I’ve been in Japan for nearly 3 months (side note: wtf?!), and since moving here I’ve had plenty of time to explore the places around me. I’m fairly certain most of you aren’t super familiar with Osaka geography, but here’s the quick rundown of how this works: I live in Takarazuka, which is a somewhat small city in the prefecture of Hyogo and situated near Osaka, another city in Hyogo. Nearby is Nishinomiya, which is also a city in Hyogo. I’m conveniently placed “between” these two cities, so both are easily accessible for me. To get into Osaka, I head into Umeda, which is roughly 30 minutes by express train, and I can get into Nishinomiya fairly quickly as well. Nice, right? A lot of my friends live in off-the-beaten path places, but I’m lucky to be very conveniently and centrally located. 🚆
That all being said, I’ve explored various places between my station (Takarazuka) and other main stations (Umeda and Nishinomiya Kitaguchi). My favorite thing is finding new restaurants to eat at with friends, and there are quite a few places I frequent because the food is delicious, the prices are reasonable, and they’re great gathering places for when I want to go out by myself or with others. A few of them are also great for 飲み会 (nomikai), or “drinking parties.” 🍻😉
1. はなてん 🍜
Hanaten is a ramen shop in Obayashi, a station roughly 10 minutes away. It’s family-owned and the shop is quite small (their seating is less than 30 people I think), but the ramen is fantastic. I tend to get the spicy ramen they serve for roughly ¥850, and that’s quite the deal. Back in the States, I went to the one ramen place in town and got spicy ramen for $14.50, so ¥850 is kind of amazing. 🤤 I go there maybe once or twice a week, depending on how much I’m craving ramen. I just went this past Sunday with my boyfriend and it was as good as it ever is! They also serve my second favorite food — gyoza! It’s only ¥350 for a big plate of gyoza, which is definitely the way to my heart. 💜 The ramen I try is fairly spicy (a level 3 by their standards), but not so spicy that I can’t enjoy the taste of the ramen itself!
2. カレーハウスCoCo壱 🍛
Ichibanya (also called CoCoIchi) is a curry chain restaurant located all over Japan. I’m pretty sure I know of at least 3 or 4 in various places all over the surrounding areas. But their food is really good and also really cheap! My favorite part about their menu is that you can customize your curry to be as spicy, sweet, or whatever else you want as possible! I like to mess with the spice levels each time I go and choose something a little different each time, depending on what I’m feeling that day. 🔥 If you’re not a curry fan, they usually have other options on the menu! It’s quite extensive. I once had spicy curry ramen when I went to this restaurant and I fell in love. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it again… But oh, it really was delicious…
3. 一蘭 🍜
Ichiran is probably my favorite ramen place so far (and I’ve tried quite a few). It’s not just the ramen that’s great (because trust me, it is), but it’s also the experience! Your interaction with shop staff is minimal, and you sit next to people at a “bar” where dividers separate you and the person next to you, though you can remove these bars if you’re sitting with friends. There’s an Ichiran near Umeda station that I went to about a month ago that was fantastic. We waited in line until we reached the entrance where we selected our order on a machine, were given a ticket, and then directed to another line. There, they handed us a clipboard with options on it that allowed us to customize our ramen, including noodles, spiciness, sweetness, and how much meat we wanted. I love being able to customize my ramen. 😍 After that, you’re seated and give them your ticket through a drape, and after a few minutes your ramen is presented to you hot and ready to eat!
4. McDonald’s 🍟
I know this is going to seem silly to quite a few of you, but here me out — McDonald’s in Japan is amazing. The fries are always perfect, the chicken nuggets are always crispy, and the Coke is always tasty, too. The portion sizes are much smaller so you can get a filling meal without feeling like you just stuffed yourself, which is a problem I have with McDonald’s back in the States. Before I came to Japan, I had McDonald’s maybe once every two or three months, depending on how desperate I was for it, but in Japan, it’s definitely a place I frequent. I especially love the atmosphere of McDonald’s here — I go once a week with a friend of mine and we spend 3-4 hours there chatting about Japan, school, our boyfriends, and more. It’s really therapeutic to just sit and chat, one-on-one, over delicious food. It also helps the “I miss American food” feeling that sometimes hits me. 👍
5. 坐・和民 🍻
Za Watami is a great place for amazing food and drinking parties, and those things go especially great together. 😉 I’ve been to Za Watami 3 times and it’s a lot of fun. Generally the bill is split between all of the people that go, and the dishes are fairly cheap. You can order a lot of food and it’s maybe ¥3000 per person, depending on the amount of food and whether or not you order alcohol (outside of nomihoudai). I highly recommend this place because they have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options as well, and an amazing plate with tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese! I could maybe eat three or four of these plates and still want more. 🤤 An alternative restaurant is Torikizoku, and it’s another one I frequent. The menu is entirely meat-based, but the price is about the same.
There are a lot of restaurants in Japan and I’ve tried a fair amount. I’m a fan of trying small places, but their food has to be spectacular for me in order to return. Though train restaurants are kind of frowned upon in the States, they’re everywhere here and they’re delicious! You can count on the quality of the food to be consistent, and if you find one you can usually find it elsewhere too. 🗺 So if you come to Japan, don’t be afraid to try chain restaurants! They’re really popular here. Family-owned places are great too, but can be a bit hard to find unless you’re looking for them!
Do you have any restaurants in your area that you love? Do you have any that you would recommend to visitors? Let me know your favorite places! 😋