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Day two of my Japan trip saw me take an early morning bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, the city that many consider the Melbourne of Japan. By the time I almost managed to miss my train by hopping on the wrong platform, got lost wandering through all the stops at Umeda Station and got into an argument about bag storage at the capsule hotel I was staying at (yes, capsule hotel), I had worked up an appetite.
Without knowing where to go for a feed, I decided to get my senses direct me. Just around the corner from my hotel was a busy takoyaki-slash-okonomiyaki bar with men cooking takoyaki (octopus balls) out the front and tables filled with happy diners inside – I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
It took me a while to work out what this place was called (I used Google maps to trace my steps back from the hotel) but I finally got there in the end; Ganso Ajiho was what it was called. You can’t miss it – it’s decked with red lanterns and takes up two shops, whereas most places in this little enclave are tiny.
I was seated in a tiny table at the back, right next to a table topped with dirty plates and empty beer glasses – presumably because there was no room in the kitchen to store all the dirty dishes.
I started with some big fat octopus balls (giggles), a steal at approximately AUD3 and a large bottle of lager (another steal at ¥500, so less than AUD5). The balls were squishy and soft (har-har-har) and the filling much more gooey than what I’m used to back home. I’m not sure whether this was legit as was the surprising lack of octopus but at that price, I didn’t complain. I was also surprised that it didn’t come drizzled in sauce and topped with bonito like I’d come to expect in Australia (rather, a light citrus-y broth was provided for dipping). Again, maybe that was the legit way of eating them.
I was told that there would be a twenty minute wait for the okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake), which was totally fine with me – it’s not like I had anywhere else to be seeing as check-in wasn’t for another two hours or so. Like the octopus balls, the okonomiyaki was massive and definitely filled me up. The sauce to dough ratio was great and the whole thing was nice enough; however, there was something missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Was it depth? Character? Did those dirty dishes put my senses off? I had no idea.
There are hundreds of places that do okonomiyaki and takoyaki in Osaka and even the ‘bad’ ones will do a decent job by Australian standards. I wasn’t in a hurry to rush back to Ganso Ajiho, especially after a life-altering okonomiyaki experience at Tres Bon across the road later that night.