[Japan Series] Day 15: Miyajima 宮島, Hiroshima 広島

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On the last two days of our Japan trip, we would be spending it in Hiroshima (広島). From Osaka station to Hiroshima station, it takes around 2.5 hours with the JR bullet train. A long train ride, but the JR shinkansens are so comfortable, so time really passes by quickly.

 

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Once we arrived at Hiroshima station, we needed to take a tram to our Airbnb. Hiroshima uses trams instead of trains to get around the city. There are a mix of new and older trams. This one is one of the newer trams and is quite nice!

 

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The trams are quite spacious and work similar to the buses. You can use the Paspy and Icoca IC cards to pay for your fare on the trams and buses in Hiroshima.

 

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The city streets in Hiroshima are definitely much more modest and quiet. You won’t really find the neon lights and electronic billboards like you would find in Tokyo. I do appreciate that the city is much more spacious and the likelihood of being in crowds like in Tokyo and Osaka is unlikely.

 

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Our Airbnb was a short walk from the tram and also walking distance from the A-Bomb Dome. The room was definitely very cozy and one of the smaller Airbnbs we stayed in. However, it had everything we needed and was extremely clean. There was even a huge bottle of sake for us to enjoy!

 

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After settling in, it was already mid afternoon, so we decided to head to Miyajima Island. Our initial plan was to visit the island the following day after visiting the Peace Memorial Museum as we thought it would be more uplifting, but due to the time we arrived, it didn’t make sense to visit the museum near closing.

 

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To get to Miyajima Island, we first had to take a tram to Yokogawa station. From there, we took the JR Sanyo line to Miyajimaguchi Station. You can also get to Miyajimaguchi Station from Hiroshima Station and that would take roughly 25 minutes.

 

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When you get to Miyajimaguchi Station, follow the signs and you will find the ferry pier.

 

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The ferries depart quite frequently to Miyajima Island and only takes 10 minutes. This is covered under the JR rail pass if you have it.

 

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The ferry is quite large and you can even stand outside to take pictures. I think you can also bring your car on the ferry. As we were departing quite late in the day, there were not that many people on the ferry, making it easy for us to get a good spot for sightseeing.

 

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The ferry ride seriously goes by in no time. As we reached Miyajima Island (宮島), we saw the famous red torii gate which floats on water.

 

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Once we got off the ferry, we realized that there are lots of deer on this island! Very similar to Nara, but of course not as many. I really wonder how they got to this island! If you don’t get a chance to visit Nara, then this will do!

 

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Along the way, there are some shops that sell souvenirs and snacks.

 

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After a short walk, we reached the floating red torii gate. This is the view you get if you choose not to pay to enter the shrine. It’s pretty good but more on an angle. Unfortunately, there was a bit of construction going on, so the gate was slightly blocked. As we reached the island in the late afternoon, this was high tide and therefore the gate appears to be floating. If you arrive earlier in the day, the tide will be low and therefore you can actually walk all the way out to the gate! You should check out this website to time when you visit the island so you can hopefully visit at both low and high tide!

 

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This is the Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社) which is also built over the water. Entry fee into the shrine is 300 yen and consists of multiple buildings, including a prayer hall, a main hall and theater stage. You will also get a view of the torii gate straight on instead of at an angle. We didn’t end up going inside the shrine, but would imagine this is a great attraction especially during low tide so you can wakl straight up to the gate.

 

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Not far from the shrine, a small hike will get you to the Senjokaku (千畳閣), which translates to the pavilion of 1,000 mats because the size of the pavilion can literally fit 1,000 tatami mats. This old building dates back to the 1587 and this costs 100 yen to enter. It is the largest structure on Miyajima Island.

 

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The Five-storied Pagoda is adjacent to the Senjokaku and was originally built in the 1400s but restored in 1533. It enshrines the Buddha of Medicine and is quite beautiful to see up close. I don’t think you can enter inside, so the attraction is free to view.

 

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As the sun set, we decided to head back to the souvenir streets. Many of them had already closed as it was rather late. I imagine there isn’t much to do around the island at night if you stay overnight here.

 

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There was one shop that was bustling with crowds. This was the grilled oyster stall! There are actually many grilled oyster stalls along the Miyajima Omotesando shopping street. However, as we went pretty late, most of them were closed. This stall itself closed shortly after we placed our order as well.

 

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Here, you can get a variety of ways the oysters are cooked. Of course, the most famous is to get them grilled with charcoal. The grilled oysters here are a pretty good deal at 2 for 400 yen. However, the downside is this is just a stall, so there are no seating areas. There are a few stools around but more of a quick eat and go stop.

