A Very Veggie Weekend in Osaka.

After two months living in Okayama, the tempt of a big city was too much and a friend and I planned a weekend getaway to Osaka for bright lights, shopping extravaganzas, and some much needed evening entertainment.
I challenged my friend Eloise (a real vegetarian unlike myself - the veggie life in Japan is pretty difficult,  but I'm really trying) to a very veggie weekend and using Happy Cow, we ate our way around the world for a weekend.  It was nothing short of absolutely spectacular and I imagine we could have rolled back to Okayama quicker than the three hour bus.

Anyway, here's an overview of what went down...

I have to admit I'm a big baking fan (Deliberate double meaning). Japan makes that pretty problematic because ovens aren't really a thing. In my apartment I have what can only be described as an oversized toaster, and it's not even very good at that. However, with the trusted help of our old friend Google, I have been introduced to the whole new concept of rice cooker cakes. The results have been... varied... but the winner so far has been the humble banana bread. After successfully consuming half for dinner while we packed our bags, my travel buddy Eloise and I tin-foiled the rest for brekkie on the bus. It was the perfect start to our foodie adventure.

We arrived in our tiny apartment to dump the bags and headed straight out to Dotonbori for some bright light excitement. Though very cold, we wandered up and down the river and stopped in a waterside bar for a couple of cassis orange cocktails and some edamame to snack on before dinner.

What followed was possibly the tastiest curry I have ever had in my life. So good, in fact, that neither of us took pictures or spoke for all of the five minutes it took to demolish dumplings, curries and naans so enormous even we struggled (who am I kidding we could have eaten ten). Shama Restaurant is a completely vegetarian restaurant tucked away off the main drag, but very easy to find on google maps - big up Happy Cow for telling us about that one! With full tummies and feeling optimistic about veggie options, we wandered in the direction of home to see what else we could find.

What we found... was something even we could not have imagined. Called Dessert Cafe, we decided we had to see what was on offer, and proceeded to order 'cinnamon toast' and 'chocolate toast'.

What we received, was not much less than a whole loaf of bread.

Were we already full? Yes. Did we eat it all? Of course we did.

At that point we waddled our way home and laughed at how we hadn't had any Japanese food all day. Little did we know that would only continue!

We headed out late the next morning to Eggs 'n Things for a veggie friendly fry-up. Filled the spot and the pancakes we saw other people ordering were out of this world. We laughed at the waitresses who, in a very Japanese way, were yelling 'Aloha!' instead of 'irasshaimase!' at everyone who walked through the door. It was a little full on for a saturday morning but nevertheless, if you're after a decent mushroom, egg and spinach combo this place will do the trick. Sadly, no inspiring vegan options but the search continues.

What followed was a particularly stressful couple of hours at the Hokusai exhibition, packed together like sardines as we shuffled past artwork which deserved far more space than it was given. We escaped the exhibition and even more packed gift shop and took a breather on the outdoor garden terrace. It was unfortunately raining but the fresh air and calmer atmosphere was much needed!

View from the 16th floor of the Abeno Haruka building where the exhibition took place

 The rain cleared up as we went on a lunch hunt. Now I'm not much of a cheese or dairy fan - which makes Japan a great place for me - but we ordered a Pizza in Cafe Absinthe and it was absolutely wonderful. The tomato baked eggs were great too - proper Mediterranean/ Italian comfort food. Very authentic, cheap and a cool bar in the evenings, too.

On the next part of our international adventure, we ventured to El Pancho, arguably the most well known Mexican restaurant in Osaka, but surprisingly small and easy to miss. Tucked away on the 8th floor of a building with a tiny lift and minimal signs, we were amazed at this wonderful find. Thanks again, Happy Cow! 

I stole this photo from Eloise

As indecisive as ever, we went for the vegetarian platter which came with burritos, nachos and a whole host of re-fried beans, guac, sour cream and veggies. If that wasn't already good enough, we then chose frozen margaritas from the extensive flavour options (including yuzu, cactus fruit and lychee) and both got brain freezes. Repeatedly. We ate until we couldn't move and left at 11.30 as they were shutting. Still amazed we had yet to eat any Japanese food, we meandered our way home laughing at drunk Japanese men and making friends along the way. 

As if our night couldn't get any better, we happened upon an Irish bar. From here, it got suitably messy and utterly hilarious. An interesting mix of actual Irish people (what are so many of you doing in Japan) a bunch of American servicemen and some interesting Japanese characters. I hadn't expected to be singing 80s music with a tiny Japanese lady in a ballgown as an Indian man enthusiastically danced as the rest of us looked on. Nevertheless, it's an experience we won't forget!

A Japanese man wanted to take a photo of us (on my camera?!) This was his effort

On our final morning, we grabbed breakfast at Genmai Cafe and made our way slowly back to the bus station to catch a ride back to the quiet countryside of Okayama. In the final few hours of our time in Osaka, we managed to squeeze in some Japanese food, at last! It was my first time trying brown rice onigiri and I surprised myself by preferring it to normal white rice. The pumpkin soup was also much appreciated on the coldest day I've experienced in Japan so far.

So, that's a not very short run down of a wonderful weekend. We ate, we drank and we were very, very merry. We both returned with new cosy jumpers and a realisation that even though city life is great, life here in Okayama is much calmer. Being able to escape to the city for a weekend was really great, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this!) it's great to be back with my bike in a less touristy place.

Now it's back to the grind for the last few weeks of the quarter. Christmas is only a month away and I can't wait for a break. This time next month... I'll be sunning it up on a beach in the Philippines. Can't wait!

That's all for now,



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