Dotonbori Walks: Welcome to Osaka!

Osaka, home to over 19 million inhabitants, is Japan's second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo, and is unofficially known as the country's culinary center. The city is also a great starting point for one to explore the nearby cities of Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.

Personally, I preferred my experiences in Osaka visavis Tokyo. While both are sprawling megacities, full of neon lights, and efficient citizens, somehow I always felt that Osakans were warmer as a people, and that I could more easily find my bearings here.

* And the most popular tourist destination in Osaka is without a doubt Dotonbori, famous for its neon lights, shopping selections, and street food.

* The area was formerly the city's theater district. Through the years it has evolved to become its nightlife and entertainment area, buzzing with activity and full of signboards, similar to Times Square in New York City.

* The most famous of which is the neon-lit ad for Glico Candy featuring the Glico man; an ad that has been up since, astonishingly, 1935.

* As well as the top of this building advertising Asahi Dry Beer, which I am quite fond of!

* Walking along Dotonbori street is a feast for the senses: bright lights, mechanized animal mascots signifying the speciality of the restaurant behind them, and a variety of savory smells all conspiring to build one's appetite.

* It is no wonder that Osaka is considered Japan's culinary capital, popular with both tourists and locals.

* Can't believe this giant mechanized crab with its moving legs actually has a name, the Kani Doraku Crab!

* Giant gyoza cooked perfectly: golden brown, packed, and crispy. 

* The Japanese sure do love their seafood! And while I have seen videos of a dancing live octopus being consumed, I have yet to try this local delicacy.

* The blowfish is one of Japan's most prized delicacies often requiring the handling of skilled and experienced chefs. The reason? One wrong slice and the meat can be EXTREMELY poisonous, with some estimates claiming for it to be five times more deadly than cyanide! Yikes!

* It would not be Japan without a host of curious and peculiar snacks..

* Including this one, the Love Message Chocolate Crunch, featuring "seductive" gents..

* As expected, the sushi is top-notch and ultra fresh.

* And ultimately, miles-away from anything else I've had outside of Japan.

* When in Osaka, one must try the Takoyaki, the city's most famous street snack. 

* The Takoyaki is basically a ball of wheat-flour batter with diced octopus, green onion, pickled ginger, and tempura scraps inside; served with a mixture of special sauce, mayo, and shavings of dried bonito.

* Fantastique! 

* Mr. Giant Angry Chef agrees!

* Of course, one must definitely try another of Japan's most famous delicacies, the fabled Kobe Beef.

* Kobe Beef is basically Wagyu Beef, but belonging to an even rarer strain of Japanese Black Cattle, hence the expensive price. 

* Thanks to Kobe's close proximity to Osaka, the delicacy is available everywhere and can be enjoyed in a variety of forms: steak, sukiyaki, teppanyaki, shabu-shabu, sashimi, and cubed.

* The cows have been described as living stress-free lives, in organically well-fed, and climate controlled environments. 

* Taste-wise, the Beef is marbly, fat, and extremely tender. The best way to describe it is that it melts in your mouth the moment you start to chew on it. Truly a meal for the gods.

* Walking through the alleys, one can't help notice but ads for internet cafes promoting all sorts of creature comforts for its customers, with specific hours indicated. It was later on that I found out that there exists a class of homeless Japanese who actually live in these cafes, as paying the daily rate would be more affordable than renting an apartment or staying in capsule hotels or hostels; a sobering reality on life in the big city.

* View from the other end of this wonderful walk.


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