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Posts Tagged ‘Namba’

Recommended Ramen in Osaka

November 3, 2009 3 comments

ippudo

Here are a few of my favorite ramen shops* in Osaka. It is very hard to make recommendations for this sort of food in Osaka, as the city seems to be overflowing with mind-blowingly delicious options, but here’s what I’ve come up with. Some of them are chain stores, and some are small family businesses, but all are delicious in that, greasy, meaty, rameny sort of way.

Shitenno (四天王)

You can find Shitenno in many spots throughout Osaka, and it’s one of the better chain restaurants in the area. While some may criticize Shitenno (and other chains) for not using fresh noodles or providing good-quality chashu (pork), the shio (salt) broth chashumen is quite tasty and makes up for other shortcomings. Broth is the vital factor, after all.

Sodaisho (総大将)

Sodaisho is a famous little place with lines that stretch out the door. It has an incredibly rich, flavorful shoyu (soy sauce) broth as its specialty. Television stars and celebrities come here to eat often, and for good reason. The chashu-don, which is a donburi-style dish with rice, mayonnaise, nori and chashu, looks strange but tastes wonderful.

Hokkaido Nagurikomi Ramen Betsubara (北海道なぐりこみラーメン 米通腹)

This is a small, family-run shop in a quiet residential neighborhood near Nishinagahori Subway Station. It serves Hokkaido-style ramen with thick, filling noodles, using konbu and tonkotsu as the broth base. The amount of bowls served is limited to a mere 100 per day.

Men’ya Eguchi (麺屋えぐち)

Another small (and this time, I mean SMALL) shop that is a favorite among locals working and living near Esaka in Suita City, you will be waiting around the corner in line to get a bowl but be glad you did. The basic tsukemen at Men’ya Eguchi makes your taste buds dance and comes with enough noodles to make your belly burst.

Kio (亀王)

Kio (lit. turtle king)  is a chain store that you can find almost as easily as Shitenno. It’s main attraction is the chashumen, which features absolutely huge, savory pieces of pork. I also recommend the reimen (cold ramen) during Osaka’s hot summers.

Hakata Ippudo (博多一風堂)

Ippudo ramen, originally from Hakata, is popular nationwide, and I have personally been in love with it since my days as a student in Tokyo. It has two unique tonkotsu broths–“red” and “white”–both of which are just amazing (although I prefer “white” just a little more). The lunch set during the afternoon is a great deal and comes with ramen, gyoza, and rice (piss-poor students take note: this is cheap and will fill you up for an entire day).

Kinryu Ramen (金龍ラーメン)

What kind of Osakan would I be if I didn’t mention Kinryu? This is the iconic ramen shop of Dotombori, and you can find shops running all throughout the district. If you have been in Osaka for any length of time but haven’t visited Kinryu, don’t worry, I won’t tell…just get there before somebody finds out! This simple ramen costs almost nothing and is available at any time of the day or night in order to meet the lifestyle of  the denizens of Namba. You can recognize this shop by the freaking-giant dragon on top.

kinryu

Kinryu Ramen

*I have included the Japanese-language names as well as roman-letter transcriptions–Japanese fonts may not display properly in all browsers. The links provided are to Japanese pages.

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Aqua Bus Tours

October 21, 2009 3 comments
Aqualiner sightseeing boat passing under Tenmabashi Bridge

Aqualiner sightseeing boat passing under Tenmabashi Bridge

Run by the Keihan Group, this sightseeing boat company operates various cruises around the city of Osaka, long known as “the City of Water” due to the historical and importance of canals and rivers in the city. In fact, during the Edo Period (1600-1868), when Osaka was the economic center of Japan, storehouses of the powerful domain lords were in Osaka, as was the futures trading market, and the best way to get between the market and the storehouses (as well as just get around town) was by using the city’s network of canals. Seeing Osaka from the water is one of the ways to truly understand that character of the city, and because cruises feature refreshments for sale and explanations of passing scenery, residents and tourists can also have fun. Furthermore, cruises can be easily integrated into a city-center sightseeing itinerary, as the river routes connect some of the most popular spots in Osaka.
There are a variety of tours available. The Aqualiner services operate quite frequently every day, and they provide river sightseeing cruises that make stops at Osaka Castle, Tenmabashi, Yodoyabashi, and OAP (Osaka Amenity Park). Aqua Mini services cut north-to-south through the narrow Yokohorigawa River canal connecting the Okawa and Dotombori Rivers, and stop at Osaka Castle, Dazaemonbashi (in the center of the Dotombori entertainment district), and Minatomachi (a port near OCAT in Minami). The Himawari service is a restaurant ship that departs from OAP and goes along the Okawa River. The Santa Maria is a replica of the ship of the same name, and it provides sightseeing cruises around Osaka Bay, departing from Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. The company also offers charted cruises and special event cruises.
While the Santa Maria and Aqua Bus tours operate every day, other tours may not. Please check the official website for departure times, days of operation, prices, and other details. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket offices at any of the ports.

