After a busy afternoon tasting hojicha and matcha in Uji, I spent the following morning relaxing among the cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle Park. The area was beautiful with plenty to see. Last time I visited the park, I went straight to the castle. However, this time I wanted to explore the quieter spots by the river.
As part of the Japanese tradition of hanami, everyone was quietly adoring the blooms. Then as soon as it got windy, people rushed to capture the petals falling to the ground known as hanafubuki.
At lunch time I made my way to Umeda district. The giant station and surrounding malls offered a variety of food options. Even with the wide selection, it was tough to find something plant-based. Since I was craving noodles, I came up with the idea of ordering Kitsune Udon without the dashi broth. I explained the reason to ensure they wouldn’t worry about my enjoyment of the dish and they kindly accommodated me. The Kitsune Udon came with udon noodles topped with flavourful deep-fried tofu, a sprinkle of seaweed shreds, and sliced green onion. Even though I’m sure other people thought it was crazy to be eating noodles without the broth, the noodles tasted amazing with a drizzle of soy sauce.
Just to be sure I wouldn’t leave hungry, I also ordered the Inari sushi. This type of sushi is usually vegan by default as it is simply rice stuffed in the same deep-fried sushi pocket that comes with Kitsune Udon. After this filling and delicious lunch, I was ready to go looking for dessert.
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During the cherry blossom season in Japan, people flock to the parks to view the blooms and have picnics. The first park I visited was Kema Sakuranomiya Park by the O River in Osaka.
Groups gather on picnic blankets or giant blue tarps. They remove and neatly line them up before sitting in a circle. Employees on their lunch break typically eat store-bought bento boxes, while families enjoy homemade food. Some even prepare a fresh meal on a tiny grill.
I joined the few individuals sitting on benches. My lunch seemed fairly basic, but I noticed many others also picked up their lunch from a nearby FamilyMart, Lawson, or 7-Eleven. Despite my hesitation, I soon understood why convenience store food is so popular. Of course it wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it was better than the food served at some restaurants.
My cold lunch set consisted of soba noodles and Inari. The sushi was incredibly fresh and delicious. On the other hand, the soba noodles appeared to be a disaster. They were all stuck together, and impossible to eat. Then I discovered that they came with a clear packet that appeared to be water. Once I poured the water in and mixed the noodles, they separated like magic. The soba noodles tasted even better with the shredded seaweed and green onion toppings. Since the sauce provided appeared to have bonito in it, I made a note to grab plain soy sauce packets next time.
After I was done my lunch, it proved to be impossible to find a garbage bin. My usual hack for Japan is to check for one in public washrooms, but that only works when they have paper towels. While walking around, I heard a sound reminiscent of an ice cream truck. Weirdly enough, this turned out to be a coca cola sponsored garbage truck. It seems that people threw their garbage bags into a fence enclosed area, and so I did the same. Then I walked upwind.
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After months of planning my trip to Japan, the cherry blossom season started 9 days early. Instead of sleeping in after 30 hours of travel, I rushed out towards the O River on my first day in Osaka. Luckily, the beautiful Sakura trees were still in bloom. Even though the cherry blossoms were the priority, there was no way I’d be able to fully enjoy them on an empty stomach. I stopped worrying about missing out, and started to think about breakfast.
Since I still wanted to make the most of it, I tried to find something to eat by the river. I spotted a bakery called Pompadour, and was drawn by the sweet scent. The bakery had trays and tongs at the entrance, which meant I could wander around and take my time deciding which treats to get. I loved not feeling rushed and pressured to place my order. The bakery also had enough variety to satisfy my needs, but wasn’t overwhelming.
This place was heaven for someone with a sweet tooth, even if it was far from ideal for someone used to eating mainly vegan food.
When it was time to pay, I was delighted by the level of care taken into packaging my custard filled bun, cheddar and onion bun, and the cutest strawberry shaped bun. Since the strawberry bun was pretty fragile, it was placed in it’s own perfectly fitted container. While people were taking pictures of the cherry blossoms, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of my yummy breakfast.
The strawberry shaped bun did not only look adorable, but it also tasted magical. It had incredibly fluffy cream inside that tasted exactly like a strawberry milkshake. It wasn’t the healthiest breakfast, but sometimes you just need to indulge.
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