Okonomiyaki Time!

We bust it from Namba Oasis back down to Dotonbori to the address Andrew has given us for the okonomiyaki place. I’ve heard about okonomiyaki a few times so far on the trip and I’d also heard that it rox in Osaka so I’m mega pumped about this. Plus meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen in over a decade and catching up on their stories is something I just love.

We traverse the busy streets of glitzy Dotonbori and find the place no problem. Walk in and there’s my old buddy Andrew looking like a million fucking bucks. Giant man hug and an introduction to his wife, Miari, who is a stunning Japanese girl he’s met here and recently married. We exchange congrats on their wedding and our own recent engagement. The server brings over some menus and we order up a round of highballs. The menu looks numz x 1kk.

Okonomiyaki is an interesting pancake hybrid that they fill with… what looks like most everything you can think of. The menu here is a little overwhelming with an insane number of options but since we’re with a couple of locals I leave it in their capable hands. Devil’s tongue? Whatever that is, I suggest we throw down on it. Meat muscle? I love these nonsensical translations. Miari takes the lead and confidently puts in a number of okonomiyaki variations.

We start catching up and swapping stories and it’s just about as perfect a dinner setting as it gets. We need a pic!

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Andrew’s friend Pat comes in with his girlfriend Mikki and we all get introduced. Their followed shortly by Rodney and Saki. Good posse we’ve rounded up, lot’s of character in the okonomiyaki joint now.

Food hits the table and it looks scrumtrulescent. Just a stacked mix of fried batter, shredded meat, sauce, cheese and green onion. It sizzles on a sheet of tinfoil melting itself into a tower of melty taste magic. We get a tiny spatula to split it up into bite sized portions and transfer it to our plates. What a great way to share food.

Oknomiyaki instantly launches to one of my top five favorite foods on the planet. The variety of ingredients stuffed in these glorious melting pools leaves each one with a unique taste. The Devil’s tongue isn’t nearly as diablo scorcho as I would have expected but damn it’s good. We’re in the thick of it now.

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Andrew describes that he’s been here teaching English basically since the year after school. He tried out the GIS thing at a company in Canada for a bit but the office life just really didn’t jive for him. I sympathize with him as often times I look at my job surroundings and find that I don’t quite fit in and, aside from being good at it, it makes no damn sense to me why I’d be doing it.

Andrew has also just received his doctorate, warranting another round of congrats. He’s been teaching at a university in Osaka and focusing not only on English but also Cultural Studies. His efforts have garnished him a doctorate degree from the University and he says adding the Cultural Studies courses to the curriculum has made things more interesting for him in recent years.

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We kick into a discussion of Asian character types and an observed Japanese personality border, as in they seem a little reserved and it’s hard to get them to open up (I’d say present company excluded as these three lovely ladies feel as warm and friendly as it gets. Actually we’ve met a bunch of great characters thus far on the trip, but overarchingly I agree).  He says people from Osaka seem to have a little more in the personality department though.

Andrew also mentions that in his travels around the whole area he’s noticed that the Taiwanese don’t have this hold up. He thinks they’re the friendliest of the lot. I’d have to agree (completely unbiased w a Taiwanese fiance, I know). After the SEA trip, Taiwan/Hong Kong and now Japan, I’d still rank the Taiwanese at the top on the outgoing, personable, friendly and fun scales. Also they’re just downright funny, always cracking jokes, busting balls and trying to make you laugh. Queenie comes by it honestly.

Miari and Andrew also drop a hilarious story about their cat Chili being tenacious during their wedding pics and scratching an Aunt. It was great to hear them tell it in tandem but I’ll never do it justice here.

We pound back a mule load of delicious okonomiyaki and highballs and soon decide it’s time to move on to a bar of some sort. Andrew says he’ll join for a drink but has to hit the hay early-ish as he’ll be working in the morning. Miari calls him ‘Grandpa’ haha and he admits to dropping at 930 on school nights to be prepped for early work days. Fair enough.

Our dinner posse gets out to the streets and it’s just a short walk to a nearby bar. Along the way Rodney hooks us up with some road rockets from a vending machine. He has to put his ID in the ‘Liquor Shop’ and grabs a few beers for the walk. This drinking on the streets thing is incredible.

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They mention that Japanese citizenship is nigh impossible to get. It takes 10 years of living in Japan to qualify for permanent residence.