The Hub Pubs of Osaka

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment

The Hub Ebisubashi branch in Namba

Hub British Pub (英国風ハブ) is a chain of friendly bars where you can meet people, whether you are from Japan or abroad. I have met more people from other countries at the Hub than anywhere else. There is fairly tasty food, as would be expected of a pub, especially the Hub Premium Cheeseburger (comes with fries) and the spinach gnocchi. But most of all, the drinks are good, and they don’t rip you off by using cheap liquor. The long island iced teas are delicious and perfectly balanced, and the original cocktails are superb–I personally like the “Tarantula,” which has quite a kick despite its smooth taste, and the one-liter tower of beer is always fun. Happy hour, which goes until 7:00 pm every day, means cocktails as cheap as 190 yen each, which is probably the lowest price I’ve seen outside of Blue Moon Bar. Hub Pubs are generally open until around 1:00 am on weekdays and 2:00 am on weekends. They can be reserved for private parties, and they often show sports events involving local or Japanese national teams (with soccer being shown most often). Most of all, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed.

Despite being a large chain, the Hub provides consistent quality and good times, and whether you are new in town, looking to meet new people, or just searching to a place to kick back after work, check out on of Osaka’s four branches (two in Namba, one near Shinsaibashi, and one in Umeda’s Chayamachi district).

Click here for an access map for all the Osaka Hubs.

Takoyaki

October 9, 2009 3 comments

Takoyaki, which is often humorously (and unfortunately) translated as “octopus balls,” are dumplings made of batter, picked ginger, tenkasu, and green onion,  with octopus meat in the middle and sauce, aonori, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes sprinkled over the top. Now, as a non-Japanese, and I know that octopus can sound quite unappetizing at first, but these little snacks are so good that you’ll find yourself popping them into your mouth one after another. These can often be found at stalls at festivals and anytime on the streets, in restaurants, and even in people’s homes (you know you are an Osakan if you have a takoyaki cooker in your home). Furthermore, almost anything can be substituted for octopus when you make it on your own, including squid, kimchee, cheese, vegetables, or whatever else you can think of. Along with okonomiyaki, takoyaki is one of the representative foods of Osaka’s food culture, and apparently this incredibly popular dish has even made its way over to a few restaurants in the United States in recent years.

I personally recommend Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka (たこ焼き道楽 わなか 千日前本店), a restaurant opened in 1961 on Sennichimae in Namba (easy to get to from Namba or Nipponbashi station). It is actually right next to NGK, the famous comedians’ theatre, and television and comedy stars are sometimes known to drop in for a bite to eat. It costs 400 yen for 8 dumplings, and it is open from morning until 11:45 pm.

Here’s a video of takoyaki being made at an outdoor food stall in Osaka, in case you want to see a cook in action 🙂

Dotombori

September 8, 2009 1 comment

Stp62207Dotombori is one of the three spots most symbolic of and well-known in Osaka–possibly the most famous of them. It is order in chaos, a maddening mix of people and lights and sounds that will assault your senses. Lonely Planet went as far as comparing it to the futuristic cityscape of Blade Runner.* But in my opinion, Dotombori has no comparison, because it is simply the City of Osaka unapologetically being its over-the-top self.

The name comes from the Dotombori River, a canal that runs east to west through the middle of the Dotombori district. A theatre district starting in the 17th century, Dotombori is primarily a nighttime entertainment district today, so there are numerous bars, izakaya, restaurants, food stalls, and entertainments facilities (karaoke, bowling, pool, etc). The city has recently been doing construction work to boost tourism in the area, focusing on beautifying the canal-side boardwalks. Namba’s “love hotel” district can be found on the west end of Dotombori (near Yotsubashi-suji), if that’s what you’re looking for.

