A few months ago, while looking through my stuff, I found a miniature kite with a Japanese woodblock print. It brought me back to my unforgettable trip to the Kansai region of Japan.
The free English guidebook we picked up near our Shin-imamiya hotel recommended an okonomiyaki place nearby, so I thought we should give it a shot. Okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancake, is one of Osaka’s famous foods, so we were going to encounter it at some point, and it would be a shame to miss it.
It wasn’t that late yet, but the side streets were dark and the covered arcade that we had wandered into on our first night already looked deserted. We turned into a lane that I was certain was the right one. Sure enough, we stumbled upon a small store front a few steps later. Printed on the awning were the words: Okomonomiyaki Chitose.
The place was tiny, with few chairs and only a couple of other patrons. On its walls were autographs on white paper marked with the date on the lower right border, each square sheet sheathed behind a plastic cover. In the centre was the menu in Japanese, hung on bamboo mats. I let my companion order their standard okonomiyaki for both of us.
I had never tried okonomiyaki before because it is not so common in Japanese restaurants as the standard rice, noodles and sushi. The cook added layer upon layer on the iron teppan, or flat grill. He cooked multiple orders at once and knew how long each one needed to cook before flipping over. Batter, seafood, noodles, green onions, a lot of sauce and toppings were piled up into a meal good for two, or even three. I was dumbfounded at how stuffed it was.
When it was ready to eat, the okonomiyaki tasted strange to me because of the competing flavours. It was a circus in my mouth, and it was so large I couldn’t finish it. But the cook was so gracious and happy to see foreigners that he even gave us tiny kites with woodblock prints to take home as souvenir. I just looked them up and apparently ukiyo-e print kites are flown during the New Year. And with that, I wish you a wonderful adventure-filled year ahead! Let’s travel!