Saturday, October 27, 2012

Eating and Shopping our way through Namba

Our family vacation last week was very restful. That's because we were on holiday for a week with no agenda except to eat, shop and sleep. It's very much comparable to when we go to Baguio for a weekend to eat and sleep since the weather in Osaka when we were there was pretty much the same. We stayed at an apartment near Namba Station, and on most days, we would just walk around and eat and shop in that busy area.

Our first day was almost cut and paste of what we did on my first day there in December. It was about eating somewhere fast and familiar, while acquainting ourselves with the lay of the land.

Guess where we had our first meal?
Yoshinoya across Namba Station (Swissotel side).
We tried something different by ordering the beef bowl with curry and cheese.
It was good, but there was just too little meat to rice ratio for my taste.

We walked along the covered shopping street all the way to Shinsaibashi.
The trick to get Sofia walking is to stop at every store
she fancies to distract her from being tired.
at the Disney Store Shinsaibashi
We didn't buy anything because we are already overflowing with Disney soft toys,
but Sofia enjoyed taking pics while making faces in the store.
Sofia and Mickey.

To recover from our jetlag (we caught at 655am flight so we woke up at 3am!), we stopped at a coffee shop every time we were tired so we could all sit down.
There's a line to enter Krispy Kreme.
Fi's favorite is original glaze.
Lolo also snacked when Fif snacked. He needs sugar to keep up with her.

We walked all the way until we got to the Uniqlo flagship store.
Trying on stoles.
Sorry makalat kami.
This was the stole display after we were done.

We walked all the way back to Dotonbori after we got our Uniqlo fix.
My dad's favorite thing to do is take self portrait pictures.
Hello Glico man, nice to see you again.
We also walked along the river.
Halloween is very big in Japan.
Yay, it's time for a takoyaki snack.
Yummy takoyaki.
We ate it by the river so we could get another rest break.
Walking along Dotonbori,
Sofia wanted a Sushi Pic like Ninang Jem's.
Ooops. Medyo fail.
Ninang Jem, December 2011
my daughter needs to grow taller.
or get a better photographer.
We stopped by the candy store to get our Kit-o Kat-o.
Dinner on Day 1 was ramen at
Kinryu (Golden Dragon) Ramen in Dotonbori.
They really is no sign that says Kinryu. You can easily spot it because it's a bright orange 3D open-air food place with a gigantic Dragon. It's open 24 hours and they have a really good basic tonkotsu ramen with unlimited Kimchi and garlic for topping. This is where Tim and I had ramen the last time.
Ady and I had a double pork order to share (JPY900 around Php450).
The Ramen with single pork order is JPY600.

Day 1 (which started after lunch) was quite productive.
All these things were on my to buy list.
Though the erasable pens and markers are all Sofia's.
The actual washi tape that inspired the Uniqlo stole I bought.
This was Sofia's haul. For someone with no to buy list,
she sure bought a lot of things.
Her Uniqlo jacket was on sale and it's reversible.

Our next day in Japan was my mom's birthday. We went to Namba Parks looking for tempura for lunch but we ended up at Tokyo Tonteki because we were intrigued by their concept.
Their food mock-ups looked really yummy.
All dishes are served in frying pans.
By the drawings on the wall, we figured out that it was a pork steak place.
The pork is tasty and tender because it is simmered in marinade
before it's cooked in the frying pan.
This is the Pork Steak with shredded cabbage.
Every order comes with a bowl of rice and soup.
An order is around JPY1,000 or Php500, but it also depends on the pork size.
Sofia slept through lunch because she was still suffering from jetlag.
I stuffed myself with cabbage instead of rice.
You can get an extra overflowing bowl for JPY50. 

After we had lunch, Sofia woke up for Toys R' Us time.
As usual, she was able to buy something.
I told her that when I was 5,
my mom only let me buy what I could carry.
So this rule already applies to her.

We went to Muji next and I was very disappointed because they no longer had a toy section. Sofia and lolo stayed in the kid's playroom while we tried to shop.
She bought a big bag of our favorite bubble gum!
Yummy! This used to cost Php2.50 at the canteen when I was in school.
It's a good thing I hoarded all the toys I wanted for Fif in December.
(my pile is on the right) I just wanted to see if they had new stuff.
It's a good thing I bought all the cities in a box for all the landmark cities then.

Because we were low on energy again, we snacked on cream puffs.
This place intrigued us, and it turned out to be so good.
Hop Chou a la creme in the shopping walkway
very near Namba Station (takashimaya side).
It looks a bit different from the normal cream puff,
but the shell has a crunchier texture that goes well with the yummy cream.
I prefer the vanilla filling.
Ady also tried the Belgian chocolate one.
It was so good, we wanted to eat one cream puff a day (to share between the two of us!).

