were seated outside due to seating inside being full.
The girls and I decided upon 18 takoyaki balls for Y900 (around $10 AUD and ridiculously cheap) although I didn’t feel like eating due to my stomach feeling upset from the previous takoyaki place. The takoyaki was brought out quickly after we ordered. The presentation was nice and the appearance was more similar to the takoyaki that I’d eaten previously at home in Sydney, with lashings of barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, and heapings of katsuobushi flakes.
I tried a few takoyaki balls and instantly proclaimed them to be delicious. The texture was much more firm than the previous takoyaki that A and I had eaten that day, and I felt these ones to be much better in quality. The octopus pieces were well cooked and fresh.
The kinokomoriawase consisted of three different kinds of mushrooms cooked in butter. They were delicious and flavoursome.
After eating, we walked around and found a bar to have drinks at. The bar was near the takoyaki cafe, and was another jazz bar (I now know jazz bars are definitely the norm in Japan). I don’t remember the name but I think it was something beginning with creative or comic, and they had cute cartoons drawn on the exterior of the building.
The sign proclaimed that there was no cover charge, apparently this is a big thing in bars in Japan, which was an unfortunate fact we were to find out later in the evening. When we entered the bar, it was dimly lit and a little empty for the size. It was nice, but the atmosphere didn’t feel like an authentic Japanese bar and it looked a little upmarket. It almost felt like we were at a bar in Sydney. The staff spoke English well, and seated us at a table.
When taking drink orders, the waitress told us that there was no written menu, so we just ordered drinks. J had her standard Gin and Tonic so I took a leaf out of her book for the night, while A ordered a margerita and S had a Japanese beer. After starting to take our standard pictures, a member of staff zoomed over to our table in two seconds and told us that they didn’t allow flash photography inside the bar. However, taking photos without flash in the dim lighting of the bar would have been completely futile.
Nevertheless, we continued to sit, sipping our drinks and chatting. After having one or two rounds of drinks we decided to go to another bar in the area, paid the bill and left. The drinks here were average price, about Y1000 each.
After leaving the comic bar, we strolled down the street and walked past a colourful bar that looked more noisy and rowdy than the previous bar, which was more our style and what we were looking for, so we stepped in. We chose seats and a member of staff came to show us the menu. At this bar, they had more modern styled drinks such as banana cocktail smoothies, which A chose. J stuck with her gin and tonics again and S had another beer, while I think I had a mango cocktail smoothie.
The decor at the second bar was bright and funky, and the people were much louder. We enjoyed the ambience at this bar much more than the first place. We only stayed for one round of drinks though, as A began saying that she wanted to go home and called for the bill. It was at this point that we realised that we had to pay a cover charge in conjunction with prices for our drinks. I think in total, after splitting four ways, it ended up being around Y2000 each.
After this, we still weren’t tired yet so we decided to stroll around the area some more until we stumbled upon a foreigner’s district of Osaka known as Amerikamura. We saw a Romanian dive bar blasting top 40’s music that didn’t have any Japanese people in it, and also saw the patrons inside smoking shisha (which I hadn’t tried before) so naturally we chose this place.
The noisy, relaxed atmosphere was what we had been looking for all evening. The two bars we had visited earlier in the evening felt pretentious and might have been the types of bars that we would go to in Sydney but ultimately, weren’t what we wanted to experience while traveling.
It was my first experience smoking shisha and as usual I was excited to try something new. Unlike shisha cafes elsewhere, this place didn’t have fruit flavours. Nevertheless, we ordered a round of drinks and shisha and smoked it anyway.
Smoking shisha for the first time was exhilarating and made me feel lightheaded and dizzy in conjunction with the alcohol. We had at least two rounds of drinks here while socialising and trying to talk over the music blasting in the bar, most of which was Top 40’s hip hop.
Out of all the bars we visited that evening, this one was our definite favourite. We had no plans for clubbing that evening or a big night, but we then decided to make our way to a club called Ammona nearby, which was recommended by the locals. A decided to call it a night by this point and went home by herself in a cab, while J, S and I made our way to the club.
When we got to the club, we had the sad realisation that the dress code for clubs in Japan is the same as Sydney clubs. J was refused entry to the club because she was wearing thongs, so S and I had to decide whether we should all go home and get J’s shoes and come back to the club, or drop J at home and go clubbing by ourselves. Such dilemmas.
Eventually we decided to go eat more takoyaki, then go home after and see if J felt well enough to come back out after we got home.
This bar was the third place I had takoyaki at in one day. The bar was tiny and only seated about 5 people comfortably, which was good as S, J and I were the only people in there at around 3 or 4 am. They were about to close but let us come in for round of drinks and takoyaki.
It could have been the fact that we were slightly drunk but S and I agreed that the takoyaki from this bar was the best we ate that day. The heaping of sliced shallots on top of the takoyaki provided a fresh contrast to the heavy and creamy mayonnaise and okonomi sauce. Like the other takoyaki places, this one was also ridiculously cheap, under Y1000.
We decided to walk off our drunkenness, and walked home as the sun was about to come up. In the end, S, J and I decided to call it a night after we got back to our place.