Posts Tagged okonomiyaki
After a morning at Osaka Castle, my parents and I took two trains and less than 20 minutes to get to Osaka Port, home of the amazing Osaka Aquarium. This was another place that I had been on my solo trip west last year, but it was so impressive that I had no problem seeing it again.
Before we went in, we stopped for lunch at the nearby shopping centre. On my last trip I found an okonomiyaki restaurant (one of Osaka’s famous foods) where the staff cook at your table. I tried, unsuccessfully, to describe okonomiyaki to my parents on the train ride. “It’s like an omelette pizza pancake with stuff in it and delicious sauce” wasn’t really enough for them to get a good mental image of the food, so I told them to just trust me. On their first trip to Japan, we probably would have ended up at a McDonalds in this situation. This time we all sat down for delicious okonomiyaki which they loved.
The last time I was at the aquarium, I noticed that most of the gaijins at the aquarium were talking about the beautiful assortment of marine life on display, while more than a few of the Japanese people (especially the kids) were commenting on how delicious the assortment of marine life looked. I told this to my parents over lunch, but they didn’t completely believe me. I asked them to listen for the word “oishii” which means delicious. It didn’t take long for them to hear it!
Osaka Aquarium is a world class facility featuring marine life from around the globe. The variety of different species and information available is simply fantastic. I would post more pictures, but it’s extremely difficult to get good pictures through thick aquarium glass. Other than that I would highly recommend the aquarium to all visitors. Also, if you have been in Japan for a while, don’t go hungry – everything will start looking delicious to you.
Before heading back to our hotel, we watched a show at the Imax theatre near the aquarium. It was a fun day exploring Osaka, and we were all ready for an early night! Nara tomorrow!
I hadn’t been back to Noborito for a while, and was looking forward to catching up with Okonomi and the rest of the Hello House people who were still around. Okonomi had recently moved to an apartment near Shin-Yurigaoka station, and had promised me a place to crash for the night. I packed up my Canada flag backpack and was on my way.
Okonomi and I met at Shin-Yuri station, where I stashed my bag in a coin locker. I have become a huge fan of station lockers in my time in Japan. It was great not to have to carry my stuff around for the evening. After that, we took the Odakyu line to Noborito, paid a quick visit to Hello House, and then went for dinner. Naturally we had Okonomiyaki and a few beers.
(Author’s note: If you are going to Japan, eat Okonomiyaki – it’s amazing)
While living in the area Okonomi had made some Japanese friends in the neighbourhood, including the owners of an “antique shop and bar”. I had walked by this interesting combination of businesses regularly, but had never thought to go in. The two of us hung out for a bit and had a few drinks with the owner and his wife. Our next stop was a small bar with karaoke. After a few drinks we were surprised to see the owners of the antique shop come in after closing for the evening. We took this as a sign that we were going to be best friends, and proceeded to karaoke our lungs out.
I had been out for beer and karaoke many, MANY times during the year I lived in Kawasaki. Like most English teachers, I had stayed to the safe, welcoming environments of the big chain izakayas and karaoke rooms. The Noborito area is full of small character bars which I had walked by many times, but I had never thought to try any of them. Okonomi was one of those intrepid explorers who decided to jump into life in Japan with both feet, and had done her best to improve her language and hang out with locals instead of exclusively with teachers.
We left karaoke sometime around 3:00am and started looking for our next venue. I followed along to about 3 different bars that I had never heard of before, but due to the busy pre-new year season, everything was still full. At this point, Okonomi asked me if I had ever been to a hostess bar before. That’s when the evening took an interesting turn.
After thoroughly enjoying my visit to Osaka aquarium, I walked into a nearby shopping area to get some food. As luck would have it, I wandered into Naniwa Kishinbo Yokocho, which was designed to look like 1970s era Osaka. Walking around was a lot of fun, but I was focused on my goal of finding one of Osaka’s two famous foods: takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (like an omelette pancake). Both Hiroshima and Osaka have claims on okonomiyaki, the difference being that Hiroshima’s version has fried noodles inside.
