FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.
Air Canada

Osaka Oishi: Navigating the City’s Food Landscape

by Elyse Glickman

Sep 15, 2020

Photo: Elyse Glickman

Destinations / Asia

You could say Osaka is a shapeshifter among cities. Japan’s third-largest city, running at a somewhat slower pace than Tokyo, is a patchwork of big business districts, pretty residential areas and beautiful parks. By night, several of its neighborhoods take on an alluring theme park ambiance. The most obvious is Dōtonbori, an upscale retail oasis that, after sunset, becomes a neon-lit maze of restaurants, bars, comedy clubs, arcades, department stores and massive souvenir emporiums.

Pressed Makerel Sushi in Osaka. Photo: Elyse Glickman

While older teens love Dōtonbori’s dizzying nighttime landscape, Arigato Food Tours offers a night tour through the buzzing neighborhood’s streets, as well as more relaxed food tours in other neighborhoods — all helping newcomers and repeat visitors alike get their bearings in Osaka’s food universe. The guides can also share information on their favorite food spots and hangouts outside the tours, and possess encyclopedic knowledge on Osaka’s food traditions.

 

One of the best new tour offerings is Shinsekai, a section of town once an amusement park (Osaka Luna Park, inspired by New York City’s Coney Island and Paris). At other times, it was a neighborhood of merchants and laborers. In recent years, it transformed into a 21st-century version of the old Luna Park, but with video game arcades and sprawling shops carrying all things kawai (cute), replacing the rides. You will, however, still find old-fashioned carnival games offering plush toys as well as Japanese candy and snacks as prizes.

 

Start of Osaka Arigato Tour. Photo: Elyse Glickman

 

Shinsekai’s alleys and lanes hide a variety of treasures — hidden eateries displaying how the practical, affordable food of Osaka’s working class evolved into delicacies and a source of local pride. Sohonke Tsuriganeyahonpo specializes in tsurigane manju pastries filled with red bean paste, chestnuts, bananas and other fillings. These whimsical sweets are modeled after a bell from 1900, adorning the sixth-century landmark Shitennoji Temple. Other surprises in a Shinsekai tour include pressed mackerel sushi (oshizushi) that’s dense in texture and flavor, breaded and fried Kushikatsu skewers washed down with cold sake or yuzu craft beer, and D.I.Y. octopus balls (takoyaki) in a garage-meets-antique-shop setting.

 

Arigato Food Tour, Osaka Bakery. Photo: Elyse Glickman

 

Instead of Ninja cosplay with a chaser of takoyaki, history buffs and home chefs will enjoy a trip to Tower Knives, on the cutting edge of cutlery since the 1600s. The sales staff will guide customers through the company’s history and a few demos, as well as the making and use of its bestsellers. (Be sure to have a passport in hand if you intend to purchase an “investment” for your kitchen in the States, and be prepared for a few minutes of paperwork.)

 

Your teens will probably remind you, there is no better place than an indie coffee bar to blend in with regulars and feel effortlessly hip while enjoying fresh-baked goods, sandwiches and innovative twists on caffeine treats. Dragon Coffee, in the Shinsekai neighborhood, is both a gallery showcasing the owner’s art glass and his sophisticated coffee creations. While Sennarya retains the trappings of an old-school coffee shop, it’s also known as the forerunner of the modern smoothie shop. In its earlier incarnation as a produce market in the late 1940s, it created “mixed fruit juice” to prevent overripe fruit from going to waste. Another arty coffee spot worth checking out is B Per Coffee, which serves juicy burgers, Japanese curries, ambient jazz and an inviting array of fresh-baked goodies.

OnigiriBurger. Photo: Elyse Glickman

Kuromon Ichiba, the city’s central market, is unquestionably a daytime tourist draw during daytime hours — what’s not to like among the fresh juice stations, Kobe beef skewer vendors, tiny sushi bars and specialty grocers? That said, there are a few standouts: OnigiriBurger’s rice and nori “rolls” holding inventive mixes of sandwich fillings; Fukahiro’s mixed seafood-topped rice bowls (kaisen don); and the 120-year-old Iseya Main Store, specializing in Japanese pickles (tsukemono). With hundreds of stalls competing for your attention, however, Arigato’s market tour can help you distinguish the best from the rest.

 

Finally, just like larger train stations in Japan’s major cities, you’re also bound to find a myriad of tasty treasures above and underground at Shin-Osaka, from adjoining department store food court to always-reliable Lawson’s mini-markets (purveyors of perfect on-the-go snacks) to bustling branches of local and national Japanese fast food chains and bakeries. There are also several excellent sit-down restaurants known for Osaka-style Okonomiyaki, including Yamamoto Umeda Est One and Tomiko.

#WhereverFamily

Insta Feed
Travel Tips
Feb 19, 2021

Tips for Celebrating Purim at Home from Israel Ministry of Tourism

On the evening of Feb. 25, people around the world will celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim commemorates Queen Esther’s rescue of the Jewish people from Haman, the King’s henchman. While COVID-19 is forcing people to rethink the way they celebrate, families can still commemorate the day in fun and unique ways from home.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Card Launches BoldFamilyTravel.Chase.com

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Card recently launched BoldFamilyTravel.Chase.com, an interactive, online resource allowing families to plan future travel together. The launch followed the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Card Survey of parents and grandparents that revealed most parents believe children are important resources for planning family vacations and that one-third of parents don’t currently involve their children in planning but would like to.

Listicles
Feb 17, 2021

2 Hotel Openings You Might’ve Missed in 2020

We missed a lot in the chaos of 2020 — from public spaces with the kids and close encounters with friends to international travel and new domestic hotel openings.

Age Specific / Adult Children
Feb 16, 2021

AdventureWomen Celebrates 40th Anniversary with a Sale

AdventureWomen, the tour operator specializing in adventure travel tours for women, celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022. To commemorate the special anniversary, the tour operator offers travelers an early-bird discount to those booking 2022 trips.

Travel Tips
Feb 9, 2021

The Dandelion Pub: Cozy Family Dining in Philadelphia

With indoor dining finally (mostly) reopened in Philadelphia, my mom, sister and I were able to enjoy a day roaming around the city, eager for a warm place to enjoy a late lunch after a cold day out and about. For anyone who recently enjoyed the creativity and ingenuity of the city’s outdoor winter dining, an indoor space with heat, cozy furniture and rich wood walls is a much-appreciated semblance of normalcy.

Travel Tips
Feb 8, 2021

5 Tips for Planning the Perfect Stowe Getaway

For those who want an unforgettable, relaxing family vacation to Stowe, Vermont, Topnotch Resort offers five insider tips for planning the perfect, stress-free getaway: