Osaka is a beautiful city for many reasons. But there are five things about it that impressed me the most.
Great food is not always expensive.
Public rest rooms are squeaky clean and modern.
Smoking areas are decent.
Locals walk and go around in bikes.
And the 100-yen stores rock!
What inexpensive food means in US dollars and Philippine pesos
For the longest time, I have avoided going to Japan thinking that a few days there will wipe out my savings. Everything is expensive, people said, even the food!
Well, they’re wrong. At least, insofar as Osaka goes. Unless you’re intent on eating exclusively in the “hip” places just so you can earn bragging rights about having dined there (you know who you are), good food in Osaka comes in every price range.
For example, there was a sushi restaurant at Namba Parks where we planned on having dinner one night but was never able to. Too tired. Too bad. Locals were queueing up so the food must be good.
And the price? Just look at the photo above! An order of sushi is anywhere from 100 to 500 yen which translates to US$0.922054 to US$4.61027.
In Philippine pesos, that would be 48.0812 to 240.406. Gee, that’s A LOT cheaper than prices at good Japanese restaurants in Metro Manila!
And then, there are the small places. Small diner types like Yashinoya. Although I wouldn’t say that it was the best meal we had in Osaka, the late lunch we had at Yashinoya was not bad at all.
Soup, rice, salad and meat for two people cost 930 yen (US$8.57521 or PHP447.158). And I swear you won’t have space for dessert in your tummy after a full meal at Yashinoya.
The variety of food at the convenience stores was insane! And I’m not talking about cardboard-quality meals on the go. At Family Mart, oversized onigiri in more ways I could memorize. Didn’t get to try any of it though. What we did try were sandwiches at Lawsons. The egg salad sandwich was so very satisfying.
Public rest rooms are squeaky clean and modern
I have a thing about toilets. I hate filthy public rest rooms. In Osaka, the only less than squeaky clean public rest room I encountered was at the train station during morning rush hour. But even that was cleaner compared to really bad ones I’ve experienced.
With that one exception, public rest rooms in Osaka are super clean. Electronic toilets everywhere.
And for mothers with babies in tow, some cubicles in public women’s rest rooms have a baby seat attached in a corner of the wall. Sit your baby there and you have both hands free to do your business. Isn’t that convenient? And thoughtful?
There were confusing signs though. I presumed that like everywhere else, the instructions in the photo above means dispose of your tissue in the trash can, not in the toilet bowl. But the “O” and “X” confused me. I’m more used to a check mark for “do” and an x mark for “don’t.” The text below the symbols appears to clarify everything but what if that’s a case of “lost in translation”? Don’t trash clog water drainage? So, I just did as I always do: throw the tissue in the trash can.
Locals walk and go around in bikes (it’s great exercise!)
Sumo wrestlers may be overweight but, on the streets of Osaka, seeing obese people is rare. It might have something to do with the Japanese diet and the fact that the locals do a lot of walking and biking.
And by biking, I don’t mean the foul-smelling scooters that are so popular in other parts of Asia. I mean bikes as in bikes that you pedal.
They have the weather for it. You won’t break into a sweat walking for hours in the fall and early winter. But I don’t know if the locals walk and bike as much in the summer when the temperature in Osaka soars to as high as 38C. I wouldn’t even go outdoors in that kind of heat.
Smoking areas are decent
The anti-smoking campaign has reached Japan but Japan has a classy solution for people who still choose to smoke.
In Namba Parks, the smoking area is hidden at the basement of the building. I got lost locating it but when I did find it, I was wide-eyed.
The smoking room is equipped with vendo machines, ash trays that swing inward so the cigarette butts don’t accumulate on the surface and air filters to keep the room from turning foggy with smoke.
Of course, not all smoking rooms are that nice. In smaller (and more provincial) cities like Kyoto and Nara, the smoking areas are just corners of some building with an oversized ash tray or two.
100-yen stores rock!
When I was reading up on Japan before the trip, I learned about 100-yen stores. But since there were warnings all over that you get what you pay for at such cheap prices, you can’t expect to buy anything of good quality. So, I didn’t really seek out 100-yen stores.
But, at 0101 (a mall just across Swissotel where we stayed), we went shopping and we found ourselves on a floor with so many cute items. Christmas paper cups and napkins, small kitchen tools and even shoe inserts.
We had basketfuls of stuff and, as we queued up to pay, we realized that we had no idea how much the items cost. My friend, Kat, and I were talking about the lack of price tags when my eyes wandered above her head (she’s so much taller than I am) and saw the sign on a post. All items cost 100 yen. Less than US$1.
I looked at all the other posts and the same sign was there. Funny. We were so intent on looking downward at the stuff we wanted to buy that we never bothered looking above the shelves of merchandise.
Where the 100-yen stuff of poor quality? Not if you choose well. Seriously.