Hello internet-lovers! If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, you certainly aren’t following me on Snapchat (likeavegan) or Instagram. If you were, you would know that I’m in Japan seeing the sights and eating the eats for the next few weeks. First up I’m going to hit you with a little taste of Osaka because even though I did a sneaky night in Tokyo beforehand, we’ll make our way back to that at the end of the trip.
I wasn’t really expecting Osaka to be much different from Tokyo and in some ways it isn’t; there are still hoards of people, streets lined with stores and restaurants plus a whole heap to do. I have noticed that the chaos here is much less organised and I’ve bumped into way more people than I’m used to. A lot of people ride bikes, which was awesomely unexpected, albeit adding to the craziness of navigating Osaka streets.
After a ride on the Shinkansen from Tokyo, we were after something nearby for dinner so I tracked down El Pancho, a little Mexican joint just off the Shinsaibashi shopping strip (near H&M and Uniqlo). You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find good Mexican in Japan let alone vegan Mexican but this place is a gem! Don’t be fooled by semi-dodgy exterior, inside there’s wall-to-wall artworks and scrawled handwriting with lights and music filling the place. The staff know what can be veganised which helps a great deal, so I opted for a vegetable burrito which is just as good, if not better than what you’d get back home. Combine that with yuzu margaritas and a Japanese man covering ‘Girl from Ipanema’ and I’m sold!
The next day we set out to explore the beautiful and historic Osaka Castle before heading back to Shinsaibashi to try the highly recommended Cafe ATL. When you see the big gorilla sign (unfortunately promoting a pet store), look across the road and you’ve found it! A sweet and cosy atmosphere is only made better by the food. You can select a entree, main and drink for less than $15 AUD so I opted for the potato quiche, served with pickled vegetables for my entree with the hummus bagel with salad as my main. Both were fresh, tasty and filling but it was definitely the quiche that stole the show this round.
For dinner we walked in the opposite direction from our hotel and found Paprika, a super cool restaurant with awesome decor and friendly staff. While the food does take quite a while to arrive, it’s well worth the wait. My salad and soy meat pizza were both mega tasty and while I was disappointed they had run out of soft serve for dessert, the cheesecake definitely eased the pain.
While the main pull of Osaka Bay is the aquarium (obvs a big no no), it’s still a great place to check out if you have the time. I’m not a ferris wheel kinda gal but they’ve got a big one, attached to a funny little shopping mall, as well as Japan’s lowest mountain (a whopping 4.53m above sea level). You won’t find much vegan food here but Green’s Vegetarian Dishes overlooks the ferris wheel and provides a cheap and easy option for lunch. For around 800 yen you can select from the buffet with a few options as well as a soup and a little dessert afterwards. From what I can gather this place is run by volunteers and supports a disability charity so even more of a reason to visit! That night we hit a Hanshin Tigers baseball game at Koshien Stadium so as you can imagine, dinner was a bit of a non-event.
The non-event meals continued yesterday due to a visit to Universal Studios Japan, who unlike Disneyland make it incredibly difficult to find out what the hell you can eat. With a little detour through Temma on the way back to Namba, we were in for a real treat for dinner at Aju Vegan Bistro, a funny looking little place off the main strip. The menu is full of variety, so we opted for the caesar salad, avocado fritters and assorted vege soy chicken. The latter were my faves but the salad was tasty too, full of different bits and pieces (including corn flakes?) plus my previous soft serve woes were over, I finally got one (also with bonus corn flakes).
With a few more days in Osaka to go, I’ll have plenty more to share with you next week. Be sure to share any food tips for Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo if you have ’em!