Day 2: Kuromon Ichiba Market, Osaka Aquarium
Day 2 in Osaka began with us heading over to Kuromon Ichiba Market for breakfast. However, before we went to Kuromon, we stopped off at a small nearby Hozen-Ji Temple (“Ji” means temple). This small temple was built in 1637 and pays homage to Fudo Myoo (one of the 5 Wisdom Kings). It’s located in a small alleyway which is a stark contrast to the bright lights of nearby Dotonbori.
No coins are tossed in offering at Hozen-Ji as they are at other Japanese temples. Instead, the worshippers make their prayers and then splash some water on the statue. Overtime, this has caused the statue to be covered by a lush carpet of moss. When we visited, it was fairly quite with only a few locals stopping by. It’s an interesting, less touristy, look into Japanese Buddhism.
Most people have probably heard of the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. For my money, the Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka is a much better food market. Like Tsukiji, you can find many stalls which sell fresh sushi, sashimi, and grilled seafood. It can be a bit daunting at Kuromon because there are no English signage for the stores. It’s best to have a plan on which stalls that you want to try and then see if you can find a picture of the front of the stall before you go. They also have a website which lists the various shops (in Japanese): www.kuromon.com/. I found their online map, when used in conjunction with Google Maps, was the best way to identify the shops.
The first shop that we stopped at in Kuromon was Marusho Suisan which specializes in grilled seafood. Easily one of the best grilled unagi (freshwater eel) skewers I’ve had.
As you can expect, rice plays a bit part of life in Japan and mochi (a pounded rice cake) is a much loved treat here. The chewiness of mochi is one of the distinctive aspects that you’ll either love or hate. At Mitoya, they serve up grilled mochi that’s lightly dressed with a sweet soy sauce.
But we didn’t come all this way to try mochi. No, the real main event at Kuromon is the fatty tuna. The Kuromon Sanpei shop is one of the best places to try fresh otoro – the fattiest part of the tuna. So rich and fatty!
As you wander the market, you’ll see plenty of stalls where you can grab something to eat. Just remember that not all stalls have seating areas and it’s impossible to find garbage cans in Japan so you’ll most likely wind up standing in front of many of the stalls as you enjoy your snacks.
Like deep-fried fish cakes? Kuromon Furusato is a place where you can pick up pretty a wide variety of fried seafood on the cheap.
But don’t think that Kuromon is only about seafood… they also have steak – and not just any steak… I’m talking about Kobe beef. Kobeya Yakiniku offers a wide selection of the varioius Kobe beef grades and will grill up the steak for you so you can enjoy right on the spot.
After our feast at Kuromon Ichiba Market, we headed to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan which is located in the Tempozan Harbour Village of Osaka Bay (30-40 mins by train).
This is a spectacular aquarium with 15 tanks, each representing a specific region of the Pacific Rim. The central tank is home to the main attraction of the aquarium… the whale shark.
Admission to Kaiyukan is 2300円 and you start your tour from the 8th floor. From there, you slowly spiral down around the central tank. Since some of the tanks span several floors, you get to see different perspectives of the sea life as you continue on your journey.
Sea lions and penguins.
Whale sharks are the largest extant fish species but don’t worry too much because they’re filter-feeders.
I think I found Nemo… and Dory!
They have a cafe at the aquarium where you can enjoy Whale Shark Ice Cream (400円). They did a pretty good job of recreating the look of the whale shark colours and pattern.
After our visit to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, we took the 10 minute Captain Line ferry to Universal City Port. It doesn’t run often so we had to wait a while for the next ferry to arrive. However, we did the math and it probably would have taken us the same time if we took a train because you have to backtrack a lot to get to the other side of the river.
Universal City Port provides access to Universal Studios Japan and Universal CityWalk. We didn’t have enough time to really enjoy Universal Studios so we decided to just do a bit of shopping instead.
Plenty of Peanuts and Snoopy related items here.
And if you’re feeling a bit goofy, you can pick up a hat of of your favourite character. These aren’t just regular hats either… it’s like part of a costume. We saw a few people walking around wearing full Snoopy headgear.
Our first encounter with Eggs ‘n Things was in Waikiki. This famous Hawaiian eatery is known for their all-day breakfast items, fluffy pancakes, and copious use of whipped cream. We came across the Eggs ‘n Things Universal CityWalk and were surprised that it wasn’t busier (in Hawaii, this place would have a long line-up of hungry patrons).
They had their Thanksgiving menu advertised during our visit so we grabbed the Roast Turkey Benedict and paired it with the Berry Dressed Pancakes.
They have a Takoyaki Museum at Universal CityWalk where you can feast on a variety of different takoyaki recipes. It’s set up very similar to the other takoyaki museums that you find in the rest of Japan.
After a long day of sightseeing, we ended up heading over to a small teppanyaki restaurant near our hotel called Araka where we ordered a delicious okonomiyaki with yakisoba.