After walking around for a while, I ended up walking into the nearby Tempozan Harbor Village where I followed my nose to a delicious smelling okonomiyaki restaurant called “Tsuruhashi Fugetsu“. I was shown to a table with a large grill in the middle. After looking at the Japanese only menu, I ordered pork okonomiyaki both because it sounded delicious, and because it was one of the few items I could read from the menu.
Usually when I am eating alone in a restaurant I am always reading a book. In this case I had to be careful not to let my book get too close to the grill. Fortunately I had no issues and enjoyed reading while eating the fantastic okomoniyaki that the server cooked at my table.
After eating, I got up to continue my exploration of Osaka. While I was in the aquarium, my knee had started to hurt a little. I injured my knee in University due to some grain alcohol fueled misadventures and it has never really been the same since. Usually it doesn’t bother me, but due to the amount of walking I have done in the past few days, it was becoming very uncomfortable. After lunch I was really starting to notice the pain.
To give my knee a rest, I went to a nearby IMAX theatre (Osaka Port has everything), and watched a cool 3D movie about New York City. After the movie my knee was hurting more, and I was starting to limp. I really wanted to get to Osaka castle, but reluctantly made the decision to end my trip short.
I went back to Osaka station, and did a little shopping in an import food store to kill some time while waiting for the shinkansen. I could have used at least another day in Osaka, but I don’t think that my knee would cooperate. I will have to go back another time! I really did enjoy my short time in Osaka and wish I could have stayed longer.
(2015 Update) I realized much later that one of the big differences between traveling by myself and traveling with someone else is that I am much less likely to stop and take breaks when I am on my own. When I started to think about the insane amount of walking I did in my two day trip to Himeji and Osaka and the short amount of time I spent sitting, it’s no wonder that my knee was hurting.
If you are sightseeing in Japan, be prepared for lots of walking. And if you are traveling by yourself, take breaks! It’s important!
Today I went to the immigration office in Shinyurigaoka to get my re-entry permit for my passport. I now feel pretty confident in my skills at navigating the immigration office, and can usually be in and out in about 10 minutes.
Like most people, my work visa expires after a certain period of time (one year for me), and will also expire if I leave the country. To prevent the visa from expiring when I go home, I needed to buy a re-entry permit. The permits are available as one time permits or unlimited times for the period of one year. Since I am only planning to leave Japan and return once in the next year, I bought the cheaper one time permit.
Immigration officers are not allowed to handle cash directly, which is a nice way to prevent anything shady from happening. I had to go to a small convenience store in the same building to buy a voucher for a re-entry stamp. I then returned to the immigration office, where they exchanged the voucher for a sticker in my passport.
After finishing up at the immigration office, I spent most of my day exploring some cool stores in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku. I bought some books for my flight home at Kinokuniya, and a cool Weezer shirt in Harajuku.
In the evening, I met up with Okonomi in Noborito. We went out for Okonomiyaki for dinner and then went to karaoke. Since I was traveling back to Numazu, it was a much more reserved karaoke experience that the last time. After karaoke I gathered up all of the Christmas presents that I couldn’t bring home on my shopping trip to Asakusa, and then returned to Numazu. It was a fun day, but the highlight was explaining to a taxi driver at Numazu station where I lived in Japanese, and having him drive me to the right place!
If you have only ever spoken one language, this doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but trust me, it felt great.
After work I went to Shinyurigaoka for dinner and a movie with Yumi. Okonomiyaki is like an omelette pancake with egg, cabbage and meats or vegetables of your choice. You grill it at your table and cover it with delicious sauce. It is delicious and a lot of fun to cook. Seriously, you have to eat this.
After dinner we went to see the Last Samurai at a large movie theatre. This movie theatre, like many in Japan, had reserved seating! This should be standard at every movie theatre. Nobody likes to show up an hour early to get a good seat for a popular movie. The movie, like most foreign movies shown in Japan, was subtitled and not dubbed. Fortunately for me they also provided English subtitles when the characters were speaking Japanese, something that Kill Bill didn’t do.
I was worried that the crowd would be a bit uncomfortable with the hero of the story being a gaijin, and Emperor Meiji being a bit of a weak character. However, everyone in the crowd liked the movie, especially the strong performance of Ken Watanabe. After the movie I ended up catching the last train back to Noborito. Good times!