There's a newly opened Daiso along the covered shopping walkway leading to Shinsaibashi so it was one of our favorite stops to look for junk.
Sofia trying out the Halloween witch hats.
We had to buy toothbrush for Fif because we forgot to bring one.
She couldn't decide what color she wanted, so she bought both.
Headband perfect for the night owl.
Right beside the Daiso entrance was this Torikara food stall
that quite a lot of people lined up.
So it made us want to try it too.
Fif and her grandparents with the mascot.
There selling point was the number of sauces they had
for the fried breaded chicken pieces.
We ordered the medium size because it was to share.
I think it was around JPY500 or Php250.
Everything was in Japanese, so we were copying people,
and guessing what sauces we were using.
This one is the chocolate sauce.

On our way back, we stayed behind to get mama a cupcake for her birthday.
 Sugar Berries is near Daiso (across Starbucks).
They sell new york style cupcakes that are yummy
because they are more cream than cake. 

Because we were really super duper tired again, we had to stop again for a coffee break. Starbucks was so full, we tried ChocoCro, a local coffee place, because they had seats available.

Pain au chocolat for Fi. Iced coffee for Ninang.
In fairness, the Pain au Chocolat was really good.
Fif loves helping pour in the syrup.
Fi's other resting trick is to find a place to lean her back,
then stay this way without letting her butt touch the floor.

Dinner for my mom's birthday was at the Tempura place we wanted to eat in for lunch. I found it by googling good Tempura restaurants in Namba and we found Appare Tempu in Namba Parks.

They have no English menu, so we ordered by taking a picture
of the mock-up food, or pointing to the neighboring table.
This little girl is so well loved.
This is what the place looks like. Mostly local clientele.
My mom's food arrived first.
She ordered a prawn curry meal that came with miso soup, salad and tofu.
Ady and I ordered Tendon.
Two prawn tempura with an assortment of veggies.
It had too many starchy veggies for me.
All in red for ma. Sofia's jacket was red, but it was too warm.
We managed to order 4 Ebi Tempura for Fif,
and I just donated my rice to her,
and the rest of my seaweed rice to pa.
This was the most sulit order.
One piece of Ebi Tempura was JPY200 but the prawn was really big.
The miso soup was good too.
It would probably have looked more appetizing without the shrimp head.
We ordered three more Ebi Prawn because the ulam in the set meal was so bitin.
That was a good meal. I think when we were here in December, my best friend Jem's frustration was we didn't eat any Tempura, so she had to have it at the airport. Now I know where to find good tempura.

On our third day, I was already beginning to feel sorry for myself because Sofia was buying more stuff than me. All the things I bought for myself were only the small things, like a few stoles from Uniqlo, food or Daiso buys. So, in other words they did not count.

So, I finally gave in and bought myself a pair of Onitusuka Tigers.
The selling point is it still looks good with a mini-skirt.
I am not really a sneaker type of girl, so even if I have always wanted a pair, I have always waited for the specific designs I want to go on sale and it never happened. Since I was feeling sorry for myself, I justified the purchase by telling myself I'll get to wear it for the rest of our days in Japan, and also when we go to the US next year for the Alaska Cruise.
This was how I wore my sneakers.
I made sure it still reflected my sense of style.
On our way to the Osaka Aquarium.
(i will blog about that separately)

One new place we went to was the Tsūtenkaku (Tower Reaching Heaven) or Osaka Tower because of landlord told us that there was a lot of good kushikatsu (deep fried breaded meat kebabs) in that area.
The street leading to the tower and the Billiken
(the god of Happiness, or things as they ought to be).
This time with me in the picture.
Billiken Fi, Sumo Me, and Tower Ma
Billiken photo-op.
We thought it was a touristy place to go to at night,
but the souvenir stores close quite early.
This was the biggest Kushikatsu place closest to the tower,
it looked busy enough so we were willing to try it.
Each place here has their own Billiken because the real one is housed in the tower.
We ordered a variety of kebabs.
They range in price from JPY100-250.
We didn't expect it to come out surprisingly small.
There is a pot of sauce on the table.
In the menu, they ask you not to double dip.
Reminds me of a fish ball stall in the Philippines where there is no such rule.
We also tried the Tompei-yaki. 
It's like an omelet version of takoyaki or okonomiyaki
with thin slices of meet inside. 
Needless to say, I don't think we go full.
So we stopped for Takoyaki on the way home.
This is clearly not a tourist area because the price is less than half
of our favorite riverside takoyaki stall.
This is my mom getting her mouth burned because she ate everything in one bite.
It's Hot!Hot!Hot! so eat it slowly and blow!
We also passed by McDonald's to bring home some snacks.
I ordered a Shaka Shaka Chicken from the JPY100 menu.
It was really good, but Sofia ate mine.
I had to go back the next day so
I could properly try it with the red pepper flavoring.
We also tried the burger with the egg and bacon from McDonald's,
and it was ok, it would just have been better if they doubled the burger patty.

