It was Sunday and our last afternoon in Osaka. I had booked a food themed walking tour with a company that I found on the web -- All Star Osaka Walk. While they did not have regular tours on Sunday, the owner, Minako san very kindly gave up her Sunday afternoon and agreed to take us on a private tour.
She mentioned that since the huge local market that they normally took tourists to was closed on Sundays, she would nevertheless try to give us as much of a local experience as best as she could.
Our walking tour started at the food market section at the basement of the Hanshin Department Store in the Umeda area. According to Minako san, this is one of the best and most popular food markets not just in Osaka, not just in Kansai but in the whole of Japan. Indeed it was crammed with shoppers on that Sunday afternoon that we walked through.
The food market is a good place to graze -- sellers offer free samples such as this smiling vendor who very nicely gave us fish sausage and tofu sausage tidbits to try.
In addition to cooked food, there is a wide variety of the best and freshest produce available. These matsutake mushrooms are devilishly good but also so expensive. Minako san pointed out these very affordable ones which were imported from Canada -- hence the much lower price. The locally grown matsutakes run for more than 10 times the price of the imported ones.
Genuine Kobe beef! This premium box of 1.2 kilos of beautifully marbled beef sells for Y50,000 or about P25,000.
There are slightly less expensive cuts and variants available and when I peeked, the least expensive was at Y1050 for 100 grams or over Y10, 000 for a kilo. P5,000 per kilo for Kobe beef is still an astronomic amount. Thank goodness I don't have a thing for steak!
Walking through the market, I noticed that even if there were a lot of fresh seafood around, the area was very clean and completely free from any fishy smells.
Minako san pointed out interesting and very local seafood such as this certain type of eel.
And of course, octopus, neatly packed and ready to be transformed into takoyaki!
This stall had all kinds of cooked food, ready to take home for those too tired or lazy to cook.
After the long walk through Hanshin's huge basement food market, we ended up at a small food court called the Snack Park where kiosks of Osaka snacks are available for shoppers too hungry after seeing all that food.
I hesitate before a takoyaki stand but Minako san promises food at the next destination so regretfully, I move on.
From Umeda, we hopped on the subway and got off at the Shinsekai area.
Shinsekai is also known as "new world" since it was developed after the second world war. While it's now a bit run down and seedy, it's extremely popular with young locals and still very much busy and alive particularly its shopping and eating areas.
This takoyaki stall greets us when we get off the subway. A portent of the eating to come?
Minako san leads us through yet another of Osaka's many covered shopping arcades. This is very different from Shinsaibashi or Ebisubashi as it's older and definitely more downscale.
Just the kind of place that I like.
Restaurants abound in the area -- and stand side by side with small stores selling all kinds of stuff.
No zoning in this arcade!
I am surprised by these locks placed by couples inside these heart frames. Each lock carries names of lovers who have sworn to eternal love. Channeling the bridges of Paris!
We come to the end of this particular covered arcade to continue our Shinsekai walk.
Buzzing with commerce and activity, Shinsekai has lots of stores targeted to locals.
The best spot to get a view of Osaka Tower is right in the middle of this busy shopping street in Shinsekai. All around us people are walking, shopping, meeting up with friends and just enjoying the sunny week-end afternoon.
Soon though, it's time to stop walking and start the eating portion of this food and walking tour. Minako san leads us to a popular kushiage place called Yamatoya. It's not yet five thirsty but I feel the need for a restorative glass of cold beer.
Yamatoya is a distinctly local place and even on a Sunday afternoon, there are a few regulars having kushiage.
We don't want a full meal, just a light snack so we order skewers of fried lotus root, quail eggs and my personal favourite, chikuwa or fish sausage. Beside the tray of kushiage is a small vat of really good dipping sauce. Minako san reminds us .... "No double dipping!"
After the meal, we have our photo taken with the very friendly and cheerful chef / owner of Yamatoya. I hope I can find this place again, next time I'm in Osaka.
Pretty soon, we're walking back to the station to head back to the Umeda area. Along the way, Minako san points to the tallest building ... in Japan and it happens to be here in Osaka. "Osaka is now number one in food and in many things", she smilingly tells us. "Tokyo is just number two!"
Here we are in the subway, headed back to Umeda Station with our amazing and wonderful guide, Minako san.
An all star experience on our last afternoon in Osaka -- from All Star Osaka Walks!
Ookini Minako san! Hona mata!