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I spend a lot of time saying the polite form of “thank youuuu” which is “ari-gato-gozai-massss”. It’s as sing-songy as how we say Thank You but used at least thrice during any exchange. Everytime I say it, I’m reminded of the graciousness I have learned from this culture.

I never thought I would be this interested in Japan.  I can’t even tell you how this country came to be at the top of my list, because if you watch enough Anthony Bourdain, the character of any city can send you off into an existential crisis.

It’s been 2.5 weeks away from home/breakfast tacos and I have found a groove (except the part where I confuse my dates and post a day late). After the second, you accept that this is your new life and it feels like this has always been the normal routine.

A part of this new life includes the 7Eleven way of life. We go to 7Eleven at least twice a week for random meals/snacks, to withdraw cash, and re-up on supplies (sleep aids, lotion, toothpaste, etc). The more phenomenal part is the diversity and quality  of 7Eleven food. Grabbing tuna sushi rice triangles didn’t have me questioning my life’s direction the same way a processed “taquito” would back in America. It’s just good. However, I do get anxiety over all the candy and chocolates I haven’t tried but at least I have desserts and pastries to tide me over.

What’s the actual food situation?

Eating everything and not asking too many questions.

The narrow, one-man restaurants have been a favorite thus far, because it guarantees a spot at the bar to watch the chef at work. Despite the scattered hot stoves full of broth and timers, it’s a peaceful walkthrough of the art you’re about to consume.

Some of my unexpected favorite dishes:

  1. Grilled tuna on a stick at the fish market
  2. Ramen with fresh hand pulled noodles - hand pulled noodles are one of few acceptables reasons to become fat
  3. Apple tart
  4. Bean sprouts and minced meat
  5. Okonomiyaki (a specialty pancake stuffed with seafood, noodles, green onions or whatever else)
  6. Margarita pizza

I’ll explain the pizza.

I am eating some of the best croissants and pizza in Japan and I stopped trying to make sense of it. Baked goods are easier to find than ramen so that’s been happening more often than necessary but I’m not sorry about it and the Japanese certainly don’t seem sorry about it. Osaka had the best pizza I have ever eaten (but I’ve also never been to Naples, Italy). It was a no-name dive with only a generic sign that said “pizza” and “open”. Through broken English, Spanish, and Japanese, we learned the owner is a self proclaimed hippie who’s lived in at least five different countries in the past 13 years. In a country like Japan, where everyone is walking in the “same lane”, this man reminded us of the value in an outlier.

What’s the living situation?

In Tariq’s travel experiences, you make friends and find more things to do while staying at hostels. He found us two amazing ones that were affordable, in good locations, and housed like-minded backpackers. We spent nine nights in hostels and quickly realized we miscalculated a not so minor detail: we’re a married couple. Apparently that makes us less approachable or maybe we are not that cool? This might be the time to let us know.  

Photos: Osaka is a less aggressive, lax version of Tokyo. They have neon cityscapes but also have smaller streets full of shops and restaurants with distinct character. We spent 3 days here with key stops at Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, and Tsutenkaku.