Osaka is unlike any other city in Japan. In contrast to the cool, sophisticated vibe of Tokyo, Osaka has a more friendly, relaxed atmosphere where the people are easygoing and always up for a joke. One of the best examples of that Osaka attitude is the stereotypical Osaka obasan, a middle-aged or elderly woman. They’re lively, flashy and always seem to be having the time of their lives.
But we’re not in Osaka only for the cool grannies. There’s lots to try out here, but here are five that are sure to get you off to a good start.
1. Tsuribori – Indoor Fishing at Dotonbori
You’ve come to Osaka, done that goofy pose in front of the Glico running man billboard – what next? Go fishing for prizes of course. Specifically, fishing indoors in a basement for prizes. At Tsuribori
, you can plonk down 750JPY for a 30 minute shot at catching as many carp as you can for points that can be redeemed for prizes. The bigger the fish, the more points you get.
We didn’t manage to catch anything on our last visit, but that’s probably because we have no fishing experience (turns out that being an expert at catching magikarp doesn’t really help). The guy next to us caught at least 3 fish in the time we were there, so there’s definitely some skill involved here. Despite going home empty handed, we had lots of fun, and it was definitely worth the visit.
2. Old Style American Pancakes at Cafe American
If you’ve been following Japanese food culture even casually, you probably know that the Japanese love their pancakes. You can see lines everywhere outside popular pancake chains like Egg ‘n Things and Bills. Those pancakes are usually pretty fancy, with mountains of fresh cream, generous drizzles of colorful sauce and topped with fresh fruit.
But the pancakes at Cafe American
are served the same way they were served decades ago – simple and absolutely delicious. We can’t really put a finger on it, but for most Japanese, it reminds them of the good old days – natsukashi!
– they’d say. The cafe’s retro atmosphere alone is worth the visit. Just note that while pictures of the shop are allowed, you shouldn’t include other guests in them for privacy reasons.
3. Play With Balls, Lots of Balls at New Star Smart Ball
For some authentic Osakan entertainment, head on over to the original smart ball shop
in Shinsekai. Smart ball is the predecessor to the modern pachinko machines that permeate the country, and arguably a lot more fun. Start with 100JPY for 25 balls and play ‘till you run out of balls or get enough to claim a prize.
The aim of the game is to get the balls into the special holes that award bonuses like 5 or 15 balls. Most machines usually have a sweet spot where you pull the lever back at just the right distance to pop the ball for the best chance at hitting those bonus holes. This place is only one of a handful of shops in Japan that still offer this old-school game, and it’s one of our favorite things to do in Osaka.
Note that because pachinko is associated with gambling in Japan, only persons 18 years and older are allowed in.
4. Kushikatsu With a French Twist at Beignet
Kushikatsu is a cheap, delicious Osaka staple that can be found almost anywhere. These sticks of battered fried meat, seafood and vegetables in a sweet savory dipping sauce are incredibly affordable at 80-300JPY a piece. For locals, the kushikatsu shop is a cheap and lively place for hanging out with friends over some beers.
takes this humble local favorite and elevates it to gourmet territory. This fancy kushikatsu shop first opened its doors in February 2017 and has been booming ever since. They only offer fixed course menus featuring fresh ingredients that change every season. The lunch course (which we highly recommend) includes a salad, soup, a selection of kushikatsu and dessert for a very reasonable 3,780JPY.
The food was excellent, with plenty of pleasant surprises in the choice of ingredients and presentation. For wine connoisseurs they also have a respectable selection of wines that can be paired with your food.
5. Teppanyaki at Hotel New Hankyu Osaka’s Chayamachi
Teppanyaki is not unique to Osaka, but Chayamachi
is worth a visit for its great teppanyaki experience, from the fresh, scrumptious ingredients to the great service and good value. Watch as the chef masterfully prepares your food in front of you and enjoy it fresh from the hot plate.
The chef’s skills in preparing the paper thin rice wafers that accompanied the Japanese-style garlic fried rice was a treat to watch. It’s a great way to cap off a whirlwind food tour of Osaka – enjoying one of Japan’s most famous culinary treats in a luxurious setting.