We visited Osaka in 2014, and 5 years later we came back to this lively city in the Kansai region. This time, we worked remotely in Osaka for 3 days at a coworking space, coffee shops, and a library. Aside from working, we visited Nara for a day and had many good meals every day and night before heading to Kobe.
Lunch at Kuromon Ichiba Market (黑門市場)
Last time we visited the famous Kuromon Market, I got the thickest soymilk I’ve ever had. This trip, we came to have lunch here after I researched online about the vendors. Seafood items seemed to be the most popular in this market, though the price at some stores also went up a lot from the tourists. Tony got a tuna sashimi bowl, and I went for a few oden items (tofu and radish) from Ishibashi Shokuhin (石橋食品) and fried snacks from Tempura Nisshindo (日進堂).
During our last trip, we visited the famous Mizuno okonomiyaki. This time, we wanted to try some variations and found the following two places.
Okonomiyaki with a face at Okaru
Even though it sounds a bit childish, I picked Okaru for its “okonomiyaki art.” The staff used the mayo dressing at the end to draw some patterns after the cooking finished. I recognized the characters our okonomiyaki chef drew instantly – we had Doraemon and Hello Kitty! She seemed a bit surprised that I was familiar with the characters, and I wished my Japanese was good enough to tell her that I grew up with these two “cat” characters (and Doraemon would disagree).
This was our first meal in Osaka, and we waited in the line for about 20 minutes. As suggested by the name, we shared a seafood negiyaki (okonomiyaki with green onions) and a yakisoba. The green onions certainly added a nice distinction from the traditional okonomiyaki.
I had my first beef katsu at Gyukatsu Motomura in Namba, and it was so memorable that I kept searching for beef katsu back in Taiwan. The menu was simple, and it was very unique that we cooked our own beef on a little stone stove up to our preferred degree. The wasabi sauce was my favorite, and the breaded skin balanced the texture of the meat. I’d recommend coming here early, as the restaurant could get smoky after the rush hour started.
Ice cream in a hot dog bun at Ice Dog
After our omurice dinner, we shared a guilty dessert near the American Village. The soft serve was on a donut bun that looks like a hot dog bun, which I hadn’t seen before. Honestly, I enjoyed it a lot – the chocolate & vanilla ice cream went so well with the warm fried bun.
Chicken ramen at Torisoba
We stumbled upon this ramen shop near the coworking space, D-spot-com. They have other locations as well, and the location we went to just had about 10 seats. We waited in line (there was a ticket machine) for about half an hour, and it was totally worthwhile. It was a memorable experience, the presentation and flavor were both on point. We got one tsukemen and one ramen, and the fried shredded gobo topping was such a nice surprise to the texture of the dish.
Omurice at Hokkyokusei (北極星)
We came to this cozy omurice restaurant again, after our fond memory from 5 years ago. In Japan, omurice is a western-influenced dish (yoshoku 洋食); for me, omurice is soul food as it reminded me of my childhood in Taiwan. At this restaurant, we took off our shoes and placed them in a shoe drawer, and sat or kneel on the tatami for the meal. I liked the ambiance a lot, and we both got a combo upgrade with shrimp tempura.
Takoyaki at Wanaka
Since we tried the takoyaki stands at Dotonbori last time, we came to this popular takoyaki restaurant Wanaka on one of the shopping roads with indoor seating area. We went for the takoyaki sampler, with 4 different toppings at an affordable price. The store was a bit quiet at the time, but it was surely popular as they had exciting hiring posters for people who want to work abroad.
Beef sukiyaki / rice box at Honmiyake
This was a spontaneous find on Tabelog, as sukiyaki came up as a perfect choice for the cold weather after a few meals of okonomiyaki. We lined up for a few minutes at the basement food court, after locating the restaurant on the physical map (Google Maps was not so helpful with so many restaurants and stores). They had a simple menu, most often either sukiyaki or steak rice box. We both got sukiyaki, and it was fun watching the staff juggle many orders at the same time. I observed other patrons and it was about half sukiyaki and half steak rice box.
We were a bit surprised that it was not common to see people using a laptop at coffee shops in Osaka. Eventually, chain coffee shops with wifi might be the best bet – Starbucks, Doutor, Tully, etc. Though chain coffee shops usually still have smoking rooms and the coffee was not the same.
I had a pleasant and productive day at this coworking space that featured a “cafe” ambiance. The drop-in rate was just 1000 yen for one day, 9am-5:30pm. The staff was very nice and showed us the coffee area. There were different styles of working areas, and I particularly liked the circular seating area.
Brooklyn Coffee Company – Namba
We spent an afternoon here, working from a long communal table with some people chatting or napping. The space was huge and comfortable for laptop work, with plenty of outlets to charge. The pastry options were limited when we visited, but they also had an alcohol and pizza menu on the side. I liked the ambiance a lot, and it was somewhat soothing hearing the trains go by once in a while. Just a heads up, its Kitahama location is not laptop-friendly – no outlets, small indoor space, but has outdoor seating by the river.
Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library (中之島)
After working at Brooklyn Coffee Company’s Kitahama location awkwardly without outlets, we checked out this public library just a few minute’s walks away. We found a laptop area on the third floor of this historic building, passing by shelves of books in Japanese. The laptop zone provided outlets, and I was able to recharge my laptop and work on refactoring the code with generics for a few hours 😆.
After working remotely in Taiwan for half a year, I was surprised to find that there seemed to be more laptop-friendly local coffee shops in Taipei or Taichung compared to Osaka. Despite the fewer working space options, I enjoyed all the food in this lively city and would not hesitate to come back again – most likely shortly after the Super Nintendo World opens in the Universal Studios in Osaka. For now, I could only hope the coronavirus crisis to pass around the world.
Last but not least, here are our lists of places and itinerary for our visits to Osaka, Nara, and Kobe.