While in Japan, we spent 2 wonderful nights in Osaka (our review of the hotel will definitely come later). Osaka is a sprawling city well known for its cuisine, in fact, Osaka is commonly called Japan’s kitchen. Dōtonbori plays a major role in giving this title. Dōtonbori runs along the Dōtonbori canal and has more dinner and food options than you could explore in months. Walking the streets at night is a treat to multiple senses as you smell and taste dishes and stare at elaborate signs.
Rachel and I both managed to find something to eat at different street vendors on our visits to Dōtonbori, though I obviously had many more options. There are a number of street vendors who grill meat (Yakitori) in front of you giving the peace of mind that it is gluten free. My most memorable meals here were Ramen and melonpan. There is a vendor who sets up for a few hours each day and sells ice cream filled melonpan (a sort of sweet bread). For any readers who have the amazing ability to digest gluten and dairy, be grateful and if you have the opportunity, try to find this vendor. He typically sets up in a small square and sells out of a truck. This may have been my favorite street food of the visit.
There are a few restaurants here that seem to have gluten free options as well, though we never had an opportunity to try them out. If anyone has any experience with these, please share for others who may be visiting. If you are walking around Dōtonbori, consider checking out Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, Hozenji Yokocho and Eggs ‘n Things Shinsaibashi. From what I can tell, Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, Hozenji Yokocho is a restaurant with a grill at your table where you cook your own food. We actually did one of these in Kyoto and had a great time and will write about this later. Eggs ‘n Things Shinsaibashi appears to offer some gluten free options for breakfast. Again, we did not actually try these as we did not know about them, but if you are in the area they may be worth checking out.
I recommend visiting Dōtonbori at night when the signs are all lit up and the smells of dinner waft through the air. Walking along the canal is beautiful as the lights are reflected. We saw people doing boat tours in the evening and there were crowds everywhere if people watching is your thing. However, there are also a ton of shops here, some of which are closed at night. It might be best to come in the afternoon and stick around for dinner.
During our two days in Osaka we also visited Osaka castle. We didn’t go inside after hearing reviews that is wasn’t that exciting. It was a beautiful day and we were content to wander the gardens and orchards found on the grounds. Visiting the castle is worthwhile if you have the time, though many reviews suggest that entering is not worth the price of admission. It seems like the exhibits inside are unrelated to the castle. If you visit and go inside, or have already been, please let us know your thoughts. We would not be opposed to going back.
We also visited the Umeda Sky Building (we will discuss this in our hotel review for Osaka), and Tsūtenkaku. In our opinion Tsūtenkaku offered a nice view while walking, but if your time in Osaka is limited, spend more time in Dōtonbori. There are some neat streets to wander leading to Tsūtenkaku, and the tower lights up at night. There are however far fewer options for dining and less to see.
We had a great time in Osaka and would visit again. If you are only here for a day, I recommend spending the morning at Osaka Castle and the evening in Dōtonbori. Osaka is also known for their Universal Studios and their aquarium. We did not visit either of these but would love to visit if we had the time.
I hope some of this information might be useful and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
Note from Rachel: I found the easiest thing to eat from street vendors was yakitori. They grill the meat and then add the sauce to it, so it’s easy to ask for “shio” (salt) instead. The only issue is there may be some cross contamination on the grill from the sauce.