Osaka is the first stop of many tourists heading to the Kansai region because of the amazing number of things to see, do, eat, and shop there all year round.
Just on the matter of food alone, there's yakiniku (grilled meat), ramen, sushi, Osaka okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), kushikatsu (deep-fried food on skewers), and the list just goes on and on.
But here's the conundrum - where does one even begin with so many things to eat? If that's the situation you've somehow found yourself in, check out this list of tasty goodies we've specially prepared for food hunters flying into Japan from around the world.
To make it extra convenient, we've grouped them into the five main tourist destinations of Namba, Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi, Umeda, Shin-Osaka, and Shinsekai/Tennoji. We'll even throw in the trendiest new must-visit shops of 2022! Bon appetit from one foodie to another!
Main image: PIXTA
Best of Osaka specialty foods
As one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations, Osaka is jam-packed with all sorts of delicious foods to try.
Likely the first thing to come to your mind when thinking of the city is folk favorites such Osaka okonomiyaki and takoyaki (octopus balls), usually topped with savory-sweet sauce, bonito flakes, and seaweed flakes. A single bite of this plain but deep-flavored dish is enough to bring back to mind the heartwarming memories of home.
Some of these foods are so ubiquitous that Osaka residents eat them at almost every meal, because that's just how good they are.
1. Okonomiyaki - the soul food of the Osakan people
Okonomiyaki is a common home-cooked dish in Osaka. However, citizens of Osaka also acknowledge the deliciousness of restaurant-cooked okonomiyaki and often eat it when dining out.
Okonomiyaki is made by adding eggs and wheat flour to broth, then adding thinly sliced cabbage, onions, and tiny flakes of tempura (tenkasu), to which additional ingredients are added and then grilled on a hot iron plate.
Though pork is a traditional ingredient, one of the selling points of okonomiyaki is the freedom to create original combinations and variations with other ingredients, such as adding seafood or topping it off with cheese.
Once it's cooked, you top it with sweet sauce, bonito flakes, dried seaweed flakes, and, if you like, mayonnaise. Eating okonomiyaki as a side dish alongside rice is unique to Osaka.
There are okonomiyaki restaurants in every area of Osaka, from the big downtown districts to local shopping quarters. You'll want to try out many different shops' takes on Osaka's soul food.
2. Takoyaki: Taste various types of 'octopus balls' at stalls and shops
Takoyaki rivals okonomiyaki as the food most representative of Osaka’s “Konamon” flour-based dishes. There are many privately owned stalls and chain restaurants around the city, and with its reasonably low price, it’s eaten as a snack or light meal.
When you use the toothpick to grab a bite of takoyaki covered with sauce, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes, you’ll taste the crisp outside and melty inside, along with the unique chewiness and rich flavor of octopus.
It’s said that almost every household in Osaka has a takoyaki maker, and even children learn how to flip the balls of takoyaki while they cook. Takoyaki can be both a snack and a main dish.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that, along with okonomiyaki, it’s what makes up the bodies of the Osakans.
3. Kushi-katsu: Exquisite freshly fried skewers
Kushi-katsu, bite-sized meat and vegetables skewered and deep-fried, was popularized in the Shinsekai neighborhood, a downtown hub for laborers in the past. It was the "fast food" of the time—cheap, quick, and tasty. Frying ingredients in a fine layer of breadcrumbs until crisp is the Osakan style of cooking this dish, and it's an exquisite experience to have the kushi-katsu fried piping hot right before your very eyes. Most restaurants are casual, with only standing or seated counters, and the sauce inside the stainless steel platters set out are for communal use. You eat kushi-katsu by dipping it firmly into this sauce, but double-dipping once you've already taken a bite is a no-go, so make sure you get a lot of sauce on your first dip. Many restaurants also provide sliced cabbage to snack on free of charge, to help prevent stomachaches from too much greasy food. When you want extra sauce on a kushi-katsu you've already taken a bite of, you can also use this cabbage to scoop the sauce up.