Stp62214Famous landmarks include the giant crab with moving pincers (there are actually three, but the center-most one is the most popular) and the surrounding lights and buildings, the night view of the Glico “running man” billboard, Ebisubashi Bridge (informally known as Hikkakebashi, meaning “pick-up bridge,” as it is a popular spot for hosts who attempt to pick up girls passing by), and the Ferris wheel attached to the side of the Don Kihote shop. There is a Starbucks at the most crowded point in Dotombori, which offers a great view if you like people-watching or just want to take a breather. There are boat tours that go along Dotombori River and connect to other parts of Osaka, as well. And finally, don’t forget to stop at Kinryu, the famous ramen shop that has multiple shops in the district, followed by some cheap and delicious okonomiyaki and takoyaki (fried dumplings with octopus in the middle) from the outdoor food stalls near the river—both of these are Osaka specialties.

The best way to reach the center of Dotombori is from Namba Station (Sennichimae and Midosuji Subway Lines, Kintetsu Lines, Hanshin Namba Line, Nankai Lines), but you can also get to the west part of Dotombori from Namba Station on the Yotsubashi Subway Line, and to the east part from Nipponbashi Station (Sennichimae and Sakaisuji Subway Lines). Dotombori is a 3-5 min. walk from Namba Station on the Midosuji and Sennichimae Subway Lines.

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*Lonely Planet: Japan 8th edition, p. 387.

Horie and Absinthe

August 27, 2009 5 comments

If you are looking for trendy restaurant and bars and you don’t mind you wallet becoming a bit lighter, check out the  Horie neighborhood in Osaka, located within walking distance of Namba, Shinsaibashi and Amemura. Many establishments here offer top-class gourmet cuisine and excellent drinks, and each shop has its own unique style. If you only plan to splurge once when you are in Osaka, come here.

One of my favorite restaurant/bars in the area is Cafe Absinthe. It specializes in Mediterranean fusion cuisine (the cooks here are amazing), and it also sports a wide selection of imported European absinthe. Drinking absinthe here was not my first experience, but Cafe Absinthe’s drinks tasted great and nearly had me out cold after two drinks–one straight, one in cocktail form mixed with Midori–despite my huge dinner and relatively high tolerance. Another great thing about Café Absinthe is the food is up to Horie standards, but the prices are quite reasonable in comparison to many other places nearby. The service is also stupendous.

Cafe Absinthe is open from 11:30 am to 3:00 am, every day except Tuesday. It is located a short distance from Nishiohashi Station (Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Subway Line) or Yotsubashi Station (Yotsubashi Subway Line). The Cafe Absinthe website can be found here (directions are listed, you can look at this Google Maps link).You can call them (06-6534-6635) if you get lost walking from the station (they speak both English and Japanese well).

Osaka’s Underground

August 21, 2009 1 comment

Crysta NagahoriIf there’s one thing that Osaka has more of than any other city in Japan (in fact, there are many things), it’s underground. First of all, let me remind readers that Japanese cities developed differently than many cities in the West, and there is generally more than one “city center” or “downtown.” In Osaka, the two largest are called Umeda and Namba, often called Kita (“north”) and Minami (“south”) by locals because of their geographical locations.

Even Frommer’s claims that “Osaka must rank as one of the world’s leading cities in underground shopping arcades.” According to Wikipedia numbers, of the top five underground shopping districts in Japan, two are in Osaka (Crysta Nagahori at 81,765 m² in size and Japan’s biggest, and Diamor Osaka at 42,977 m²), and the total number of underground shops/restaurants exceeds 1,200. Namba and Umeda have at least as much, if not more, underground as they do above ground and in the sky. Almost any main street has corridors running underneath it with restaurants, arcades, cafes, bars, and shops of all varieties, and layered underneath those are subway lines, rail lines and parking lots. If it’s raining outside, or if you are in the midst of a sweltering Kansai summer there’s really no need to worry because you can often get from the train station to your destination without ever seeing the sky.

Some of the larger underground complexes include Whity, Diamor, Dojima, Gare, and the Hilton shopping complex in Umeda, Namba Walk and Nan-Nan Town in the Namba area, and Crysta Nagahori running between Shinsaibashi and Nagahoribashi Stations (underneath Nagahori-dori). Other complex such as OCAT, Namba City, and Hankyu Sanbangai have portions above- and below-ground. There are also a number of ground-level, outdoor, covered shopping arcades, the most famous being the Shinsaibashi, Tenjinbashi, and Hankyu Higashi-dori shopping arcades and the Kuromon fresh food market. The outdoor Shinsaibashi arcade is so crowded that it is air-conditioned in the summer.

These trends follow the general theme in Osaka: many of the best things about this city are not readily visible, but if you are willing explore a little, amazing experiences are waiting just below the surface.