 

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The oysters take a while to grill, so we walked around the streets before heading back to grab our order. Here, we have two grilled oysters. A nice char and the oysters themselves are plump and fresh. Highly recommend if you’re an oyster lover!

 

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We also got the deep fried oysters. These are smaller oysters which they have skewered onto a stick. Really good as well! If you are looking for a sit down restaurant for oysters, then Kakiya and Yakigaki are among the most famous on Miyajima Island. Oysters are a must eat in Hiroshima and Miyajima!

 

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Another well known food item is the Momiji Manjyu, which are maple leaf shaped pastries filled with a variety of filings including red bean, custard, chocolate, etc. There are many souvenir shops selling this pastry.

 

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Luckily, we were able to find a shop that sold single Momiji Manjyus since I just wanted to give it a try. We got one filled with custard and it was very tasty! Worth giving a try! After having some snacks, we decided to head back to Hiroshima by ferry as it was getting late.

 

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We did some research and learned that the 2nd floor of Hiroshima Station is the ASSE restaurant floor and filled with okonomiyaki shops. Okonomiyaki is very famous in Hiroshima and a must try. The okomiyaki here is very different than Osaka style as the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. Honestly, I don’t remember which restaurant we visited since they all look the same. Just head into one that has a decent amount of locals! This one had yakisoba noodles.

 

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We also got another one which had yakiudon noodles. My favourite was the yakisoba as it is much lighter than the udon. These okonomiyaki’s are huge and is more than enough for one!

Overall, a nice day trip to Miyajima Island to relax and the next day we would visit the major attractions in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Station Asse – 2nd Floor (Okonomiyaki floor)
Address: 2-37 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku

 

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[Japan Series] Day 12: Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion 金閣寺, Nishiki Market 錦市場, Gion 祇園, and Chao Chao Gyoza 餃々 三条木屋町店 in Kyoto 京都

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On day 12, we took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto again. Our first stop was to see the famous Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji (金閣寺). The downside of many temples in Kyoto is that you can’t reach them by train and require a transfer to a bus. After a 30 minute ride to Kyoto Station, we switched to the Karasuma Subway Line and got off at Kitaoji Station. From here, you can take a bus (bus numbers 101, 102, 204 or 205) which takes around 10 minutes. Get off at Kinkakujimichi Bus Stop and you will see many other tourists walking towards the pavilion. Be warned that the buses get really crowded with tourists because many temples are only accessible by bus! Admission is 400 yen, but most temples require admission. You will receive this cute admission ticket!

 

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Kyoto was once Japan’s capital city and therefore has many historic value and has preserved many famous temples. S and I both love the city life, so we personally aren’t too intrigued by temples. However, I suggested we visit at least one, and Kinkakuji was the one I decided on. This beautiful golden zen temple definitely did not disappoint. Even on a gloomy day, the beautiful gold against lush green trees reflected on the pond surrounding the temple. It was seriously like a painting!

 

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The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf and really shines. The temple is formerly the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu but became a zen temple after his death based on his will. We were surprised to learn that we were actually not allowed to enter the temple. Instead, we had to crowd around the walkway path among all the tourists to snap a picture from afar. This attraction is extremely touristy but I did really enjoy it. It makes a nice light walk in the garden. However, other than the temple itself, there are not that many attractions in the garden. Near the end, you will find the Sekkatei Teahouse as well as some souvenir shops near the exit.

 

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After visiting the temple, we decided to bus back to the Kyoto station area. If you are interested in temples, then the Ginkakuji and Kiyomizudera are also very popular. near the Kyoto station, you will find a bridge over the Kamogawa River. Many tourists and locals will take leisurely walks along the river and you can catch people fishing here as well.

 

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Getting hungry, I suggested we walk to the Nishiki Market (錦市場). This is a 5 block alleyway filled with hundreds of shops. You can find tons of local goods, like pickled vegetables, dried seafood, fresh seafood, produce, dessert, and cooking ware.

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We decided to get some Honey Soft Serve! At Sugi Bee Garden, they specialize in honey and you can sample many flavours here. We ended up leaving with a soft serve and this was really smooth and creamy!

 

 

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After grabbing some food at the market, we headed to the Gion (祇園) district. This is the famous area for geishas as you will find restaurants and teahouses where the geishas entertain here. You will also find wooden machiya merchant houses which make a great backdrop for photos!

 

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We had no interest in attending one of the performances by the geishas, but I did want to see a geisha in real life. I did some Googling and found that the best time to spot them is around 6pm-7pm because this is when they are making their way to their engagement. Luckily, we did spot one and we subtly got a picture of her. We read online that we should be respectful of them and avoid acting like a paparazzi as many tourists have gone too far and I can imagine how uncomfortable it would be for these ladies. They even have police in this area to control the amount of tourists! Another tip we learned during our hour here is to look into the taxis that drive in this area. Many of the geishas now take taxis to their engagement, so chances of seeing them walking around is slim.

