Just about the only thing, I knew about Osaka before my trip was the Kuromon-Ichiba Market, and I couldn't wait to visit! After five days in Kyoto, we headed to Osaka on the regional train. I didn't know what to expect of Osaka, quite frankly I had spent most of my time researching Kyoto.
Osaka was mainly a transition point for us as that is where we flew in and out of. Except for the food market, you know, I have my priorities.
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After two and a half days in Osaka, I came to the conclusion that it is a mini-Tokyo. I apologize to all my friends in Tokyo and anyone in Osaka who might be offended by that statement, that was just my impression.
Compared to the relative calm and peacefulness of Kyoto, Osaka was frenetic. Loud, bright, crowded, again like Tokyo. Don't get me wrong, I love Tokyo. It was a matter of sequence. If I were to ever repeat my trip I would visit Osaka first and then head to Kyoto.
In the end, the one thing I did love about Osaka was Kuromon-Ichiba Market. Like Nishiki, it was just what a foodie needs. Food experiences for miles. New things to try, look at, touch, taste and of course, people watch. And like in Kyoto, we ate nearly all our meals in and around this market.
For instance, we didn't eat much sushi in Kyoto, it is just not something they have a lot of, they are more focused on seasonal foods and vegetables. With the river, their focus is on other preparations of fish and seafood.
Sushi is available, but not in the huge quantities that Osaka of Tokyo has. So when we saw this little “shop” servings huge bowls of tuna from different parts of the fish (maguro, toro, etc) for $20, we couldn't get our butts in one of the 5 seats fast enough!
The shop is a fish stall that happens to serve food – the sashimi is basically scraps from what they are butchering – damn good scraps and damn cheap.
$20 may not sound cheap, but we shared the bowl and with the amount they gave us, it would be double in San Francisco!
Most of the time we just grazed. Stopping here and there to pick up “snacks” as we went.
Seriously, there wasn't anything we didn't love!
Well, maybe this guy. This is Shioyaki, which is grilled seabream (I think) and is saltier than all get out.
But otherwise, who doesn't love freshly cooked scallops or baby octopus or in the far right corner, Takoyaki which is a snack with a piece of octopus in the middle?
If you are thinking, “What's with all the fish, I need something substantial!” then the market has you covered as well. Pick out your Kobe steak and have it on your plate in 5 minutes! No middleman restauranteur here, you get it straight from the butcher!
Of course, there are plenty of vegetables as well. They have them preserved in miso paste like we saw in Kyoto.
Or fresh like these shishito peppers which I love!
The two days we were in Osaka we ate at least one meal at Kuromon-Ichiba. Eating in and around food markets is one of my favorite ways to explore a city's food scene. Plus it is fresh and far more inexpensive than a lot of traditional restaurants. For us, it is a win-win.
Address: 2-4-1, Nippombashi, Chuo-ku Osaka-shi, Osaka, 542-0073
Hours: Open every day 9 am to 6 pm
The Kuromon-Ichiba Market website and Kuromon-Ichiba Market blog are only available in Japanese, but you can translate it very easily into English (or other languages using their online tool).
Public Transportation: Near the Nippombashi Station on the Osaka Municipal Subway Sakaisuji Line (K17) or Sennichimae Line (S17) OR from the Kintetsu Nippombashi Station on the Kintetsu Namba Line or Kintetsu Nara Line.
How about you? Do visit food markets at home or during your travels?
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Author Bio: Andi Fisher
Yes, I am a francophile, but after that, I love Japan, especially the food! I have been to Tokyo many times, and spent 2 weeks in Kyoto and a week in Osaka exploring and eating!