The interesting thing is the neon colors at the top of the Tsūtenkaku Tower shows the weather forecast for the next day. When we were there, the colors were red and blue symbolizing a rainy day. I wasn't really sure if it was true since the weather has been nice and dry since we've arrived, but sure enough, when we woke up, it was raining.
We got to use the umbrellas at the apartment,
and Sofia got to use her new uniqlo jacket.
Instead of going to Kyoto, we decided to shop around the area some more.
If you are travelling with kids, a good place to buy toys is BIC CAMERA.
It's actually a camera and electronics store,
but they have a good selection of toys and they were cheaper too.
I was so tempted to buy Sofia this Lego Friends RV,
but I said no since I still had a lot of presents in stock for her.
Bic Camera is at the end of other covered walkway.
The one with Starbucks in front,
near the Takashimaya side of Namba Station.
We had lunch in a restaurant we found also along that walkway.
We saw the breaded Tori Katsu and Shredded cabbage from their poster.
Sofia in front of another Sushi restaurant.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to eat at any.

Because Bic Camera was such a surprise hit for toys, we decided to look through the toy section of the other big electronics store we always pass on the way to our apartment.
This is at the toy section of Labi 1 Namba.
The pricing was the same as Bic Camera,
but the assortment was not as wide.
We still managed to find something to buy though.

Our other good meals include:
Curry dinner at CoCo Ichibanya.
You can read my post on their Singapore branch here.
My dad hates curry, so he ordered a sausage salad.
It was on the small side, but I think it was good.
We ordered Fif a side of shrimp.
I converted it into a meal by donating my rice.
Sofia ordered Pork Tonkatsu curry with cheese.
I ordered boiled pork curry with spinach and cheese
but it somehow got lost in translation.
In fairness, I was able to correct my order.
My mom ordered a hamburger steak curry.
Sofia loves getting bibs at the restaurants.
Coco Ichibanya can be found on almost every street corner, just like Yoshinoya.

Another place we really enjoyed was
Gyu-kaku in Dotonbori.
We were actually walking to have sushi when we stumbled
 on there sign that says lunch time special.
We already know how much I am a sucker for a sale, so needless to say, this is where we ended up eating lunch even though we arrived there at 2:30pm already. Hahaha.

Included in our family picture was the McDonald's of ma and Fif,
since they don't really eat sushi. Hahaha.
As well as Shaka Shaka chicken for me and Ady in case we don't get full.
We gladly ditched the sushi + McDo plan for yummy yakiniku.
The bigger set meals include 2 trays of beef and 1 tray of pork,
while the regular set meal included 2 cuts of beef.
It was really yummy.
Even Sofia ate a lot of beef.
My mom cooking.
Sofia took our picture when she finished eating.
Gyu-kaku is across the river from Don Qiuxote,
one of our favorite stores with loads of useless stuff.

Our other favorite stores of the same nature include:
Loft in Lucua Mall, Umeda.
Sofia loves trying out the Frixion (erasable) pens.
She draws and writes her name in the guise of trying them out.
Trying out the musical cards...
and the stamp rollers.
Ady and I didn't give in and buy this, because it was quite pricey.
We loved the Deco Rush testing sheet
at Tokyu Hands, in Daimaru, Umeda.
It convinced me to buy.
Sofia even brought home the trial sheet. 
But she labelled them first from the marker display.
Starting her young.
You never outgrow your love for pens. Believe me.

Our absolute favorite store for this trip (Daiso not included since we have that in Singapore and Manila) is Tokyu Hands. They call themselves a creative life store, whatever that means, but they have the coolest stuff in the world. They have a big store in Shinsaibashi, on the other side of the street across from the uniqlo flagship store.
They had a halloween activity for kids,
you just need to pay JPY300 to participate.
Then you get your ticket stamped paid.
This nice man helped Sofia make her Halloween ornament
with flashing light.
It's quite good value because the ornament is now decorating our door,
and the light is still flashing. Hahaha.

On our last full day in Japan, we finally found a proper supermarket. They have toys displayed in the confectionery aisle because toy makers put in a small pack of candy or a piece of bubble gum with every toy. I think it's very smart because we left the supermarket with a little brown dog soft toy.

Choosing which dog to buy at the grocery.

On our last day, our trip ended at the store where it started.
We stopped in Daiso to spend the deposit
we got back from returning the flat keys.
Papa watched our luggage while we were shopping.

I love vacations where nothing is planned. Everything you do, and everything you buy, just becomes a bonus. In this case, we did visit 1 castle (in Osaka), 1 temple (in Kyoto) and I brought Sofia to the aquarium. But those are stories for another day. just saying.

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