 

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After our hunt for geishas, we headed to Pontocho (先斗町). This is a narrow alleyway filled with restaurants. Prices range from affordable to high end fine dining which require reservations. A good spot to drop by if you are looking for dinner.

 

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Our destination was Chao Chao Gyoza (餃々 三条木屋町店). The restaurant is basically at the end of Pontocho alley and is a huge tourist spot. When we arrived, there was already a long line that had formed. And to be honest, I was a bit skeptical because everyone lining up looked like a tourist. We ended up waiting for almost an hour but this was well worth it. The restaurant has actually won the countrywide gyoza competition twice!

 

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What are they famous for? Well gyozas of course. The gyozas here are actually all strung together in a row. The wrapper is thin and each gyoza is quite small, but filled with juicy meat. The most popular is the Chao Chao Gyoza which is filled with pork. 600 yen will get you 16 pieces, but as you can see, 16 pieces is quite small. We ended up getting another order of this after because they were so good!

 

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We also tried the Shrimp Gyoza which is 480 yen for 5 pieces. Really good as well, but the pork was still my favourite. They also have some unique fillings like cheese, curry, and even ginger. They also have a large option of drinks so we did enjoy some beer and plum wine. Beer and gyozas definitely make a perfect pairing! Not the cheapest meal you can get in Kyoto, but quite affordable and we had a great time sitting at the bar watching our gyozas being made. Plus, the restaurant is English friendly!

That wrapped up our last day trip to Kyoto as we trained back to Osaka after dinner!

Chao Chao Gyoza
Address: 117 Ishiyacho Kiya-Machi Sanjo Kudaru Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto

[Japan Series] Day 9: Kuromon Market 黒門市場 and Umeda Sky Building 梅田スカイビル

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The next morning, I suggested we check out the Kuromon Ichiba Market (黒門市場). The covered market stretches over 500 meters and is a 2 minute walk from Nippombashi Station. Turns out this was only a 5 minute walk for us so we got here relatively early so we could brunch.

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The market is famous for its fresh seafood and meats. Many locals and restaurant chefs come here to purchase their ingredients. However, it has become a tourist spot so can get very crowded during lunch hours. What’s great is that the stalls can prepare the food for you right at the market.

 

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You will find stalls grilling seafood like crab, prawns, scallops, and oysters.

 

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Any many stalls with fresh sea urchin!

 

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One of the famous stalls is this tuna stall at the corner inside the market. They have all things tuna and you will find delicious fat chunks of tuna sashimi.

 

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Watching the chef cut the tuna is already quite fascinating. They have around 4 spots at this stall where you can sit. However, they have these ready made take out boxes as well. Turns out, they have some seating area around the corner, so when you purchase the take out box, just let them know you want a seat, and they will direct you to this other seating area.

 

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Look for this big fish head and you find this stall!

 

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There are many chirashi bowls, but also sashimi only plates available.  The price is quite good at around 2,000 – 2,500 yen for many of these take away boxes. Some are higher priced depending on the cut.

 

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I enjoyed tuna sashimi take away box which featured three cuts. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what type of tuna I got, but it was very delicious! The tuna is cut much thicker than restaurants though so some may find that it is not as appealing. Some of the cuts are also more of the “scraps” but they are pretty good for this price!

 

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Moving on, I found a small oden shop run by a granny. I got some daikon radish, fish cake stuffed with burdock and beef skewer. The radish was the sweetest I have had. The broth itself was light but sweet from the radish. Very homey and warming.

 

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Last but not least, we were told that we had to try the kobe beef at the market. Yes, kobe beef is famous in Kobe, but Kuromon market also sells it and at a relatively cheap price. There were quite a few stalls selling it and some were very fancy looking catering to tourists. My sister told me to try this stall though as they are not as decked out but still good. Prices are lower possibly because of less advertising.

 

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As you can see, there are a variety of kobe beef. Honestly, we didn’t really know how to choose them. My sister said to get the middle range and it would be pretty good. I think the ones we got were around 1,800 yen per 100 gram. They ask that you purchase a minimum of 200 gram. Many of the other shops will ask for more so this was also a plus.

 

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Look at that marble! They grill it for you right away. Because the meat is so fresh, they really don’t need much seasoning.

 

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They give you the plate of kobe beef and add some light soy and tell you to add the steak salt to your liking. At this shop, you will have to stand on the side to eat, but who cares because the kobe beef is much cheaper than at a restaurant. The beef was absolutely delicious and melted in our mouth. No regrets in spoiling ourselves for brunch!

