JAPAN: Osaka

Our fourth stop in Japan was Osaka, and though we only spent one night here, we managed to do quite a lot. We had only planned to take a cooking course and maybe try some Kobe beef, but we chose Osaka as a stop strategically because it is known to be a foodie paradise. We caught the train from Hiroshima earlier in the morning and managed to arrive an hour early for our cooking class. As we were waiting for the class to start David had a chance to try out a bunch of Japanese chefs knives in a nearby shop. He had dreamed of buying a knife from Japan for several years, so this seemed as good an opportunity as any to learn a bit about the different types of knives and test them out.

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Cutting ALL the vegetables

Who doesn’t love the look of folded steel?
 

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mmmmm…toe jam?
The cooking class itself was held in a small home kitchen and we learned how to make three main dishes: chicken yakitori, okonomikaye (on a stick – like you might buy on the street), and a dish that translates to fox udon (complete with kneading the dough with our feet!). We got to meet some fun Israelis and Belgians in addition to our teacher Mai (pronounced “my”) during the class. One of our favorite parts about traveling and joining these types of group activities is to meet people from all over. One common theme always seems to emerge though: Americans always seem to be traveling for a much shorter time period than many other nations!..but I digress. Overall the class was very entertaining and delicious; well worth the afternoon we spent there.

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Rolling the okonomiyake

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Delicious
After the class we went back to the knife shop and cut even more unsuspecting vegetables before settling on the knife David could not live without. I may or may not have acquired a rather expensive, but highly effective, pair of finger nail clippers while waiting. Leave it to a Japanese knife shop to sell very unique and sharp set of fingernail clippers.

For our one evening in Osaka we chose to stay at a nice cozy Ryokan in a good location near a walking street full of snacks and a massage place or two. A ryokan is a more traditional Japanese lodging complete with tatami mats and mattresses on the floor. We found the room itself to be quite comfortable, so that was a plus. Nothing fancy, but quite spacious as far as Japanese hotel rooms go.

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Nearby walking street full of food and other goings on.

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Hello people.

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Osaka wins the award for most entertaining manhole covers.
For dinner we happened upon a restaurant that sold certified wagu beef (also referred to as Kobe beef). It was equally the most expensive and most delicious meal we had in all of Japan. One meal cost us ~$300, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so we had to give it a go. The restaurant itself had only two tables and a small bar area and provided a 5 course meal for that price. We were fortunate they had two extra spaces at the bar because, from what we could tell, almost everyone who showed up had a reservation.

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Preparing the beef (note the massive amounts of garlic also on the grill).
This certificate (below) is sold with the cow when it is bought to certify it was raised in a certain region and manner to make it this delicious. I do not understand much beyond the fact that this beef is so tasty in part due to its high fat to meat ratio. We got more meat than pictured below, but they served it to us as each different piece was prepared (3 total).

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Obligatory photo with one of the chefs.

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A genuine smile from David because he is actually that pleased about what we just ate.
The next morning we got up early enough to squeeze in a quick trip to Osaka castle right as it opened before catching the train later that day to Hakone. The castle itself is set back in a beautiful park that was actually quite large. We enjoyed wandering around through the park until the castle opened and were some of the first people to enter. Inside are maybe 6 or 7 floors of the castles history and a few replicas here and there. The view from the top is pretty neat as well, but I was mostly mesmerized by the architecture. As we left there were considerably more people around than when we arrived. It seems arriving early, as with any tourist attraction, was a good way to go!

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Gate house and outer moat wall.

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That’s a big gate…

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Green and white, our favorites!

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Replicas of gold ornamentation found on the outside of the castle.
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I just can’t get enough of these walls. We both really liked looking at all the architecture while visiting Japan. I can easily see how Frank Lloyd Wright was attracted to the simplicity and elegance of Japanese art and culture, and how it may have influenced some of his work (he built one of the hotels near Tokyo). Our mid-century modern tastes definitely found the clean lines and incorporation of nature into the design of Japan architecture appealing.

 

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