Japan: Eat ‘Til You Drop

Any culture celebrating some form of excess has a phrase to go along with it. In America, a country of consumers, it’s “shop ‘til you drop.” In Korea, a country of alcoholics and binge drinkers, it’s “drink ‘til you die.” And in Osaka, Japan, a town full of hard-working foodies, it’s “eat ‘til you fall down.”

Kuidaore, a phrase derived from the proverb, “dress (in kimonos) ‘til you drop in Kyoto, eat ‘til you drop in Osaka,” has become synonymous with the Japanese metropolis. It’s not uncommon for a businessman to spend all his earnings on food, nor to eat at three different restaurants in one night.

In fact, this is exactly what I did. And it’s exactly why I’m typing this wearing sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt.

Takoyaki (octopus dumplings), yakitori (grilled chicken parts), sushi, sashimi, udon and ramen. Soba, tempura and Okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake containing anything from red ginger to bacon, topped with brown sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes). To say that Osaka (and Kyoto) had good food would be like saying the Louvre in Paris has some decent art on its walls.

Six days, five pounds on my ass. Totally worth it.

yakatoriFirst meal in Kyoto: Yakitori.

yakitoriGrilled chicken leg and chicken livers.

chicken neckThe yakitori chef’s recommendation: chicken neck. Delicious!

dateThe yakitori chef and me closing the restaurant down. He took me on a date the next night!

sobaThe soba noodles Tai Chi (the chef) tried to teach me how to slurp…I failed miserably.

sashimiThe best sashimi I’ve ever had.

ramenREAL ramen noodles are boiled egg noodles, not that fried shit you get in a bag with flavored powder. These came in a thick, rich pork broth with thin slices of pork on top.

sushiMy third meal of the night: eight plates of sushi!

tempuraAn assortment of tempura.

KushikatsuKushikatsu=basically anything you want, fried on a stick.

UdonHomemade udon noodles wrapped in Kobe Beef=orgasm on a stick.

octopusYet another dish on a stick…this time? Octopus with a quail egg stuffed in its head. Not my favorite.

picklePickled everything.

soft boiled eggI went to a restaurant and pointed to four things on the menu. Since I can’t read Japanese, I hoped for the best. One of the highlights: a soft-boiled egg.

green tea ice creamGreen tea ice cream was the perfect way to beat the heat. And it was available everywhere.

okonomiyakiOutside a temple, okonomiyaki was being cooked and served by a high school boy.

OkThe name “okonomiyaki” is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked.”

osakaOsaka’s famed Dotonbori Street.

TakoyakiTakoyaki, Japanese dumplings made of batter, diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion, topped with okonomiyaki sauce, ponzu, mayonnaise and fish shavings.

MeeSo hot.

EatingOnce I regained feeling in my mouth, I was able to conclude that these hot octopus balls were worth my trip to Osaka.

Japanese MenOn my last night, in my fourth restaurant in Osaka, I met two 50-year-old Japanese businessmen. Although they didn’t speak any English, our shared passion for Kuidaore led us to hours of eating and drinking. They even paid the bill.

The guide books were right: Great food, and even greater people.

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