Japan, May 2014: Day Eight

Sitting with a beer from the vending machine downstairs, it’s time to reflect on what may be our favourite city in Japan. Osaka has all the liveliness of parts of Tokyo, but within a much more focused area. The architecture is wild, the people are super friendly and the food has been amazing. We’ve only spent 36hrs here, yet I’d happily move in.

Without a plan and with the threat of rain, we took the subway into town, Namba to be exact. There’s a lot less English on signs here – even less than the more remote city of Sapporo – so it’s been a challenge to navigate. Fortunately, the second you stop and look bemused, a member of the public will appear and ask if you need help. This has happened on a number of occasions now and the assistance has been most welcome.

Exiting the subway, we stumbled across a small shopping street and wandered down until we found stores we liked. This lead into another, covered shopping street, one that was considerably longer… I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a mile of shopping arcade. You couldn’t see the end as the earth curved too much. We walked until we couldn’t walk any more, but the street continued towards the horizon.

The centre is built over a number of canals and along the embankment are local restaurants and bars. We fancied a spot of lunch and ventured into an Okonomiyaki place. Okonomiyaki is like an omelette, but instead of egg, batter binds all manner of food into one massive dinner. We opted for pork and weren’t disappointed.

After dinner it was back to the shops and a little retail therapy before returning to the centre (four hours later) to see the famous lights of the riverside buildings. However, by 19:30 many still hadn’t come on and we really wanted to leave, so missed getting a photo of them all – maybe another day.

We couldn’t help but try a portion of Osaka’s ‘takoyaki’ octopus balls. I thought I’d struggle to eat the tentacles contained within the batter ball, but it was the soft battered inner that was actually the worst part. I managed to consume two, whereas Emma smashed through about six of them. Like the capsule hotel, we can say we’ve done it and never have to repeat it.

Returning to the hotel, we unpacked the shopping (Emma’s bag is getting heavy) and headed out for dinner. We found ourselves outside a Matsuya restaurant; a national chain in which you buy your food from a vending machine, sit down and the waitress brings your order over almost immediately. The food was great, there’s minimal interaction with anyone – it’s perfect for antisocial people like us.

After a wander around the neighbourhood, via a 100 Yen shop (everything is £0.70), we are now relaxing and planning tomorrow’s activities.