4. Kitsune Udon: Sweet, fried tofu with a satisfying broth
In Osaka, udon without added ingredients is called “su-udon,” or plain udon. When a sheet of fried tofu stewed in sweet sauce is added, it is then called “kitsune udon.” The dish was invented at an Osakan udon shop in the Meiji era and instantly spread in popularity.
The broth is the key to Osaka’s cuisine, and Kitsune udon uses plenty of it, made from bonito fish and kelp. Osaka’s udon is also characterized by its soft noodles, which are so ubiquitously eaten they’re even given to babies as baby food.
As a fun fact, people over 60 who grew up in Osaka sometimes called kitsune udon “ketsune udon” instead.
5. Butaman - Scrumptious steamed pork buns filled with juicy meat
In Osaka, Chinese-style buns filled with pork are called “buta-man.” Compared to buns in other regions, Osaka’s buta-man are on the large side and have juicy pork meat and onions inside a fluffy bread bun. It’s common to break the buns in half and dip the fillings in spicy mustard, but they are also delicious when drizzled with Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.
They are sold at specialty shops and freshly steamed at supermarkets and convenience stores. They’re also available in refrigerated, frozen, and other various ways.
Employees visiting Osaka on business trips can often be sighted buying buta-man inside train stations as gifts and souvenirs.
6. Hako-zushi: Colorful ingredients brighten up this 'boxed sushi'
Hako-zushi, or box-sushi, is made with vinegared rice and varying ingredients like flavored conger eel, shrimp, small sea bream, and thick egg omelets. It is then pressed into a wooden frame, giving it its alternate name, “oshi-zushi,” pressed sushi.
Unlike the traditional Edo nigiri sushi made with fresh fish and consumed immediately, hako-zushi retains its delicious flavor even when eaten later.
This sushi has been a food for guests or during celebrations since the Meiji era, and its bright and colorful appearance is representative of Osaka. You can even buy it at department stores, making it convenient to eat back at your hotel or on excursions and picnics.
7. Benishouga-no-Tempura: The addictingly delicious sour taste of 'pickled red ginger tempura'
From okonomiyaki to takoyaki to yakisoba, in Osaka's food culture of flour-based dishes, red pickled ginger also plays a large role. Red pickled ginger is made from fresh, young ginger marinated in plum vinegar.
On top of using it as a topping, part of Osaka’s culture is deep-frying it in whole pieces as tempura. Loved by children and adults alike, this sour yet delicious snack can be eaten as-is, paired with alcohol, or topped with sauce and eaten along with rice.
You can find red pickled ginger tempura in the deli section of supermarkets and at tempura shops, so be sure to give it a try.
Other than the reasonably priced delicacies mentioned above, Osaka is also known for having good yakiniku, fugu cuisine, curry dishes, and omelet rice meals. Not to mention a large number of shops famous for great desserts like puddings and cakes.
Now follow along, foodies of the world, and let's see what culinary delights await us in the areas of Namba, Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi, Umeda, Shin-Osaka, and Shinsekai/Tennoji without further ado!
Must-try Osaka foods by area
One of Osaka's major transport hubs served by trains from JR, Osaka Metro, Nankai Electric Railway, Hanshin Electric Railway, and many other operators, it's very convenient to travel from Namba Station to virtually any part of Osaka.
Owing to its prime location and high foot traffic, there are many restaurants and eateries inside the station itself, and even more within the large shopping complex just outside.
Because of the large range of prices for the food available here, you can adjust your budget according to what you're feeling like that day. Everything from reasonably priced ramen or Osaka okonomiyaki to premium yakiniku is designed to satisfy the pickiest of taste buds.
・Kaiseki Dinner (Japanese multi-course meal)
・Cafes / Desserts
- Kuromon Ichiba Market: Sashimi, seafood rice, roasted scallops, Kobe beef, oden (stew), riceballs, soft-serve ice-cream, Japanese daifuku (stuffed rice cake), etc.