I highly recommend coming to Kuromon Market if you are a food lover. Be prepared to spend much more here as the types of food found here are pricier but are considered a good deal for the quality you get.

 

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Up next, I wanted to check out the Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル). It is not the tallest building in Osaka, but it has a very unique design. The closest station is Umeda station and even then you still have to walk at least 10 minutes to arrive here. But check out the architecture of the building! Pretty cool!

 

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Admission for adults is 1,000 yen but the 360 views at the top are amazing. The escalator to go up is also really cool. As you go up, look to your right and left as you can see views of the city as well.

 

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The escalator we were in are in these two bridges. The building has two towers and is connected by the Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor.

 

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Isn’t this cool? This is the middle of the dome and you can also go to the top for the outdoor observation deck.

 

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As you can see, there are seating area surrounding the observatory so you can get a 360 view of Osaka. Enjoy a cup of coffee here and you can literally sit here forever.

 

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The views are pretty amazing!

 

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I can imagine this being perfect at night time too.

 

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After taking in the views, we headed to Daimaru at Umeda station, which is a department store. Of course we had to check out the basement floor which is full of food. There, I found Rikuro りくろーおじさんの店 大丸梅田店 which is famous for their fluffy cheesecakes. The whole cake is only 675 yen! They bake them fresh and make batches at a time so sometimes you may have to wait a while once the batch is sold out. If you hear the bell ring, be sure to get in line because that means a new batch is ready!

 

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I bought the whole cake for myself…since S does not really like cheesecake, but for under 700 yen for a whole cake, I could not resist. A slice of cake here is already $7! You get the cute chef stamp on the cake and the bottom is filled with raisins. The cake was light and fluffy and melts in your mouth. Highly recommend trying it!

Kuromon Market
Address: 2-4-1 Nippombashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0073, Osaka Prefecture

Umeda Sky Building
Address: 1-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Osaka 531-6023, Osaka Prefecture

Rikuro Cheesecake at Daimaru
Address: 3-1-1 Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-8202, Japan

[Japan Series] Day 8: Dotonbori 道頓堀 in Osaka 大阪市

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On day 8, we headed to Tokyo Station so we could catch our shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Osaka station. We had purchased the JR pass since it was a better deal given we were going to visit Hiroshima as our last stop. I only recommend using the JR pass if you are visiting over 3 cities and doing some calculations on whether the individual tickets are cheaper. For example, if you are visiting Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto only, then I don’t think the JR pass is that worth it. Anyways, because we had the JR pass, we were able to reserve our seats in advance at the Narita airport (or you can even do so on the day of or just take the non-reserved seats). The Tokyo station is huge and was a bit overwhelming at first, but we arrived early to give ourselves enough time and were able to find our platform. Then we headed back inside the station to see if we could grab some lunch. There are lots of bento boxes available, but to be honest, the items in the boxes didn’t really appeal to me. Instead, I got a quick sushi box that was already prepared ahead of time. Not the most amazing, but this was still fairly good for the price (around $15).

 

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We took the Hikari which is included in the JR pass and it took roughly 3 hours. The Nozumi is another bullet train which only takes around 2.5 hours but is not included in the JR pass. Finally we arrived in Osaka (大阪市) and we had booked an Airbnb in the Namba area. I highly recommend booking accommodation in the Namba/Umeda area as this is the central station for your trains, especially if you are planning on visiting Kyoto or Nara. Plus, there is so much to see around this area. Our accommodation was unfortunately a 10 minute walk from the station, and the streets in Osaka are not as luggage friendly, so it took a bit of effort to lug our huge luggage to our Airbnb. Finally, we arrived and this was the view from our apartment. Not the most amazing view, but we weren’t expecting much.

 

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Our Airbnb was actually closer to the Nipponbashi area also known as Den Den Town. Here, there are lots of electronic shops, similar to Akihabara in Tokyo. It was actually a pretty safe and quiet area and only a 10 minute walk to Namba station which we often took. Our flat was simple with a double bed, small kitchen, and a comfortable sized bathroom. Nothing really to complain although we wished we had lived slightly closer to the station as walking home can be tiring after a long day.

 

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By the time we settled in, it was getting dark and we were hungry for dinner. I suggested we take it chill and check out the nearby famous Dotonbori (道頓堀).

 

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Dotonbori is probably one of Osaka’s most visited tourist spots. It is best visited during the evenings as the neon lights are a sight to see and reminds me of a night market. It seems that the evening is focused on food, whereas the afternoon is more for shopping, although I believe both restaurants and retail stores are open day and night.

 

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I mean, look at the restaurants signs? Aren’t there already a sight to see?