We pass by a strip of fun looking clubs and Saki points out the bar that Pat and Mikki met in awwwwwwwww. Those two own and run a craft burger spot in town. I’ll have to find some time to drop in oun that. Saki starts singing as we stroll down the street (karaoke foreshadowing?).

We pass by some other interesting street side sights. Interesting locations on this one.

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And I actually have no idea what’s going on here… Lipstick for men?

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We tell the crew about our secret craft beer mission and they drop a few places here in Osaka for us to check out: Garage 39, Tenma and Beer belly. Pat tells me that booking things in advance is key. I say we approach things like Israeli Pescatarians now. He opens up Tabelog.com/en on his phone and gives me the run down. Looks like a good way to sort and filter out food options in a city and place bookings. Pro tip!

We roll up on a spot called Fusion Bar and the eight of us pile into the place. Cool looking spot with ambient green lighting above a long bar with backlit bottles. We’re greeted by a guy who might be the owner, might be named Tony and might be Australian (It’s a little hazy, don’t quote me on that). Looks like this place has a number of fusion cocktails, hence the name, and infused alcohols. I like it already.

We order some cocktails and mingle it up. This is a good group to hang with. Everyone’s fun and smart, instantly friendly and approachable. Good humor. Gives me a taste of what living in Osaka might be like and it doesn’t seem like a bad thing in the slightest.

Grooooup Phooooto!

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(Left to right: Jonathan, Andrew, Mikki, Saki, Rodney, Miari, Queenie, Pat)

Quick comparison between Pat and Todd from Bojack Horseman… hmmmm almost.

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As promised, Andrew and Miari dip out after the drink. It’s been great catching up and I can’t thank him enough for the dinner and hooking me up w Rodney and the crash pad. We’ve got another day here at least and will also be back to fly out at the end of the trip from Osaka, so we agree to keep in touch and hang again if it’s in the cards.
Hugs, congrats, byes.

Tony (maybe?) hooks Saki up with what looks like a video game controller that has a screen on it. It’s a karaoke machine! Wha? The house speakers turn into whatever Saki requests on the handheld and she starts belting out a song. Wow, that’s awesome. This joint just turned into a karoake bar in a split second.

We toss in a few songs and another round of drinks. Rodney knows another karaoke place if we wanna do that up? Sure, why not? We thank Tony and Rodney leads us outside and down the street a bit. We head into what looks like an apartment building. We take the elevator up and then pass by a number of boarded up doors and graffiti. Where are you taking us? Seems a little dicey but I’m game.

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Down the hall we come to an open door with music playing from it. I guess this is the place

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Inside is a dimly lit room that’s basically empty of people. Rodney rolls up and gets a handshake from the owner. Looks like we have the place to ourselves, let the karaoke bonanza begin!

Everyone gets a turn throwing in the hits and it does not disappoint. We get some drinks, sing and dance along. The song picks are fantastic: Pat and Mikki duet out a Akb48 pop tune, Saki and Rodney sing the theme song to some badass looking anime show, I pull off a rendition of Torn by Natalie Imbruglia (my buddy Nick picked this for me once at karaoke roulette, but that’s a story for another time), Queenie treats us to some Taiwanese pop tunes. Other than that some killer highlights are Don’t Dream it’s over by Crowded House, Candy Candy Candy by Kyari Pamu Pamu, Faith by George Michaels, Best of You from Foo Fighters… they don’t have the Humpty Dance??! Saki puts in a couple of Adele songs and does an amazing job on them and then her and Rodney do ‘A Whole New World’ from the Aladdin soundtrack. We’re all over the place, this is great. Everyone’s really good too!

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Panda panda bukake!

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The guy who runs the place is named Richard. He’s from Regina haha wow. We shoot the shit about Canada for a bit and his experience living in Japan. From what I can gather it’s the bees knees.

We start to wind things down and Pat puts in the song Luka by Suzanne Vega. I’m floored. This is a throwback I would have never expected. His staccato version of ‘My name is Lu-ka. I live on the se-cond floor’ has me falling out of my seat laughing. What the hell, this is amazing.

After landing Luka we’re about done here. The posse stumbles out to the dilapidated hallways that lead us here and back to street level. It’s a short hop through town with a medley of karaoke tunes filling the air and smiles on our faces. We get back to Namba Oasis and wish our roomies goodnight. Gotta get up early and catch the train back to finish off Kyoto

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