The name Kyobashi is derived from the Japanese character “kyo,” which means “capital” (as seen in Kyoto and Tokyo) and “bashi,” which means bridge. In olden days, Kyobashi was the place on the edge of Osaka where you crossed a bridge to start your journey to Kyoto. Let’s be perfectly clear about what Kyobashi is today: A major transfer point – now one of the train lines to Kyoto stops here, as well as the subway and the JR Osaka loop line – and a major drinking, eating, and miscellaneous gluttonies mélange. Leave the kids at home.
No “pulling up a chair” at the Standing Bars
“Tachinomiya”, as they are called in Japanese, are watering holes that usually serve food, and pointedly do not provide seats. No seats means more can be squeezed in, but it also means that incidental, accidental, or in the case of Osaka, quite intentional, socialization can occur. Osaka people are notoriously friendly, so don’t come to these places looking for solitude.
Start with a “Nama” and perhaps some dried pig ear strips?
A great standing bar choice in Kyobashi is “Tonryo”, where they have reasonably priced drinks – a hallmark of the standing bar – and also lots of made-to-order small plates. Start by ordering a “nama,” which is shorthand for “draft beer.” From there, you may wish to nibble, as it were, on some dried pig ear (pictured above). It’s actually quite delicious, so don’t oink before you try it! A host of other tried-and-true, pocketbook friendly small plates are available. On the healthier side, you’ll find sashimi (raw, sliced fish), cold tofu salad, and various vegetables. On the less healthy side, you will expectedly find even more, including fried ham cutlet (and fried morsels of all kinds of other things too), takoyaki (Osaka’s famous octopus dumplings), potato salad, and kimchi pork stir fry. Most dishes cost between 250 JPY and 450 JPY (around 2 USD to 3.50 USD), so there’s no reason not to order a gaggle.
Quintessentially Osaka, behold the tonpei-yaki
We’re going to break tonpei-yaki down step by step, from the center outwards. In the middle of this highly adorned mound of heavenly flavors lies a strip of pork, which is in turn enrobed by a crepe-like omelet. The egg/pork marriage is then placed on a flavor-absorbing handful of sliced cabbage, adorned with a sweet dark sauce, some mayonnaise, and finally topped with dried bonito flakes. Don’t be shy about using one chopstick in each hand to tear off bite size pieces.
But don’t stop now!
Having too much at just one of these standing bars would be an injustice, so take a stroll around the neighborhood and pop on in for a drink and a bite at wherever grabs your fancy. Most of these establishments don’t even have doors, so it’s easy to drift in and out. If language fails you, there’s always pointing at food with a smile. And, really, why wouldn’t you be smiling anyway?
Congratulations on a job well done
After a hard day of working or just being a tourist, these lively standing bars, with their cold beer and tasty nibbles are a little slice of heaven on Earth. It’s also a great way to get a feel for what authentic Osaka is really like. So with that, “Nama kudasai!” (draft beer please).
Restaurant information: Tonryo: Phone +81 (0)6-6353-4177, Address: 3-2-11 Higashi Nodamachi, Miyakojima-ku, Osaka. (In Japanese:大阪市都島区東野田町3-2-11)
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