 

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Love the 3-D type of signage they use here, which I felt like Tokyo didn’t really have much of.

 

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Pufferfish (fugu 河豚) sashimi is famous to eat here. This is a delicacy because it takes skills of a highly trained chef to prepare this fish. It has a toxin that if not correctly prepared can kill you! If you are going to try this fish, then Osaka is likely the place for you as they are rather famous for it. As S does not eat much sashimi, I didn’t want to eat this on my own, so skipped this.

 

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After wandering the streets for a while, I decided to try the grilled scallop. They prepare this to order and it involves some large flames!

 

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This was actually quite average as the scallops was slightly too chewy and it also had some sand in it. I guess it was not washed well.

 

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Continuing on, we tried Osaka Ohsho (大阪王将 道頓堀本店). They claim themselves as the king of gyozas and you will not miss this shop as there is a huge gyozo signage (a sight to see itself!).

 

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They seem to cater to tourists as there is English on the menu, but at 6 pieces of gyoza for only 240 yen, it is a deal of itself. As you can see, the shop is a standing gyoza bar though, and you must stand on the left where there is a bar table with some condiments to eat. The good thing is people eat this quickly, so you will find a spot easily.

 

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I wasn’t expecting much of these gyozas, but we actually found these to be really good. They are made fresh and there is a generous amount of filling. The bottom was fried crispy and along with the gyoza sauce, it was a perfect snack.

 

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Given Dotonbori has more street food, we had to give the Takoyaki a try. There are quite a few stalls but we settled on Kukuru (たこ家道頓堀くくる 本店) just because we saw a huge line up. Turns out, this is a spot that has been featured on TV. The line actualyl was quite long and we waited probably almost 30 minutes. They make batches at once but there are so many people, so we still had to wait a while. You can also sit in where you can try other flavours of takoyaki, but I believe the take out box is cheaper.

 

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We got the minimum order of 8 takoyakis which cost around 600 yen. Not super cheap, but I like how they make them fresh. It is topped with some japanese mayo, bonito flakes and seaweed powder. There was octopus in every ball and the inside was a nice gooey chewy texture. My only complaint is that I wish they were more crispy on the outside as I found they sort of stuck together. Would I line up for it again? Probably not. But if the line is short, then these are not bad.

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A must see in Dotonbori is the Glico running man sign! Head towards the center of the Dotonbori streets where you will find a bridge above Dotonobori river and you will find all these advertisements. The Glico man ad has actually been around for 70 years (longest standing ad, although there have been many versions of it).

 

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There are seriously so many eateries in this area. Even if you stray further away from the crowds, you will find many stores and restaurants.

 

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As we headed back to our Airbnb, we saw a fried chicken stall, and of course S wanted this. It wasn’t very busy but S craved it.

 

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We got a bag of Chicken Karaage which was piping hot. Chicken was moist and batter was crispy. Not bad.

 

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Heading back, we actually wandered into the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade. It is a covered area with boutiques, retail stores and restaurants. A less quiet area during the evenings, but very busy during the day time. With our tummies full, we headed back to rest and prepare for our next day!

Dotonbori
Address: Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0071, Japan

 

Osaka Ohsho (Gyozas)
Address: 1-6-13 Dotombori, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0071, Osaka Prefecture

Kukuru (Takoyaki)
Address: 1-10-5 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture

Your Guide to the Panda Market (2016)

NOTE: As part of the ChineseBites media event, all food and beverages were free, but all opinions are based on my own experience.

Thanks to ChineseBites, we were invited along with other food bloggers to sample over 20 items at the Panda Market. Thanks to the rebranding, you can now clearly figure out which night market is which. The Panda Market is the one near Ikea (also known as the older one). We were invited in 2015 as well, and you can read about it here.

The Panda Market has really shrunk this year in terms of food stalls (down to only one lane!). Admission is free although parking does cost money, but round up your friends and carpool and it’ll come to a dollar per person.

I also liked how there were less people here so you can actually stand around and eat or even find tables in the back alley to sit down and enjoy your food. We checked out the Richmond Night Market by River Rock and there was no chance of that! You could barely move there and the line ups were crazy long…

Xin Jiang A Fan Ti Halal BBQ

I was paired up with Areta from Foodgressing to indulge in our night market adventure. We started off at Xin Jiang A Fan Ti Halal BBQ.

Chicken Skewers, Lamb Skewers

We were able to sample the Chicken Skewers and Lamb Skewers which may be one of my favourite items of the night. The chicken was my favourite because it still remained moist inside. The lamb was good but the one I had had a lot of fat stuck on so those parts were inedible. I loved the spices they used though and you can ask for spicy to get more kick.

BBQ Squid

There are two stands that sell squid at this night market. The one we sampled from was called BBQ Squid.