- Namba Parks: Kushikatsu, tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet), omelet rice, HARBS layer cake, etc.
- Namba City: Osaka okonomiyaki, takoyaki, sushi, tonkatsu, sukiyaki, tempura, etc.
- Other than major shopping complexes like Namba SkyO, Namba City, and Namba Parks, Namba Station is also about a 6 to 7 minute walk from the area's beloved kitchen utensils paradise, Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street.
- Consider also dropping by Hozenji Yokocho, an alleyway of traditional Japanese shops, the traditional Namba Yasaka Shrine, as well as comedy theater Namba Grand Kagetsu.
- A little bit of walking around after food aids with digestion and you'll be ready for the next round of fabulous foodstuff before long.
The latest and tastiest in Namba
・Croissant Egg Tart Specialty Store CROGG
This dessert shop with an intriguing new offering opened in Namba City on July 28. Their signature confectionery is the croissant egg tart, a delectable combination of a 27-layered croissant and egg tart topping made from locally-produced eggs and milk. Biting into a tart that is both crispy and smooth at the same time is indulgence at its finest, and that's one of the reasons why this small but electrifying pastry comes highly recommended by us.
2. Dotonbori / Shinsaibashi
One of the top destinations on everyone's Osaka list is Shinsaibashi, located just next to Namba on the Osaka Metro, whereas Dotonbori refers to a stretch of shopping street wedged between Namba Station and Shinsaibashi Station. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to reach Dotonbori from Namba Station on foot. Even when coming down from Umeda, it only takes about 8 to 9 minutes by direct train.
Between Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori, you'll find an amazing variety of traditional and popular food stores worth trying. A quick look around may find you familiar names such as Kinryu Ramen, Ichiran Ramen, Atchichi-Hompo Takoyaki, Chibo Osaka Okonomiyaki, Kushikatsu Daruma - Shinsekai Ganso Kushikatsu, Pablo Cheesecakes, Shiroichi Raw Ice-Cream, and many more. Whichever shop tickles your fancy, be sure to arrive with an empty stomach!
・Yakiniku / Sukiyaki
・Cafes / Desserts
- The bustling districts of Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi are fully equipped with tourist-friendly and internationally recognized shops like Don Quijote, Daiso 100-yen stores, Marui Department Store, and PARCO.
- You could easily spend a day or two simply eating and shopping around the area. Don't forget to drop by the amusing Dotonbori Konamon Museum, a takoyaki-themed gallery.
- Check out the trendy American Village, the de facto gathering place of Osaka youths and a pioneer district of the latest fashion in town.
Umeda is one of Osaka's city centers and refers to the area around Osaka Station on the JR lines, Osaka-Umeda Station, Umeda Station, Higashi-Umeda Station, and Nishi-Umeda Station.
With so many train stations in this zone, no prizes for guessing how convenient the transportation around here must be! In fact, it's only about 10 minutes from Umeda to Namba or Shinsaibashi by train.
Because Umeda is so well-developed, there is no end of commercial complexes, restaurants, and eateries to be found. Folk food like ramen is a given, and you can probably find a Japanese-style izakaya bar and all the snacks they serve at every corner.
The takoyaki in this area is to die for, and you won't want to miss the amazing fugu cuisine, Kobe beef, and everything else you can think of. Once you've satisfied all your food cravings and are ready to slow down to take in the sights, you'll have your pick of cafes with fantastic views to lounge in as well.
Whether you're thinking of having a proper meal or just feeling peckish, there's a perfect place for that somewhere in Umeda.
- Whity Umeda: Tempura, standing bars, izakaya, Japanese set meals, udon noodles, thick-cut tonkatsu, revolving sushi shops, bakeries, etc.
- Umeda Food Hall (Hankyu Sanbangai North Wing B2): Crepes, Pork Cutlet Yabaton, Miyatake Sanuki Udon, Osaka Okonomiyaki Seijuro, etc.
- Links Umeda B1 Oishimono Yokocho: Tempura, udon noodles, Chinese cuisine, takoyaki, pan-fried buns, etc.
