Osaka is an incredible place to visit. With so much to do and see, the choices can become overwhelming. Considering Japan’s famous food culture, it is no surprise that many want to try authentic sushi. With so many Osaka sushi restaurants, it can quickly become stressful deciding where to go. We’re here to provide you a quick guide on Osaka sushi, ranging from Michelin star to kaiten (conveyer belt) places. Get your phone ready, because you will want to Instagram every second of your experience at these top 5 picks. But before you embark on your sushi journey, you must know the proper etiquette and history behind the beloved food.
Sushi’s history is complex and slightly unknown. There are fourth century Chinese records that discuss fish going through fermentation by being placed in cooked rice. However, the Japanese are the first to serve sushi as a whole dish, with the rice and fish together. Likely arriving in Japan during the ninth century, sushi’s popularity rose alongside the spread of Buddhism. Fermentation used to be a long process, sometimes taking up to six months, resulting in funa-zushi. Fish was caught, put in salted rice, and pressed under weights. This was a luxury reserved for the upper class until the fourteenth century.
In the fifteenth century, cooks discovered ways to cut fermentation time by using additional weight. The nineteenth century saw the rise of Edo, today known as Tokyo. Edo’s sushi chefs created a faster fermentation approach that involved rice vinegar and fish. By adding rice vinegar to cooked rice in layers next to fish, then compressing it for two hours, a faster technique was born. Flash forward to the 1820s, Hanaya Yohei created what we call nigiri today. Using fresh fish, he could now serve sushi without extensive preservation or fermentation. By the 1920s, many sushi carts were in Edo. After the Great Kanto Earthquake, sushi vendors could afford indoor places, which became standard by the 1950s.
Respect and tradition is very important in Japanese society. Not following proper sushi protocol can make you appear impolite and disrespectful. First, it is important to remember the distinction between nigiri and sashimi. Nigiri is when a piece of fish lays over rice, whereas sashimi is just the fish slices. It is important to know the distinction so you can understand what you are actually ordering.
One area that often puzzles tourists is whether to eat with the hands or with chopsticks. Believe it or not, you can actually use your hands with nigiri. Also with nigiri, you want to dip the fish (not the rice) into the soy sauce. You should also eat nigiri in one bite. With sashimi, however, you will want to use chopsticks. When your chopsticks are not in use, make sure they are parallel and never crossed. Do not rub them together or leave them sticking up. In between different flavors, use the ginger to cleanse your palate before moving onto the next item. Lastly, remember that tipping is not customary in Japan like it is in some countries! Now you are ready for your Osaka sushi adventures!
OSAKA SUSHI PICK # 1: EDOMAE KISHU YAICHI UMEDA
Our first pick is Edomae Kishu Yaichi, inside the Hankyu department store. In Japan, it is very common for department stores to have many restaurants inside. This particular place is in Hankyu’s main location in Umeda on the 12th floor. This is also a great option because you can get a lot of shopping done, and then follow up with a delicious meal. The average lunch and dinner prices average around 2,300 yen, which comes to about 22 USD. Kishu Yaichi is open from 11 AM to 10 PM.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO:
Kaiten sushi, or conveyor belt sushi, provides a very unique experience for tourists. Customers sit around the conveyor belt as sushi passes around, taking which plates they want. These places are often cheaper than normal sushi restaurants. Plates typically start around 100 yen, with a piece or two of sushi coming with each plate. At the end, your bill is calculated with the number of plates you have. This is a very fun experience and definitely a must try. Plus, Kishu Yaichi has roughly 100 different options, so there is something for everyone. English and children's menu are also available, making it a fun, affordable option for tourists to try some Osaka sushi.