Fried and Grilled Mix Squid

We tried the Fried and Grilled Mix which as the name says, comes with a variety of grilled and fried squid rings and tentacles. The grilled squid comes with a sweet chili sauce but I found it to be more chewy, although not gummy. My favourite was the fried one as the texture had more bounce to it. This plate is priced at around $8.

Shake Shake

Getting thirsty, we headed to Shake Shake which has the trendiest drinks, including lightbulb drinks, watermelon and pineapple juice in the actual fruit, and liquid nitrogen drinks.

Watermelon Juice

We tried the Watermelon Juice which had liquid nitrogen fuming out on the side making it very picture worthy. The smoke actually lasted for quite a few minutes too. We added some popping balls in the drink, but I found that tasted a little odd. The watermelon juice itself was okay but the watermelon itself clearly wasn’t very sweet. They also have a pineapple version.

Cheese Tarts: Lavender and Original

Next to Shake Shake is Cheese Tarts which sells out fast so may be a stall that you want to check out first. They sell the popular cheese tarts that are the hype in Japan and Asia. Here, you can choose between Lavender and Original and they heat them up for you. I found the center to not be as runny as the ones in Japan but I did enjoy the lavender flavour. Great for those who enjoy floral flavours.

Top Dough

Top Dough brings Czech pastries to Richmond and features Trdelník also known as chimney cakes.

Chimney Cake

They feature three versions: the original, one filled with nutella, and one filled with nutella, whipped cream and topped with a slice of strawberry. We got the last and this one is cone shaped in order to hold all the cream. I liked how the outside was crunchy, but the inside was gooey and I felt like it was undercooked. This is not as good as the ones I had in Prague for sure, but I guess it’s decent for what we have in Richmond.

Mini Doughnuts: Oreo

At Mini Doughnuts, you can get your favourite carnival snacks and mini doughnuts! You can have them plain with just cinnamon and sugar or have them dressed up with some interesting flavours. Each order normally comes with 12 doughnuts, but they were able to give us 6 of each flavour instead. The first was the Oreo which was dressed with icing sugar and topped with crushed Oreo cookies.

Birthday Cake

The second was the Birthday Cake which comes with icing sugar and topped with rainbow sprinkles. They also have a S’mores version. The doughnut itself was great but I find that the ones with icing sugar get quite sweet after a couple. I would order these with just cinnamon sugar instead.

Shanghai Special: Pork Schnitzel

At Shanghai Special, they serve Shanghai food but also Pork Schnitzel! Sort of random, but it turned out to be quite good with the pork being only a tad dry but the batter very crispy.

It’s Toasty: French Toast

It’s Toasty served French Toast which we thought was deep fried tofu at first. It was served with a side of condensed milk and this was again surprisingly very good. The outside was crispy and the center pillowy soft and fluffy!

Pie Pie Okonomiyaki: Squid Okonomiyaki

At Pie Pie Okonomiyaki, they serve variations of Okonomiyaki filled with different ingredients such as pork and beef. We chose the Squid Okonomiyaki which was topped with Japanese mayo and bonito flakes. I found the inside to be rather gooey and doughy and would’ve liked it crispier.

Be Fabulous: Corn Pancake

Be Fabulous served us Corn Pancake along with a side of sweet chili sauce. It was well seasoned but something about it was quite underwhelming.

Orr Street: Green Apple Slush with Pearls

Areta got the Green Apple Slush with Pearls from Orr Street and we found the Mr. Panda to feature our drink. Yes, you’ll find a couple of these pandas walking around!

Twist Potato

There are two stands that sell the famous hurricane potatoes. The first stand was Twist Potato.

Bavarian Cream Korean Waffle

Twist Potato is also the only stand that sells the Korean Taiyaki fish waffles. We filled ours with Bavarian Cream. I found this to be underwhelming and the cream was like a custard which I found too sweet. I’d much rather get the ones at Snowy Village!

J&J Hurricane Potato Fries: Barbecue; Twist Potato: Garlic Mayo

The other stand is J&J Hurricane Potato Fries. Let’s compare it to Twist Potato! By the looks of it, Twist Potato (on the left) is much taller and so you get way more potato, but at the same time it’s more thinly sliced. After trying both, I actualy enjoyed the one from J&J more because of the thick cut texture. However, based on the flavours we tried, we enjoyed the Garlic Mayo from Twist Potato more than the Barbecue at J&J. But then again, you can choose from a variety of flavours so at the end of the day, I would probably go with J&J. J&J also allows you to choose two flavours.

Mr. Pretzels: Neapolitan  Pretzel

Next we tried the Neapolitan Pretzel from Mr. Pretzels. This was topped with Parmesan and some Italian herbs and must be eaten when warm! It was very soft and great for sharing.

