“We really wanted to see what Osaka had to offer and say ‘yes’ to whatever came our way. So we said ‘yes’ to trying new sake and street foods, walking around aimlessly and hopping on a river cruise.”  

When planning her trip to Japan, adding Osaka to her itinerary wasn’t a priority for content creator Chelsea Mealo. Thankfully, she went along with fellow creator and friend Rod Trevino to explore the unique city.

“The entire Osaka visit was pretty much a ‘winging it’ experience and yet it was one of the most rewarding,” says Chelsea. 

The first ‘yes’ moment was seeking out Toyoji Chikumoto, aka Toyo, the chef behind Izakaya Toyo. His streetside eatery has gained global appeal thanks largely to a documentary, but locals have known it as a neighborhood essential since 1992. Chelsea and Rod settled in for a meal of sushi, hand rolls and sake, with Yellowfin standing out as a particular favorite. 

To charming restaurant goers and passersby alike, Toyo’s larger-than-life personality is as much of a draw as his incredible food.   

“Toyo is so full of life I think he actually breathes life into everyone around him,” says Chelsea. “He was bustling around cheffing food up, all the while screaming and shouting, throwing thumbs up, having photo shoots and lighting cigarettes with a blowtorch.” 

Yes, a blowtorch. 

“Apparently the blowtorch is actually a very useful tool in Japanese cooking. This was the first time I saw it utilized for searing fish,” says Chelsea. “However, I later saw more blowtorch action in Tokyo. Watching these experienced chefs sear food precisely was so fascinating to me. I guess I never realized something as aggressive as a blowtorch could be used to create such perfect and tender bites!”

Osaka’s downtown, with its bustling streets and colorful neon signs, drew another ‘yes’ from the adventurers. “I feel like what I expected from Tokyo, as far as bright colorful signs similar to Times Square, was something I actually got more of from the Dotonbori area of Osaka.” 

“Osaka was incredibly vibrant and full of life. There were street food vendors everywhere so we tried fried sweet potatoes and candied strawberries, which are staple Japanese treats.”

For Chelsea, the real magic of Osaka came during an unexpected river cruise down the Dotonbori River. “We spontaneously decided to hop on the next cruise to give our feet a rest and it was such a fun and unexpected move. The cruise did a quick loop of the canal, giving us a better vantage point of all of the epic billboards along the way — including a view of the Glico sign. The Glico sign is iconic and has been overlooking the streets since 1935!”  

While often found exploring some of nature’s most picturesque locations, Chelsea found just as much inspiration and beauty in Japan’s storied cities and architecture. 

“I felt invigorated and alive soaking in all of the colorful city life. I’m sure Toyo’s brilliant attitude toward life also gave me a positive outlook for the entire rest of the experience.”  

“There is no place like Japan. The food is incredible, the people are so kind and the architecture is beautiful,” says Chelsea. “You can get such a diverse experience — from mountain adventures with snow monkeys to going on street food and bar crawls through colorful city alleys. I realized on this trip just how massive Japan is and how much there is to do.”

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