Osaka, The Nation’s Kitchen

Osaka is Japan’s second largest metropolitan area and among the largest in the world with 19 million inhabitants. The popular expression it is the “nation’s kitchen” (天下の台所, tenka no daidokoro) might well refer to its abundant and diverse culinary offerings in today’s modern city, but the moniker dates back to the origins of Osaka as a warehouse and trading port.

Osaka Castle, perhaps the city’s most recognizable landmark.

Flourishing during the Edo Period (1603-1868) as a merchant city, Osaka was the commercial and logistical center of feudal Japan. Its convenient geographical location next to the former capital Kyoto, and the fact that a large number of sailing routes converged there, led to a concentration of trading merchants at this strategic port. Wealthy feudal lords started investing in Osaka by building personal warehouses for food and produce storage (most importantly rice, a staple food and also a form of land rent payment). Soon the area was packed with goods from all over the country, which would be further distributed to other areas including the capital, Edo (today’s Tokyo).

Since the common household kitchen is traditionally where you would store all your food, Osaka became the literal metaphor as “the nation’s kitchen”. While its warehouse days may be in the historical past, a walk around the city today confirms that food is still central to the Osaka experience. With an abundance of restaurants, snack stalls, and food markets, visitors still flock to the city for its culinary delights.

Dōtonbori canal, center of Osaka’s entertainment district.

Narrow alleyways crammed with restaurants and bars.

Charcoal-grilled chicken.

Shinsaibashi covered shopping arcade.

New Year’s sales are on in full force!

Another restaurant and bar alley near Dōtonbori. Some of these places only fit 5-6 customers.

Takoyaki (savoury pancake balls with octopus), an Osakan specialty.

Kuromon Market, Osaka’s pantry.

Market food stall.

Whole grilled scallops.

Fugu (pufferfish) sold here!

Grilled and caramelized musk melons. Sweet!

Beef skewers ready for grilling.

King crab legs.

BBQ scallops in the shell.

Confident of the best beef offals in town.

Endless assortment of pickled roots and vegetables.

Fresh strawberry mochi. So soft and tasty.

Shinsekai district (with its Tsūtenkaku tower).

A restaurant serving kushikatsu (breaded deep-fried skewers), a specialty originating in Shinsekai.

More octopus. Am I detecting a pattern here?

OK, not exactly food related. But so kawaii!

More preserved and pickled vegetables.

Get to the markets early for the best selection of fresh seafood.

Tempura skewers at a food stall.

Cucumbers picked in sake lees.

Miniatures. Maybe the smallest restaurant in the city!

Traditional cooking pots.

It’s not all food. Here are some traditional handicrafts and souvenirs.

One of the many shopping arcades.

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