A good day begins with a good breakfast, and we did not have to go very far, as breakfast is served at the ryokan. We headed upstairs to the banquet hall to be greeted with a table full of food once again. It was a traditional Japanese breakfast with its staple miso soup, rice, a raw egg, nori (seaweed) and fish. There are also various pickles and sides, a fish cake patty, a western-style salad and a pillowy tamago. Don’t forget the simple boiled tofu in the nabe. For drinks, we were served both a baby glass of milk as well as some green tea. It was a nice way to start the day, making me wish that all my days started with such a wholesome breakfast.
After breakfast, we were on the road again, but this time to Osaka, to return our car. It started off nicely but it soon became a disaster as the in-car GPS was not giving proper directions to the car rental company. We eventually had to call them after being almost 1 hour late for the return before they gave us the “mapcode” to more easily navigate to their office. So pro-tip is to ask for the “mapcode” for destinations for more accurate navigation. We eventually made it alive to Osaka and thanks to planning ahead on Bear Woman’s part for making reservations for luggage storage at the station during the drive down. We were not able to locate any vacant coin lockers by the time we arrived. With our luggage load lifted, we took the subway to Dotonbori for some mandatory pictures in front of the large crab and the Glico Man as well as exploration of the crowded streets.
Of course, we needed to try some local specialties. The lines for takoyaki were too long but we were able to get a table at an okonomiyaki and yakisoba restaurant for lunch at a restaurant called Takohachi. We ordered the special yakisoba with beef, shrimp, pork, octopus, inkfish, konjac and fish sausage. Don’t forget a nice sunny-side up egg on top. It was amazing. You cannot go wrong with stir-fried noodles with fully-loaded toppings. Then, we had the doutonbori yaki with pork, double shrimp and inkfish. The pancake-like batter along with cabbage and all the other toppings just went so well together to create a party in your mouth. Don’t forget to top this off with the okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise at the table. We ended with the Hiroshima-style yaki with pork, which is a combination of the two dishes – it’s okonomiyaki with yakisoba noodles in the middle. Pair this meal with beer or a Suntory whiskey highball and you’re all set!
After lunch, we walked around the extremely crowded Shinsaibashi-suji shopping district some more before we were distracted by the strong scent of butter. We followed our noses and ended up in front of a croissant stall called Le Croissant. We bought 3 of these mini-croissants – the chocolate, almond and sugar flavoured one. I preferred the simple one with just a few sprinkles of sugar. We then checked out their arcades by having a try at their claw machines as well as taking some sticker pictures for keepsake before heading back to the train station.
At the station, we needed to have a good game plan as we only had 15 minutes left before our train departure time. We needed to 1. get our luggages and 2. more importantly, get both of the Osaka specialties – my favourite jiggly Japanese cheesecake from Uncle Rikuro, as well as the famous nikuman (pork buns) from 551 Horai. We split up and my job was (of course) to line up for cheesecake and nikuman. The pillowy cakes are made in batches and every time I batch is done, they would sound the bell. I was fortunate enough to be able to grab one of the last tickets for a cake before they sounded the bell for this batch. We were running out of time, so Aaron lined up for the nikuman after picking up the luggages. We were at the platform with 3 minutes to spare. The nikuman apparently very fragrant and we did not want eat them on the train at the risk of being frowned upon. At the same time, we really wanted to try the nikuman fresh. So we only had one choice. We quickly scarfed down 2 out of the 4 of these juicy-porked filled goodness on the platform before boarding our train. Best decision ever. It was delicious and a well-deserved treat after our Amazing Race-style adventure.
So long, Osaka. It was a short visit but it was lovely eating all your delicacies. It was definitely an extremely busy city and I generally do not like crowds, but I would love to visit again to try some more of their local eats. It was a busy train and we were unable to sit together since we had just bought the tickets earlier this day but at least I was given time to catch up on some blogging.
It was a quick 2.5 hour train ride and we soon arrived in Kanazawa – a small, less well-known city featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. At the station we quickly got our tickets for our train ride tomorrow (which turned out to be a good idea as the train we wanted was almost full). After our experience today, we were also worried about the coin locker situation tomorrow. For insurance, we decided to reserve one locker for 500 yen in advance. If we are in a pickle tomorrow and couldn’t locate any other lockers, then we will at least have one we can use. Because the rental resets at midnight, we will just need to pay again to use it for another day.
We checked in to our spacious and clean Airbnb which was within walking distance from the station, before heading out for some dinner. We wanted something simple and easy, so we checked out Saizeriya next to the train station. This is an Italian restaurant chain found in Japan. I’ve always enjoyed Japanese-style pasta, so I thought why not. The style of the restaurant is similar to a family-style chain such as East Side Marios. The prices were surprisingly low with most items causing only around 300-400 yen. Even the wine was 200 yen for 250mL! The taste was not spectacular but really not terrible given its ridiculously low price. For starters, we had the boiled spinach with bacon, which tasted like boiled spinach. Next, we shared their Triple Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese Pizza, which was an unremarkable thin-crusted pizza. The pasta portions were definitely much more manageable compared to North American sizes. I enjoyed my “Tarako” Spaghetti with a mentaiko sauce and shreds of nori on top. It wasn’t, however, as good as some of the other versions I’ve had in Vancouver at Cafe de L’Orangerie or Spaghetei (RIP). As for Aaron, he felt that his “Meat Sauce” Spaghetti was lacking in meat. Overall, extremely economical meal but I wouldn’t come here expecting high quality Japanese-style pasta.
After dinner, we picked up some “Party Ice” at the convenience store and along with the yuzu liquor and sparkling water Aaron picked up yesterday from the convenience store in Kinosaki, made ourselves some DIY yuzu liquor with soda before calling it a night.