Totoro: Mango Bubble Tea; Happy Lemon: Passionfruit Lemonade

Onto more drinks because night market food can make you very thirsty! Areta got the Mango Bubble Tea from Totoro, while I got the Passionfruit Lemonade from Happy Lemon. I love how you can flavour your classic lemonade and this was just the right sweet and tart.

TW Traditional Snacks: Taiwanese Sausage

Yup, this looks funny… but TW Traditional Snacks ran out of popcorn chicken and I had already tried their stinky tofu last year, so I tried their Taiwanese Sausage this time around. Quite typical and is sweet in flavour. Nothing too special. I would stick to their Stinky Tofu or Popcorn Chicken!

Sea Monster

A new addition is the Sea Monster which seemed to be a big hit.

Sweet Onion

They literally deep fry a whole squid on a stick and you can choose a seasoning to go with it of which we chose the sweet onion. This is difficult to eat and can get very messy, but I actually quite enjoyed this. The squid itself was very tender and I loved the crunchy batter and seasoning.

Takoyaki: Squid Takoyaki

Takoyoki is another popular item and here you can choose to add other ingreidents again such as pork. We stuck with the traditional and got Squid. Crispy on the outside and gooey inside. Not bad.

Cocoro: Deep Fried Oreos

Onto some desserts at Cocoro, we tried the Deep Fried Oreos which I had first tried at the PNE. I always found these to be good, so it was no surprise here either. They’re on the sweeter side, so definitely share them.

Mangoholic: Mango Shaved Iced

Mangoholic served us their Mango Shaved Ice, which is perfect for a sunny day. The mangoes were ripe and sweet and came with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Not bad!

Ying Kee: Bubble Waffle

Last but not least, Ying Kee served us Bubble Waffles and I went for the classic original although they have other flavours. The outside was crispy but I wished the inside was more chewy.

And there you have it! We tried almost every single food stall at the Panda Night Market! I have to say, I did appreciate how the line ups and wait times were way shorter than the one at the Richmond Night Market.

Of course, you won’t find as many innovative items here as they tend to open at the Richmond Night Market, but if you are looking for your classics, then I think the Panda Night Market does a pretty good job.

There are also fun and games for the kids and live entertainment. But I mean, I think I most of us go the night market for the food, right?

Panda Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2016 VCBW Festival

NOTE: I was invited as media with complimentary tickets to the event. All opinions are based on my personal experience.

One week after the Opening Night, we attended the 2016 VCBW Festival presented by Donnelly Group. This was a three day event at the PNE Centre Grounds filled with beer, food, and music.

It was the perfect weekend as the sun came out and it was even a little too scorching for us. Good thing they had mists on set to cool you down!

Other than beer and food, some interesting set ups included Barber & Co where you could get your hair cut amidst drinking your beer.

There were over 100 breweries and cideries at the event. Again, most vendors had at least two types of beers to try, if not more. Food trucks were present as well if you wished to purchase some munchies.

Tickets ranged from $35 – $95 depending if you wanted express entry or a full weekend pass. The ticket gets you into the festival and includes your 4oz taster mug. All beer and cider samples are additional. All samples are 4oz and cost 1 token, with tokens being priced at $1.50 each.

Since we had our fair share of beer at the previous event, we decided to tackle some of the cideries since I’m a huge fan of ciders. One cidery we really enjoyed was the Howling Moon.

We were drawn into this Basque cider called Shacksbury because of the beautiful set up. This cider is unfiltered and was very tart and different from typical ciders on the market.

Storm Brewing had a massive line up so we had to see what it was all about. They were serving up really funky and unique brews, including the Cucumber Jalapeno Pilsner, and Basil IPA. Sounds weird, right? We tried the Pineapple Paradise Pilsner and Raspberry Vanilla Ale and really enjoyed the slight fruity flavour without being too sweet.

My favourite of them all had to be the Fruli Strawberry Beer. I guess by now, you can tell I enjoy fruit beers! This was delicious and didn’t even taste like a beer! Plus, it’s vegan and there are no added sugars or sweeteners. The sweetness is all from the strawberries themselves! The same vendor also had a Cherry Beer from Kriek Lambic. Also delicious but not as sweet.

Overall, we had an amazing time at the VCBW Festival and already can’t wait for next year’s! A wide selection of beers and ciders to sample from and a great event to have some fun with friends.

For more information: http://vancouvercraftbeerweek.com/

Chachi’s

Note: All food and beverages were complimentary. Opinions are based on personal experience.

Thanks to Sherman, a group of food bloggers and I were invited to a menu tasting at the new Chachi’s located in the food court of Metropolis at Metrotown.

