Food trip in Japan

We believe that one of the best ways to experience other culture is through its cuisine. If you follow where the locals go, chances are you will be able to find legit local food at best value.

Osaka, being the kitchen capital of Japan, is the best place to start your food adventure.  For our first meal, we explored the neighborhood of Minamihorie and found this…

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Sanpomen, Osaka

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vending machine for ordering and paying

Because we love Japanese food so much, it became a huge factor in shaping our entire itinerary. And biases aside, we think that Japan is one country where you shouldn’t go so cheap on food. If you’re on a tight budget, you can be more practical on your accommodation and other activities. But when it comes to food, do yourself a favor and allot a few bucks for a few nice, decent Japanese meals. We don’t mean you should eat at fancy restaurants, but be curious and observant, and eat what the locals eat. There’s so much good food in Japan! If you’re unsure which ones to try, let this post help you 🙂

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mixed tempura

For sushi lovers, go to Endo Sushi, a century-old restaurant which is considered by many locals as one of the best sushi restaurants in Osaka. Sushi for breakfast? Why not, we woke up very early and queued for these sushi for 30 minutes.

Was it worth it? Yeeees!

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sushi plates, JPY 1020 for each plate

We ordered all kinds of sushi on their menu, but we wish we had ordered more fatty tuna! For other raw and grilled seafood, we sampled some at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

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chirashi for breakfast at Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo (JPY 1000)

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grilled shrimps, sazae (top shells), octopus, scallops
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grilled scallops or clam topped with uni
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grilled unagi liver, unagi, squid, scallops (JPY 200 per stick)

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We highly recommend Tsukiji Market for travelers who love seafood, whether raw or cooked.  And yes, don’t forget to try the strawberries, they’re so sweet!

 

If you’re not fond of raw seafood like sashimi and sushi, you can opt for katsu, tempura, takoyaki, gyoza, yakitori, beef teppanyaki, ramen, and a lot more! Make a list of food you want to try, and then search for the best restaurants where to get them. Or you can check out the neighborhood of your accommodation, observe and ask some recommendations from your host or hotel receptionist.

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food crawl at Dotonbori, Osaka

We were lucky we found a place to stay near Dotonbori (just a 10-minute walk). So on our first day, we spent the remaining time of the day strolling around Dotonbori and Shinsabaishi-suji where we found our favorite – takoyaki! We had never tried any takoyaki back home tasted better than these balls.

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These Octopus balls are a must-try street food when in Osaka! It’s also fascinating to watch how these balls are being cooked. It’s a non-stop rotation of balls until they’re evenly cooked on all sides.

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Yakitori stand near Ueno Park

Another newfound favorite – yakitori! Just like any other grilled food, for us, it always tastes better if it’s grilled over charcoal fire than any other grilling methods (eg. electric grill plates).

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Yakitori

Next stop… KOBE.

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Kobe beef in KOBE! (Tender Steak JPY 4,480 and Kobe Steak JPY 5,480 )

The ultimate reason why we went to Kobe was to eat beef teppanyaki. They say, Kobe beef is the finest type of Wagyu, so it’s a must try! We ordered two sets of steak: the Tender Steak, and of course, the Kobe Steak. How did we find it? Read here: Eating Kobe Beef in Kobe (soon).

In Kyoto, don’t miss the opportunity to try matcha-flavored desserts because according to the Japanese, it’s neigboring city down south – Uji, produces the best matcha/ green tea in Japan.

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Tonkatsu (JPY 790) and Torikatsu + Ebi Fry (JPY 960)

Then one night, we decided to tick off another Japanese dish from our must-try food checklist. While on the bus and browsing the internet for the best Katsu restaurants nearby, my partner spotted one and with no second thoughts we buzzed to signal the driver and got off at the next bus stop.

We tried Tonkatsu (pork cutlet), Torikatsu (chicken cutlet), and Ebi Fry (fried prawn). These are deep-fried foods covered with Panko breadcrumbs.

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katsudon (JPY 750-850)

Of course we also tried a restaurant recommended by our host. It’s just a short walk from our accommodation and near Fushimi Inari Shrine. They may look unappetizing in the photos but believe us, they were so good!

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gyudon (JPY 760)

Our street food adventure doesn’t end in Osaka as we made a second round in Kyoto, specifically in an alley adjacent to Fushimi Inari Shrine. After exploring the shrine, and going up and down the Torii Gates, we thought it was perfectly fine to splurge on some snacks…

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an alley of food stalls at Fushimi Inari Shrine
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chicken karaage (JPY 500)
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yakisoba (JPY 500)
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strawberry daifuku (JPY 300)
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crab sticks (JPY 500)
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mochi (JPY 300)

We also stopped by Nishiki Market to see what’s in there. Mostly dried flavored seafood, a variety of rice cakes and snacks, marinated fish, veggies, pickles, and spices.

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dried food
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vegetables, pickles, etc…

Alright, now for the ramen…

“Ramen is a noodle soup dish that was originally imported from China and has become one of the most popular dishes in Japan in recent decades. Ramen are inexpensive and widely available, two factors that also make them an ideal option for budget travelers. Ramen restaurants, or ramen-ya, can be found in virtually every corner of the country and produce countless regional variations of this common noodle dish (www.japan-guide.com)”

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ramen from Sanpomen, Osaka
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chicken and tempura soba from a small ramen house at Maruyama Park, Kyoto
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arauma ramen (JPY 730), gyoza (JPY 300), karaage (JPY 580) at Kyoto Ramen Street

“Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji) is a corridor of ramen noodle shops on the 10th floor of the station building, south of the “Daikaidan” Grand Stairway. If you want something quick, cheap, tasty and super satisfying to eat, then this place is for you (www.kyotostation.com/kyoto-ramen-street-kyoto-ramen-koji)

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Arauma ramen
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Ajitama ramen from Tsuta (JPY 1200) in Tokyo
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ajitama ramen from Tsuta (JPY 1200)

Obviously, we love ramen so much! We tried a michelin-star ramen place, a couple of local favorites, and the popular ones among tourists.

In summary, all the Japanese food we ate were just so delicious. And it wasn’t so expensive as you think. A meal worth PHP400-600 per meal might sound really expensive, we thought so too. But if you compare the prices of Japanese restaurants in Manila it seems like they charge just the same or even more.

For instance, a bowl of ramen in Manila costs PHP350-450; while in Japan, you can already have a huge bowl of ramen and an order of gyoza or chicken karaage for almost the same price JPY1100 (PHP500). But we get it, of course if you have to pay that amount for every meal everyday, then it becomes indeed expensive. Thus, to save some bucks our strategy was to have just two heavy meals a day and then have snacks in-betweens.

And for our last hurrah… we ordered takoyaki, tempura, and chicken karaage on our last night in Tokyo, just a few hours before our flight back to Manila. 🙂

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We really couldn’t get enough of Japanese food. Our only regret is that we should’ve eaten MORE. We were very cautious with our spending during our first few days because we didn’t want to go over our budget. But towards the end of our trip we were surprised to know that we still have lots of money left! If only we could go back in time, we would’ve ordered more tempura and spent our last day in Tsukiji market for more yakitori. Oh well, maybe next time.

PS. Go to Don Quijote for pasalubong shopping.

-E&E

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