Osaka Obsession - Your Love for Japan (and your tummies) Will Grow in "The Nation's Kitchen"

We recently spent 10 days in Japan, and figuring out what we were going to do (when there is SO much to see!) was a huge struggle for us. After much deliberation, we decided to spend 4 days in Tokyo and 5 days in Osaka. While this was the best trip EVER, and we crammed our days full, we've since realized we need to return to Japan soon - because there's so much we still have yet to do! During our journey, we fell in love with Tokyo, Osaka, and nearby Kyoto. Today we’re going to share a few reasons why Osaka is a perfect spot to have as a home base while you explore Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and beyond.

Osaka is known as “The Nation’s Kitchen”, so food will be a big part of your time here. The name originally came from Osaka being the mecca for the rice trade and other produce. Eventually that reputation grew as tons of great restaurants and local delicacies are scattered throughout the city. Our favorite was Matsusaka beef at Matsuzakgyu Yakiniku M, Sushi at Ginza Kyubey, and green tea ice cream at the Osaka castle (a MUST!!). There is also an INCREDIBLE variety of street food, so walk everywhere to burn off some calories. A local favorite is Takoyaki (octopus ball), but it was a little too much for us. Bobby tried, but couldn’t handle it… which isn’t normal because he’s eaten some weird stuff.

Shinsaibashi-Dotonbori Area – A crazy part of Osaka where you’ll want to spend a good chunk of time. Shinsaibashi for shopping, and Dotonbori for eating. Shinsaibashi is an enclosed shopping mall, different from what we think of in the states. It is a large strip of shops spanning more than half-a-mile! Here you’ll find retail, luxury, boutiques, and street vendors. It is a great shopping area where you could spend a ton of money but also score some bargains. We were there over New Years, which is a bummer because many of the best stores were closed. I guess we have to go back? Nearby Dotonbori is essentially the capitol of the “Nation’s Kitchen”. Incredible food. Looking back on it, we realize we should’ve spent more time here eating, and probably walked more too. You’ll know you are entering the Dotonbori area when you see the iconic giant Glico Man (Glico makes Pocky!). Don’t bother with Pocky here, though. Explore street food, ramen, crab, takoyaki (we dare you), and blowfish (we also wimped out on this). Put your walking shoes on, don’t eat too much rice, and enjoy this sensory (and stomach) overload in Osaka.

Trains make day-trips easy – While there is plenty to do, see, and eat in Osaka, there are some incredible towns just a short train trip away from Osaka. We recommend getting the JR Rail Pass so you can hop on the Shinkansen train from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station in 15 minutes! We did this trip multiple times and most of the time didn’t even sit down. We just stood by the doors and watched the scenery during the quick trip. Kyoto is a beautiful city full of shrines, temples, and gardens, and is full of tradition including kabuki, geisha dancing, and picturesque onsens. Other day trips that we want to do during our next trip (we were obsessed with Kyoto and didn’t go anywhere else) would be Hiroshima (85 minutes via shinkansen), Kobe (14 minutes), and Nara (30 minutes). Aside from day-trips, we used our JR Rail Pass to get between Tokyo and Osaka as well! It’s so easy… can we please get some trains like this in CA!?!

So depending on how much you love food (we’re biased), we would recommend having Osaka as either a short stop (2-3 days) or as a hub as you explore this area of Japan. There is so much to see, and you’ll probably love it wherever you end up. Get your train pass, stretch your stomach, and embrace YOLO with all the cuisine and experiences you can have in Osaka!  

Japanese Food-venture!

Culture, Food, Style, Transportation… Japan blew our minds across the board. We decided we should probably show you some of the various meals we ate, because they were INSANE! From Ramen, to sushi, to GYOZA (our favorite!!), to Matsusaka beef, to Yakisoba… there’s too much. Enjoy the following photos of the vast variety of Japanese culinary delights! (And you should probably head to your local Japanese restaurant ASAP)

Look at this sushi at Ginza Kyubey! The best tuna we've ever had!

Bario Ramen in Toranomon. The BEST!

Amazing crepes in Harajuku!

Tonkatsu at Maisen in Shibuya

We don't recommend, but Bobby tried McDonald's... 

An assortment of Japanese candies... 

More sushi from Ginza Kyubey! 

Matsusaka beef at Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M

Green Tea ice cream and Osaka Castle

At Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M, you cook the beef yourself to your liking. So good!

Random local street food. There's an egg, and then we don't really know what the rest is...

Yummy tempura after a morning at the Kurama Onsen. 

Our favorite food (GYOZA) at Tiger Gyoza!

MUST HAVE: Bento Boxes on your train rides. This Tonkatsu was pretty awesome!

Homemade Japanese meal made by our friend Keiko during our Traveling Spoon experience. 

Pizza? In Japan? Yep. It was amazing!

GYOZA GYOZA GYOZA!!! Go to Chaochao Gyoza!

You’re Welcome… A Quick Recap on 3 Japanese Mini Bars

Okay, so we can admit that there are FOR SURE other hidden gems in Japan that we don’t know about. Duh. But these are our three favorite watering holes from our recent trip to Japan. We want to share this with you, but would advise that you don’t tell anybody else. Part of the amazingness was that we always found a seat. If the secret gets out, good luck. These bars are all small, incredible, and hard to find. So let’s get to it.



Little Smith- Hike two stories underground (below an office building) and you will meet bartenders dressed to the nines in white tuxedoes, ready to concoct homemade libations based on your liking. There is no menu here, so you say “Omakase” (“trust the chef”) and tell them what your spirit of choice is. Since there is probably a cover charge here, you’re going to want to hunker down at the beautiful oval shaped bar and enjoy a couple cocktails at Little Smith. We suggest sharing something off the menu as well, as all of their food is amazing!



Bar Core- Japan is known to have a plethora of small bars. This may be the smallest. Please find it and enjoy a Japanese whisky with five of your friends (it only holds 6). It is a standing-only bar that we stumbled upon after dinner one night, and we will never forget it. Great whisky selection, great pours, and a great vibe. (If you’re not a fan of whiskey, ask for a gin cocktail. We’re not sure what all was in it, but Alli is still dreaming about it!)


Bar Bunkyu- While all three of these spots are a little different (and really hard to compare), Bar Bunkyu was probably our favorite. It is another tiny, 8-person bar with great pours (you order a single and the bartender pours a double – yes please!!) It’s dimly lit, totally hidden, and as Alli liked to say, it’s just “sexy”. We were in Kyoto for 3 nights, and always ended the night here. It is primarily a whisky bar, but the bartender Nao has plenty of delicious cocktails to offer up as well. Please go here. And take us with you.

There’s a reason we titled this blog “You’re welcome”. Go find these spots and you can thank us later.