10 Things You Have to Do in Osaka, According to a Food Tour Guide
Get to know the city like a local.
You'd have a hard time finding a better tour guide in Osaka than Kuniyoshi Okamoto. You may not know his name, but he's been taking Pinoys around one of Japan's largest metropolitan cities for a very long time--some of whom you might even know. Think Liza Soberano and Maine Mendoza, Georgina Wilson and Lea Salonga.
Now, he's sharing some of his personal must-do's in Osaka with us. And if most of them are about food, well, we can't say we blame him. Osaka is just full of great restaurants. Read on to find out what you can't miss while you're in the area.
1. Hang out at Namba, Dotonbori, and Shinsaibashi.
The Namba and Shinsaibashi areas may be a bit crowded, but therein lies the charm. Shinsaibashi is a shopping city where you'll find everything from department stores to specialty shops. Meanwhile, Dotonbori is a city of food. And while this shouldn't be a surprise as Osaka is known for its amazing food options, Dotonbori has a particularly high concentration of good restaurants. Put chefs who love to please their customers and locals who demand nothing less than quality food together, and you get delicious meals every time.
2. Eat as much Matsusaka Beef as you can.
Everyone knows about Kobe beef, but there's another premium Japanese beef that should be on your list when you go to Japan. Matsusaka Beef, one of the finest Japanese Wagyu beefs in Japan, melts on your tongue and has an original sweetness that you can taste even without having to dip into a sauce. According to Kuni, it's not distributed overseas, which means you really have to try it in Japan. Matsusaka Beef Restaurant M in Dotonbori is one of the highly recommended spots.
3. Try the noodles at Hanamaruken.
A lot of tourists choose to go to Ichiran Ramen or Ippudo when in Japan, and while these restaurants are popular for a reason, Kuni suggests going to a ramen place many locals in Osaka love: Hanamaruken (Happy Noodles). While there are already a few Hanamaruken branches in the Philippines, nothing beats the original. "I recommend this restaurant to my Filipino friends. Everyone, hands down, said this was the best," he shares.
4. Witness the cherry blossoms.
Every local has their own favorite spot for hanami, the viewing of the cherry blossoms, and Kuni is no different. His is the street along Okawa River, immediately after the Keihan Railway Tenmabashi Station. "It's a very popular place [for] domestic and foreign people."
5. Get a takeaway bento from NIPPON BAR HANABI.
The Japanese celebrate the cherry blossom season by eating out with a bento box. Get yours from NIPPON BAR HANABI, a place that sells healthy bento boxes of rice balls and croquettes.
6. Order the tempura and sashimi at Tempura Tarojiro.
Tempura Tarojiro is a very local establishment, but according to Kuni, they serve better tempura than some Michelin Star restaurants. They also have the best sashimi, fresh oysters, uni, tuna, and salmon in town.
7. Eat a fruit tarte at MARU SANKAKU SHIKAKU.
The fruit tartes in Japan aren't just delicious; they're also really pretty. Think smooth creams, crispy crusts, and refreshing blueberry sauce. Tartes with plenty of seasonal fruits, matcha tartes, and chocolate tarts are some of the most popular ones at Maru sankaku shikaku, a tarte place that sells the most Instagram-worthy tartes you've ever seen.
8. Go shopping at HORIE SHOPPING AREA.
Horie is always on the edge of what's new and popular in fashion. Shop clothes and accessories that are made in Japan and souvenirs for yourself and your friends here.
9. Drop by tourist information office Namba Match.
Namba Match isn't just your regular tourist information center. Here, staff members collect new information daily to be able to recommend the best places for visitors in Osaka. Aside from providing tickets and even rent PLDT WiFi routers, they give you the latest info that only locals know.
10. Go on an actual food crawl with him.
There's a reason why so many Pinoy celebrities go on a food tour with Kuni. The man simply knows his food. His tour, called Osaka Food Crawl With Kuni, takes people around popular restaurants among locals, not those that tourists would frequent. He'll bring you to the freshest sashimi and the best ramen and katsu in Osaka, as well as introduce you to reasonably priced restaurants that can compete with any Michelin Star restaurant.
Photos courtesy of Kuniyoshi Okamoto