- Hankyu Sanbangai, Daimaru Umeda Department Store, and LUCUA Osaka are some of the more well-known shopping malls in the Umeda area, but you may also want to give Links Umeda a go.
- The complex was opened relatively recently by Yodobashi, the appliance megastore and you may find something new and unique in there to bring home as souvenirs.
- There's also the tall and imposing Umeda Sky Building where you can see the entirety of Osaka from a viewing platform as well as the quirky and peculiar HEP FIVE building that comes with its own large, red Ferris wheel on the rooftop.
- Nakazakicho, a short 10-minute trip from Umeda, is an artsy district where the traditional designs of buildings and shops give off pleasant and charming vibes. Trendy-looking cafes dot the area and foodies who also love to feed their cameras will have plenty of fresh and interesting photo opportunities to go for here.
The Latest and Tastiest in Umeda
The exciting new dessert shop known as Mille Presse which opened in Tokyo in 2021 to long queues, has made its foray into Osaka! The first Osaka branch opened in Grand Front Osaka's marketplace on March 26. Both the layers of the mille crepe and the creamy filling within are made with rich Hokkaido butter and are that remarkably sweet spot between crispiness and smoothness. There are nine flavors available and every single one works well when paired with fruits, alcohol, or butter. Why not ask for a mix of two different flavors to get the most value for your money? Those who fancy themselves as foodies definitely can't afford to miss this latest craze in the dessert world!
・Sennariya Coffee Umeda
Originally from the Shinsekai area, Sennariya opened a branch next to Osaka-Umeda Station on May 24 that does takeouts on the first floor and has a sit-in cafe on the second. The trendy shop offers retro-style desserts such as decorated Taiwanese castella cakes, swiss rolls, puddings, and iced coffee in addition to meal options like Japanese ketchup pasta, omelet rice with kushikatsu, and tonkatsu sandwiches - all designed to be as photogenic as possible.
・Miyabi's Baumkuchen & Canele Tri-Co
When a popular place like LUCUA Osaka with its west wing, LUCUA 1100 and east wing, LUCUA opens 20 new shops all at once (which they did on August 26!), you just know there has to be something spectacular in there waiting for you - and you would be right! A couple of the new shops, Miyabi's Baumkuchen and Canele Tri-Co are big names on the Osaka dessert scene for having their namesakes as signature specialties. These dainty delectables are perfect for buying back to your accommodations to enjoy at leisure or pack away as souvenirs for loved ones at home.
This is the station where the Shinkansen bullet train stops in Osaka before heading to either Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Tokyo, or other major destinations in Japan. The station is also served by the JR lines, Osaka Metro, and many other operators and is a mere 15-minute train ride away from the bustling center of Namba, or 5-minute train ride from shopping paradise Umeda.
Inside the station alone, you'll find over 30 eateries to explore, including branch restaurants of Osaka must-tries such as Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma, Dotonbori Kamukura Ramen, and Hokkyokusei Omelet Rice. Street food is also available in abundance, so if you're randomly in the mood for an Osaka okonomiyaki, takoyaki, or bowl of udon noodles, you can satisfy that craving for a very reasonable price, even right in the station itself.
For something peculiar to Japan, get yourself a railway lunch box (or 'ekiben') or buy something to take away and eat while you walk. Our recommendations are the popular Kobe beef or beef tongue lunch box for how surprisingly yummy they can be.
- Eki Marche Osaka: Ramen, omelet rice, Osaka okonomiyaki, takoyaki, udon noodles, ochazuke (tea over rice), etc.
- Osaka Norenmeguri (Shin-Osaka Station on the JR Lines 3F): Juso Ganso Negiyaki Yamamoto, Dotonbori Imai Udon, Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma, Takoyaki Todonbori Kukuru, etc.
- arde! Shin-Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station on the JR Lines 2F): Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma, Kyoto Katsugyu Beef Cutlet, Ryukishin LEO Ramen, monjayaki (Kanto-style pan-fried batter), Osaka okonomiyaki, takoyaki, grilled meat, etc.
