After going to Kyoto and Tokyo in 2014, I vowed to go back to Japan. The food, the culture, the impeccable train system, I was enamored by all of it. I was lucky enough to be back last month on another family vacation, but this time felt even more special because Matt is now part of our family.
We went to Osaka, one of the premiere food destinations in Japan. I read that the people of Osaka spend more money on food than anything else, and that their food culture is characterized by the term “kuidaore” which roughly translates to eat oneself bankrupt. Most people also commonly refer to it to mean: eat until you drop. Osaka sounds exactly like my kind of place.
And eat we did!
It was snowing on our first night in Osaka, but we lucked out because there was a seafood restaurant right outside our airbnb rental. (This is the 5-bedroom we rented, and we were all happy about how large and super convenient it was, minutes away from the Higashimikuni train station, and close to restaurants, grocery, and convenience stores). We had an amazing plate of shrimp tempura that I shared with Matt, my sister Patty, and Patty’s boyfriend Marlon. If I can time travel, I would go back to that night and order another plate of shrimp tempura all to myself.
On another night, Matt and I walked to the restaurant area right outside the Higashimikuni train station and entered a little ramen place. I had the spicy miso ramen, a pure bowlof comfort food. It wasn’t spicy enough for my spice-loving tongue (I find that most Japanese food only has mild heat), it was still better than most other ramen bowls I’ve had.
We had a lot of fun at the train stations, which were admittedly hard to navigate (for me, but not for my genius dad who can figure out anything) but were impressively clean and efficient. The major train hubs/connections, like Shin-Osaka, were massive and had multiple restaurants and stores within. We ate at a kaiten there, or restaurants that are sometimes referred to as “conveyor belt sushi.” I am no longer an amateur who sprinkles matcha green tea powder on salmon nigiri, and I confidently pressed buttons on the little computer to order more sushi even if most of the time I had no idea what I was ordering.
My favorite experience at Osaka was going to the Kuromon Ichiba Market, where I had THE BEST STEAK OF MY LIFE. Many people are rhapsodic about wagyu beef and rightly so. It was perfectly marbled and meltingly tender. A quick sear, simple seasoning, and I was in heaven. This was, without a doubt, the best thing I ate in Osaka.
Known by locals as gastronome, the Kuromon Market has fresh produce, the freshest seafood and meat that are cooked and grilled on the spot, sweets, merchandise, gifts, and other delectables. We spent a few hours there and it would be my number one recommendation of what to do in Osaka.
A few more pictures from the market:
pickled vegetables | fresh uni | my parents at the entrance of the Kuromon market | baby octopus (the bulbous heads are stuffed with hard boiled quail eggs) | king crab nigiri | grilled octopus
incredibly fresh seafood | woman cooking beef lung | beef lung plate (it was delicious) | mochi (rice cake) stuffed with a sweet filling and fresh strawberries | karaage (Japanese fried chicken) | me housing said fried chicken
Another must-visit is the Osaka Castle, one of Osaka’s main historical landmarks. The castle is pretty stunning, surrounded by a large park filled cherry trees and apricot flowers. There’s a formidable wall and moats around it, and everything is very grand. I love visiting ancient castles (the last one I saw was the Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon) so I really enjoyed this. I also enjoyed the treats from the food trucks right outside the castle. Pictured above is black sesame ice cream and Matt. (Confession: I actually got green tea ice cream but ate it before taking a picture.)
I really loved our trip to Osaka. I’ve been so fortunate to have traveled to so many places over the years – I’ve gone on girls trips, solo trips, work trips, blog trips, group trips and I cherish them all – but the ones that I hold deepest in my heart are the trips I’ve taken with Matt and my family.
And special thanks to Matt and to Marlon for being so so good with my sister Monica! She loved every minute in Osaka, which made me appreciate the trip even more.
I highly recommend adding Osaka to your itinerary if you are planning a trip to Japan. For me and my family, it was a most memorable and delicious experience.
I’ll post about our short Tokyo visit next time!