Getting to Osaka was a lot less crazy than I had anticipated. We took a local train from Kyoto to Osaka station (not Shin-Osaka) and it took us between 30-40 minutes. The train was not as crowded as we expected and that made things easier.
We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka and were able to check in quickly. Interestingly, this hotel starts on the 22nd floor...and there is a church in the lobby. And by church I mean a free standing church, designed to look like an English country church and also designed to look like it was outside. It was getting dark when we first checked in so I took a picture another day when there was better light coming in through the sky light over the church.
I had no idea that Osaka was such a massive city. We had a great view from our room and it seemed like the city just kept going on and on and on forever.
After resting a little we headed out and very quickly (this is one of those places where my map made things seem further apart than they really were...we had this experience with our map in Florence, Italy) stumbled upon the famous Dotonbori. This is the major street lining the canal and home to many famous food vendors and lots of good shopping.
I have read so much about this so I was so excited when we spotted these neon lights. Plus, the weather was cooperating with us.
One thing I love about Japan is the tiny little side streets and alleyways lined with restaurants and other things. There is nothing scary about heading down one of these in Japan (for the most part, I can't say I have visited every city and every alleyway, but every place I have been I have never thought there was trouble lurking down that alleyway).
This hotel was just too funny. In fact, most things around here were on the outrageous side, but this was just flat out hilarious. This is Hotel Gloria and from what I have read online, people love this place. It is ranked pretty high on Trip Advisor, and it is really just so interesting from the outside that I would be curious to check out what rooms are like.
Ah, the famed canal along Dotonbori (which our guide told us means something like "street along the canal") in Osaka. Lots of neon and lots of action here.
One thing about this street that people love to see are the signs for each establishment. They are big and they are definitely worth talking about. We just walked up and down taking pictures of these signs. Here is one place, obviously they specialize in octopus...most likely takoyaki, which is a specialty food for Osaka (commonly eaten all over Japan, but Osaka is the true, authentic place for it) and is an octopus ball...more specifically a ball made from pancake and octopus.
This is the famous Kani Doraku, well known all over Japan for their crabs. This sign is probably what helped make them so well known. This is an iconic pic for Osaka and particularly Dotonbori. Whenever I search for things in this area I always come across at least one photo of this place. Obviously I took a picture the first time I came across it. Did we eat there? Yes, just not yet. More to come on that.
The giant Meiji sign. This is a famous food brand in Japan.
More of the crazy streets here. Lots of shopping.
Here is where we stopped to try some takoyaki. As I mentioned, these are famous in Osaka but popular all over. I have had them in Misawa and Sapporo. They are pancakes, more or less, in a ball shape and contain pieces of octopus...hence the giant octopus on their sign.
Here you can see the pancake balls cooked. This is a special pan used just for takoyaki.
Here is the finished dish. It is topped with some special sauces and dried bonito flakes. These were really good. Definitely better here than anywhere else I have tried them.
We passed on fugu (the one and only puffer fish), but it is available here and I believe this is one of the more famous places to try it.
Nothing like a giant sushi billboard!
This was probably the funniest sign we saw. Since they serve meat here we passed on trying it out, but it was fun to look at the sign.
A location of Dohtonbori on Dotonbori. We have this restaurant near us and I go there often for okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake.
The we went to one of the Kani Doraku locations. Here is the view from our window. It is hard to tell but we are sitting along the canal and we have a nice view of the ferris wheel (the thing with pink circles on the left side of the photo).
I ordered some boiled king crab, which was served cold as this slows the cooking process so it is not overcooked when you eat it. It was amazing!
I also ordered some broiled snow crab. Delicious!
I loved that with the chopsticks they also provided a disposable crab "picker". Of course coming from Maryland my sister and I opted to just use our hands.
In the front of the restaurant were some of these giant crabs for everyone to look at.
Yes, they really are that big.
And this very nice employee was happy to take one out and show us up close just how big these crabs really are. I believe this is a king crab. I can see where he gets his name from!
Then we checked out this almost "Where's Waldo"ish guy. Apparently he used to be a cartoon character and was so well known his character can still be found around Osaka.
They sell pancakes in the shape of this guy so we thought that was a good way to end the night. They were little bite sized pancakes and not filled with anything. Here is my sister waiting on our order.
Last was a find on our way home. We found these ice pops made from fruit only and that just sounded so refreshing that we both got one for the walk home.
So, I guess we did 2 dinners and 2 desserts! It was our crazy food tour along Dotonbori. Lots and lots of fun. Definitely a place I recommend visiting in Japan.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever heard of Dotonbori? What kinds of crab have you tried? (My sister had only had Maryland blue crab before this trip.) Have you ever eaten octopus?