If you live to eat and throw back a craft beer, Osaka needs to be on your travel to-do list. Japan’s third-largest city is known as “the nation’s kitchen” for its rich culinary heritage, ranging from street-food treats to standout fine dining.
With a more relaxed, party vibe than Tokyo, neon-lit Osaka also boasts a bustling nightlife and a thriving craft beer scene, making it ideal for a foodie adventure.
Hungry? Here’s how to feast your way around Osaka.
For the best street food…
Head straight to the buzzing Dotonbori district to find the city’s best takoyaki, aka octopus balls.
Not quite as eye-opening as it sounds, this Osakan snack is actually a bite-sized sphere of batter stuffed with octopus, spring onion and ginger. Crispy on the outside and molten in the middle, they’re a moreish treat at any time of day.
You’ll find plenty of stalls flipping takoyaki in Dotonbori – follow the queues or look for the huge red octopus sign marking the location of Kukuru Dotonbori Souhonten, one of the most famous takoyaki eateries in the city.
For a blow-out meal…
The two-Michelin-starred Fujiya 1935 is a guaranteed winner. Originally a humble udon noodle joint, it’s evolved into a fine-dining destination, serving a degustation of European-style dishes with a delicate Japanese twist. Don’t miss the wasabi pasta!
For something different…
Try “Japanese pizza”. Unique to Osaka, okonomiyaki is more like a pancake – a savoury batter is filled with your choice of pork, seafood, cheese and veggies, cooked till crisp then slathered with a savoury-sweet sauce and seaweed flakes.
Served flat and round like a pizza, okonomiyaki is just as comforting as the Italian classic.
Get your fill at the low-key Fukutaro restaurant in the shopping district of Namba.
To wash it all down…
Raise a glass of Osakan craft beer. You’ll find the best brews at Minoh Beer Warehouse, an award-winning microbrewery run by three sisters. The standout tipple on tap? Minoh Wiezen, a banana-flavoured beer infused with cloves.
The brewery is located near the pretty Minoh Falls in the north of Osaka, making it a refreshing place to stop for lunch on a day trip.
Minoh also runs two small inner-city bars called Beer Belly, which serve a selection of its classic hits and seasonal offerings.
For a late-night feed…
You need ramen. Ichiran Ramen (locations around Osaka) has a devoted following – it specialises in tonkotsu ramen (made with a pork-based broth) and you can personalise toppings and noodle firmness to your heart’s content.
If ramen is too hearty for you, try kitsune udon, a light noodle soup invented in Osaka in the 19th century. Silky udon noodles are served in dashi broth and topped with deep-fried tofu for a deeply nourishing meal.
Enjoy a bowlful at the long-running Byakuan in the Yodogawa Ward.
To test your limits…
Feast on fugu (puffer fish). It’s a daredevil dining experience because if the chef doesn’t prepare this poisonous fish properly, even a tiny morsel can be lethal. Thankfully, chefs require training and a licence to safely serve fugu.
If you’re up for the thrill, Zuboraya in the heart of Dotonbori specialises in this Osakan delicacy. Just be prepared to pay the price, as (potentially) deadly fish don’t come cheap!
If even the slightest mention of beer has got you thirsty and curious about Osaka’s craft beer scene, check out BWS’ World’s Biggest Beer Run, co-hosted by actor Tai Hara. In the above video, they search for the most interesting craft breweries around the globe to create the rarest six-pack. You can enter to win one of the six-packs here.