April 22, 2012

Dotombori and Takoyaki Everything

I have been living in Osaka for exactly one month, and as each day passes I am feeling less like a tourist. This is a good thing - I have adapted to Japan and my new lifestyle; things aren't so different and strange anymore. I've (almost) stopped taking photos of every meal I eat. I don't feel the need to buy a drink from every vending machine I walk past. And as the university workload increases, I'm finding myself spending more time in my apartment studying than rushing off to go sightseeing.

But I miss the excitement of those jam-packed early days. It's too easy to forget that you are living in one of the coolest, biggest, liveliest cities in the world. So, today, I decided to try and experience Osaka like a tourist again. And this meant eating takoyaki at Dotonbori.

Kani Doraku moving crab sign at Dotombori
Osaka is known as Japan's kitchen, and Dotombori is where you'll find all the chefs hard at work. It's a long, narrow street consisting entirely of restaurants, takoyaki stands, and souvenir shops. It is rough-and-ready, loud and slightly sleazy. Workers from each restaurant stand on the street bellowing out welcomes, thrusting menus into your hands and imploring you to come inside. Dizzyingly bright neon signs and lanterns scream 'okonomiyaki', the region's specialty dish. There must also be some host clubs in the area, judging from the numerous groups of young men in suits with overly styled hair hanging around - but I haven't chosen to experience this side of Japanese culture just yet...

Takoyaki: 6 for 380 Yen
Because of its fame as one of Japan's top food destinations, a lot of the restaurants at Dotombori are quite expensive. So my favourite thing to eat is takoyaki, the ultimate in Osakan comfort food. Ubiquitous, and cheap as chips. I love hearing the sizzle of the batter in the pans, watching the artful way in which the chef uses a toothpick to flick the balls around to cook each side. I love the deep purple of the octopus tentacles, and the knowledge that my ten-year-old self would have never dreamed of eating them. And I even love that eye-watering roof-of-the-mouth burn that you will inevitably get from eating straight-out-of-the-pan takoyaki too quickly. As I write this post, my tongue is still a raw, blistered mess. It was worth it.

Tako (octopus) and takoyaki being cooked in the special pans
After feasting on takoyaki, we popped into a souvenir store and came across another treasure: a takoyaki flavoured soft drink, called 'Takoyaki Ramune'. 'Ramune' comes from the word 'lemonade'. Who wouldn't want to try a fizzy octopus-lemonade drink?
Takoyaki Ramune in all its glory.

One sip was enough.
If I had to describe the taste of Takoyaki Ramune, the closest thing I could think of would probably be carbonated smelly socks. It was rather unpleasant. I'm so disappointed, because I thought takoyaki in liquid form would be the best thing ever... Oh well. The good news is, there is also Curry Ramune, Wasabi Ramune, and Kimchi Ramune left to try. Yum.

Curry or kimchi flavoured soda, anyone?
 Dotombori and takoyaki = success. I feel as accomplished as the Glico Man.

Famous Glico Man sign at Dotombori

1 comment:

  1. The food district/stretch of restaurants sounds amazing! I'm so jealous.. What other foods do they offer?