Chachi’s goal is to “make mall food better” and this is their first location in BC with plans to expand to other locations in BC. The focus is on sandwiches, but they also have a variety of salads and sides. All ingredients, including cheese, meats and breads are locally sourced. The bread is fresh from a bakery in Langley daily.

You can choose from the set sandwiches on their menu, or build your own.

They also have three of their own lemonades and iced teas.

Freshly made cookies are available as well. The ones we tried were quite healthy with oatmeal and raisins.

Other than their homemade drinks, they also have a select few bottled drinks. Surprisingly, my favourite was the Cherry Iced Tea. It had a light cherry/raspberry flavour to it. Their homemade drinks are overall slightly on the sweeter side, but not bad.

Asiago Caesar

We also tried two of their salads, including the Asiago Caesar which features crisp romaine, bacon garlic crostini, Asiago, Caesar dressing and topped with turkey.

Arugula

My favourite was the Arugula, which had arugula, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, red onions, goat cheese, and a balsamic sauce with turkey. You can choose your type of meat or have it without. I loved the sweetness of the artichokes along with the acidity of the balsamic. The salad was slightly overdressed though, so a little less dressing would have been perfect.

Cali

Onto what we really came here for – the sandwiches! We tried almost all the sandwiches on the menu, inclduing this Cali, which was filled with chicken breast, double smoked bacon, house made guacamole, cheddar, tomato, romaine, and spicy mayo. I really liked how the bread wasn’t too tough.

Bahn Mi

The Bahn Mi was Chachi’s take on the Vietnamese sandwich. It was filled with beef brisket, asian marinade, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic aioli. The beef brisket was very soft and tender, but the sandwich was slightly too saucy.

Hot Philly

The Hot Philly is not for the weak as this is one of the spicier options. Filled with rib steak, bell peppers, onion, jalapeno, provolone, garlic aioli and spicy mayo, this is a delicious spicy sandwich.

Smoked Bacon Breaky Sandwich

They also have some Breaky Sandwiches, including this Smoked Bacon Breaky. I didn’t try this but it looks quite similiar to a McMuffin.

Pork with Mac

My favourite sandwich was the Pork with Mac. This is filled with tender pulled pork, sweet chili, BBQ sauce, and topped with loads of mac ‘n cheese. The pulled pork was so tender and sweet, and the mac ‘n cheese was savoury with a slight spice. Amazing creation!

Dill Chips

They also have homemade chips with a variety of flavours. We tried the Dill Chips, which had a nice pickled flavoured. The chips are kettle cooked and reminded me of Ms. Vickie’s. Addictive!

Spicy Mac ‘N Cheese with Capicollo, Mac ‘N Cheese

The Pork ‘N Mac Sandwich was good, but I would actually just skip the sandwich and order their side of Mac ‘N Cheese. These come in two versions: the original or the spicy with capicollo. These were so smooth and creamy and some of the best mac I’ve had! If you enjoy a bit of spicy, I would highly recommend the Spicy Mac ‘N Cheese with Capicollo.

Overall, Chachi’s is a great addition to the food court by offering a more gourmet sandwich option with quality ingredients. The sandwiches are priced slightly higher at $8-$12, but I can understand since the ingredients are all locally sourced.

Chachi's Metrotown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

7th Annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week

Source: Vancouver Craft Beer Week

“The seventh annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week is set to kick off with opening night festivities on Friday, May 27th and will run until Sunday, June 5th. This year’s 10-day line up of events includes the VCBW Festival, Canada’s largest craft-only beer festival, presented by the Donnelly Group.

The VCBW Festival weekend will take place from Friday, June 3rd to Sunday, June 5th at the PNE Centre Grounds (2901 E Hastings, Vancouver, BC) and will feature local food trucks, over 350 craft beers and ciders and live music provided by The World Famous CFOX.

Vancouver Craft Beer Week tickets are now available – including VCBW Festival Weekend passes ($95), Single Day Gate Crasher tickets ($40) and Single Day General Admission tickets ($35).

From May 27th – June 5th 2016, Vancouver Craft Beer Week will also host a number of craft beer events leading up to the festival weekend.

This year’s VCBW Festival is set to showcase over 100 breweries and cideries pouring over 350 craft beers and ciders from around the world. Local favourites include Parallel 49 Brewing Company, Postmark Brewing and Four Winds Brewing Company. The festival also includes a U.S Brewers Association section, offering craft beers never before seen in Canada.”

For more information on Vancouver Craft Beer Week or to purchase tickets, visit vancouvercraftbeerweek.com.

Facebook: Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Twitter: @vcbw
Instagram : @vcbw