Monday, November 3, 2014

Hawaii and Japan, 2014 - 11/2 - Day 17 - Osaka Off-day

Pancake Benedicts at Pancake Days
Our first day in Osaka was a bit of a down day. It was raining, we were tired, neither of us wanted to do a whole lot. Osaka, to be honest, doesn't have a lot of particularly memorable sights, so we didn't feel too bad about spending a day doing relatively little. One of Osaka's main attractions is the aquarium, so we made that our top priority for the day. 
First off though, we had it in our heads to have pancakes for breakfast. We found a place rated on Yelp fairly highly for their pancakes, so we went off in search of Pancake Days, which was located in one of the vast multilevel department stores that Japan is crazy about. It turned out that the pancake restaurant was located on the kids floor of the department store, and we felt a little weird walking through it trying to find the restaurant. We had almost decided to give up - the weirdness was getting to us - when we found a map that guided us to the restaurant. Blessedly, there were some adults in the place without kids, so we felt a little more at ease eating there. Pancake Days was still more or less a children's restaurant. All the pancakes had smiley faces on them. I opted for a "pancake benedict" with poached eggs and hollandaise and bacon. It was pretty acceptable, and a nice change of pace from the fish and/or french pastry based breakfasts we were becoming familiar with.
Side note, all the grade-school kids in Japan have these bad-ass leather/vinyl backpacks that I've fallen in love with. I totally wanted one, and the department store we had breakfast in had them, but, and I'm not kidding here, they ran upwards of 600-800 dollars for the leather ones. I assume kids use them for many years, because the costs seem outrageous for them. Anyway, I still want one, but I'm going to need to find a much better deal than that to convince me to buy.
After breakfast, it was aquarium time.
If you squint, you can almost see a seal
The Osaka aquarium is vast, with over 11,000 tons of water and a 750 meter path winds its way up and down through the tanks. The facility specializes in aquatic life from all over the Pacific Rim and has dolphins, sea lions and even a small whale shark in an enormous tank as part of the central exhibit.
We were not the only ones who thought it was a good idea to go to the aquarium on a rainy Sunday. It felt like half of Osaka joined us, and the combination of the enclosed space, the crush of people, and the visual distortion caused by the foot thick acrylic they used in the tanks, was disorienting after about an hour in the enclosure. By the time we were done with the aquarium, we were pretty much done for the day as well. We went back to the apartment and rested before heading out to dinner later on at an extremely popular ramen joint near the apartment.
The ramen joint was called Muteppou, and it had a line out the door - a clear indication in Osaka of a good restaurant. After a half-hour wait we ordered from a ticket machine entirely in Japanese - it's my theory in these places that if you order the most expensive thing on the ticket menu, you'll usually do fine, so I got a 1300 yen ramen, which amounts to about 13 dollars. 
Deliciously Sludgy Ramen at Muteppou.
Needed some Sansho though...
It turned out that major difference between my ramen and Sean's, who got a 750 yen bowl, was more broth, and a boiled egg, which suited me fine. The waiter informed us in English that there were three decisions to make for your ramen in their shop - thickness and type of noodle, thickness of soup. He recommended going standard across the board since it was our first time in the restaurant. The ramen there is of the "sludgy" variety, which is a bit of a gross description, but it just means they thicken the broth, and it lends a creaminess to the base. It was good ramen. Very good. It was made better in both our opinions by a spicy, salty garlic condiment that they had on the table, that we eventually used in quantity.
Full of soup, tired as all hell, we retired to the apartment. The next day was going to be sunny and cooler, and had a few surprises for us...

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