- Ajinokoji (Shin-Osaka Station on the JR Lines 1F): Osaka okonomiyaki, takoyaki, curry rice, robatayaki (charcoal grill), kushikatsu izakaya, etc.
- Most trains stopping at Shin-Osaka are scheduled trains going to specific destinations, so there may not be too much time for you to take a look around the area after satisfying your stomach.
- Do your shopping instead in the area of the train station you have access to after entering with a ticket. The shops here are stocked with interesting trinkets that will be great souvenirs and there are also branches of big-name food brands like Rikuro and Pablo cheesecake that you can take food away from.
- The best part about this plan? There's no need to wait in long lines like at their main shops since people rarely do their shopping in this manner, so you'll get to enjoy tasty edibles of equal quality for a fraction of the time than you would have otherwise.
The Latest and Tastiest in Shin-Osaka
This shop is located inside a recently renovated area of Eki Marche Osaka, a commercial complex directly connected to Shin-Osaka Station on the JR Lines that officially opened for business on July 14. There is a total of 13 shops here, including famous names like Hokkyokusei Omelet Rice, the first Osaka branch of the famous Hakata kushiyaki (meat on skewers) restaurant Takenoya, and Taishu Shokudo. This is in addition to local favorites like ochazuke and other street food regulars. Three of the shops open from 8 a.m. in the morning and all shops serve food until 11 p.m. at night. That means you can visit at your preferred time of the day or night and still find warm food here ready for consumption!
5. Dobutsuen-mae / Shinsekai / Tennoji
This particular area surrounded by Dobutsuen-mae Station, Ebisucho Station near the popular tourist place of interest Tsutenkaku, and Tennoji Station - all found on the Osaka Metro - is the last foodie stop for this article. It takes about 10 minutes to reach on foot from the stations.
Using Ebisucho Station as a destination point, a train ride down from Namba will take about 15 minutes, whereas one from Umeda will take about 25 minutes.
The Shinsekai shopping street, in its full retro glory, is one of the most eye-catching attractions of the area. This is also where the kushikatsu, one of Osaka's most well-known local specialties, was born, so you can expect to taste the authentic, original flavor from shops like Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma or any of the inexpensive yet amazingly tasty izakayas selling them here.
Even if kushikatsu is not your thing, you can always look for the sushi, beef sandwich, Japanese canteen, or trendy cafe of your dreams here, with the added benefit of not having to break the bank for any of them because of how reasonably-priced everything is!
- Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma / Kushikatsu Yaekatsu / Kushikatsu Yokozuna / Kushikatsu Ittoku / Shinsekai Grill Bon / Sennariya Coffee / Taiko Sushi / And whatever else you're feeling like!
- Since you'll be having your meal near Tsutenkaku, it should take little to no effort at all for you to pay this iconic Osaka landmark a visit after filling your tummy.
- Feel free to tickle the statue of Billiken, the god of fortune, on his feet for some good luck as well if you're into that!
- The tallest building in Japan, Abeno Harukas is also located near Tennoji Station and enjoying a vantage view of Osaka from the observation deck of this commercial complex is, in our humble opinion, something that ought to be on your Osaka must-do list.
- Tennoji Zoo in front of Dobutsuen-mae Station is another popular attraction. The zoo has been in operation for over 100 years and the park surrounding it is very children-friendly, making it a great place for travelers with families to have a good time in during any leg of their trip.
The Latest and Tastiest in Tsutenkaku
・Cafe Tonari no Tonari
This is a retro cafe that opened in Tsutenkaku on August 2 serving classic treats of old like banana split, sundae, ice-cream soda, shaved ice, and fruit soda. These can be enjoyed in the cafe or bought as takeaways. The decor of the place reflects its nostalgic menu yet somehow manages to not look dated or out-of-place. The charming atmosphere here will be an excellent backdrop for vloggers or influencers looking for a fresh new place to present their content!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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