The Foodie Travels of a Chinese Exchange Student—What to Eat in Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka

The Foodie Travels of a Chinese Exchange Student—What to Eat in Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka
It was a certain day in August: barely able to stand the consecutive days of sweltering summer heat, I felt the desire to take a trip somewhere with someone, so I traveled to Kansai (western Japan) with a friend.They say the two great pleasures of the journey are going out for food and going out for fun, and for me, great eats are an absolute must when I go traveling.

On this trip, I spared no delicious dish while I ate my way around the Kansai area, and I’d like to introduce to you the food and the locales I enjoyed in Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka.

Kobe’s Kitano Ijikan + Dessert

Kobe is widely famed as one of the representative Japanese port towns. For an island nation like Japan, the streets of Kobe naturally came to be a thriving hub of trade with maritime development. In the early modern period, this was a port of entry into Japan for many foreigners. With many European-style buildings, Kobe became a city with its own fashion. Even the Starbucks shops here are done up stylishly, and one area with a particularly chic feel is Kitano Ijinkan.
Kobe Japan Travel
Kobe Japan Travel
Kobe Japan Travel
Most importantly, this is also a part of town for eating dessert. Of course, the desserts you can have elsewhere are equally as scrumptious, but something about dining in a stylish atmosphere only adds to a dish’s deliciousness. We went in summer, so the dessert du jour was ice cream, eaten while walking. Even on a 36 °C day, it left us feeling cool.
Kobe Japan Travel
Indispensable as they are for the streets of a European-style district, cafes can be found throughout. It’s lovely to take a break from walking and stop in at one for “tea time.” There are also quite a number of shops selling souvenirs, and if you’re not worried about the extra luggage, I recommend getting your shopping done here.

Speaking personally for what I feel are the absolute must-eats of Kobe, I’d like to nominate Kobe and Tajima beef, akashiyaki (a dish similar to takoyaki), as well as the local pudding.

Gion + O-men

A traditional town steeped in a truly Japanese atmosphere, Kyoto is massively popular among overseas tourists. Heading to Kyoto, what we wanted was of course Japanese-style food. After yatsuhashi (a triangular sweet) and matcha ice cream on the road to Kiyomizu Temple, I made my way to Gion. It was just lunchtime when I got off the subway at Gion-Shijo Station, so we stopped in at a nearby Japanese restaurant called “O-men.”

The shop had a Japanese aura throughout, which I particularly felt when I saw the writing on their traditional menu. Done in ink on gorgeous paper, I thought the menu was incredibly beautiful.
Kyoto Japan Travel
I ordered their house noodles with a serving of tempura, going for a serving of thin udon noodles.After a little wait, out came my dish, accompanied by an amazing aroma.
Kyoto Japan Travel
I got not only the noodles and tempura, but also noodle condiments and local vegetables! It was pure bliss to take a mouthful of noodles together with those local vegetables dipped in broth. The noodles themselves were marvelous and went down easily, and the seasonal vegetables were tasty, too. By the way, the tempura was a delight, as well: crunchy and flavorsome. O-men was perfect! If you happen to go there, I recommend ordering their house noodles with tempura.

Thinking that a place this delicious had to be famous, I did some research when I got back and, not surprisingly, it’s quite the reputed restaurant. The main shop is by Ginkaku-ji, but there’s also one at Kodai-ji, too. If you’re going around the spots in Kyoto, be sure to have a bite to eat there!

Dotonbori + a Variety of Delicious Things

Dotonbori is a lively section of an already lively city, Osaka. Billboards hang from every conceivable surface, big enough to make you worry about what would happen if one of them fell down. Around here, it’s nothing but delicious food. And having come this far, we were completely ravenous, of course.

First and foremost, we went for takoyaki (batter balls filled with delicious octopus).
Osaka Japan Travel
Somehow, the takoyaki in Osaka had a different feel from what I’d eaten in Tokyo. Whether it really was different or just my imagination, I don’t know. At any rate, it was glorious!
Osaka Japan Travel
Behind the Kuidaore Ningyo clown doll were ningyo-yaki (sponge cake filled with bean paste). When my friend went to buy some, the lady at the shop happened to ask her where she was from. After talking a bit, not only did she praise my friend’s Japanese skills, but she threw in an extra ningyo-yaki! How very Osakan, right? Of course, it was delicious.
Osaka Japan Travel
Doing nothing but trying to devour the best of Osaka’s dishes will tired you out: just as we were thinking that we wanted to sit down somewhere, a tasty-looking shaved ice shop appeared before us. Without hesitation, we let ourselves be drawn in, and I ordered their most popular flavor, kinako (toasted soybean flour).
This one was amazing, too! Shaved to a very fine grain, this dessert was pleasantly crunchy. The exquisite balance struck between the kinako and the almonds made for a mellow sweetness. The shaved ice here fills your mouth then melts.
Osaka Japan Travel
The serving I got was huge, so I was worried that by the time I ate the kinako on top there’d only be ice left. However, even within the ice there was some kinako. Thanks to that, the dish was evenly delectable from start to finish.

With that, the story of my Kansai travels comes to an end. I’m sure quite a few of you are feeling a little hungry after reading this, aren’t you?

A twenty-five year old from Beijing, Rida is an exchange student in the International Area Studies program, which is part of the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Science at Tsukuba University. A familiarity with Japanese anime in her childhood piqued her interest in Japan.

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