OSAKA SUSHI PICK # 2: GENROKUZUSHI
There are nine Genrokuzushi locations around Osaka, including one in Dotonbori. The main location is in Dotonbori, which is a famous tourist area in Osaka. There are some famous things to see here, such as the Glico running man. Make sure to go to Dotonbori and explore the area before fueling up at Genrokuzushi. Similarly to Kishu Yaichi, the pricing is by the plate. Red plates are 135 yen and gold plates are 216 yen. The hours are 11 AM to 10:30 PM.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO:
If you have a particular interest in kaiten sushi, you need to stop by, because this is the original place. The founder was inspired after visiting a beer factory and seeing how they fill the bottles up. He saw this as an opportunity to streamline his own business and make it more efficient, thus creating kaiten sushi! Free green tea is also available, providing a true Japanese experience. If you can only try one kaiten place, go to Genrokuzushi.
NOTE ON THE DOTONBORI LOCATION:
The Dotonbori location is very popular, so you can expect it to be quite full at peak times. However, they do provide English translations on their menu, which is another benefit. Don’t forget to take a picture in front of the Dotonbori store with the giant tuna sushi in the background!
OSAKA SUSHI PICK # 3: ENDO
Endo has two locations, one in Osaka’s Central Fish Market and the other in Kyobashi. The Osaka Central Fish Market is open from 6 AM to 2 PM. Some people report having trouble finding Endo’s fish market location, so make sure to follow these directions. According to Endo, they say to go to the building’s left side, where you see a red arrow, and that is where Endo is. As for the Kyobashi location, it connects to Kyobashi station, inside Keihan Mall. Located on the fifth floor, it is open from 11 AM - 10 PM.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO:
Locals frequent this place as well, which is telling of Endo’s reputation. Not only does this place have great Osaka sushi, but at a great price as well. The plates come with five pieces, which is around 1,050 yen or 10 USD. They have set plates or you can choose which combination you would like to order. Despite Endo’s low prices, they don’t compromise on quality. Because of its well known status, you can anticipate a line at peak times. Endo, though a favorite of locals, also has an English menu. This is a great pick for a more traditional Osaka sushi experience, without the high cost. Definitely worth sharing with your followers about your authentic experience.
OSAKA SUSHI PICK # 4: HARASHO
In contrast to previous recommendations, if you’re looking for a swanky Osaka sushi experience, this is it. Harasho is a 5 minute walk from Tanimachi Kyūchōme Station. It is open for lunch from 11:30 AM to 2PM, and dinner is at two different times. There are seatings at 6 PM and 8:30 PM, and it is open until 11 PM. Harasho closes on Wednesdays and Sundays, in order for the staff to be well rested. It is quite pricey, as tableall.com lists a meal being 21,500 yen per person, or 200 USD. This includes the booking fee, which is 4,000 yen. You do not have to book through tableall.com, but this can be easier for tourists to secure a spot. Another option would be directly booking through their website, which uses the service MyConcierge. Without tableall.com, it is 16,500 yen or 155 USD.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO:
Harasho can provide a fine dining experience and it has a 2 star Michelin rating. It features a beautiful minimalist interior and is omakase style. Chef Ishikawa puts a lot of hardwork and dedication into his business for customers to have their best possible experience. There is only one course available, complete with either six or seven dishes. Chef Ishikawa puts in a lot of care and detail into his dishes, such as using a certain type of vinegar. This makes the sushi rice have a distinct, pure flavor. Furthermore, he does not believe in adding unnatural flavors, wanting his dishes to stand on their own. The personal, authentic experience is one that you will surely not forget.
After receiving two Michelin stars, Harasho’s popularity boomed due to the restaurant’s exquisite dishes. Due to the restaurant’s popularity and very limited twelve person seating, you must make a reservation well in advance. Reservations can be done online, at websites such as tableall.com, where the meal is also paid for in advance. Not only is the inside beautiful, but so are your various dishes, meaning you’ll definitely want to capture your luxurious Osaka sushi experience!
OSAKA SUSHI PICK # 5: AMANO
Amano is a 2 minute walk from Shin Fukushima station. Similarly to Harasho, Amano can provide an upscale Osaka sushi experience. With a Michelin star to its name, the restaurant is open for dinner only. The operating hours are 6:30 PM to 11:30 PM, but last order is at 9:30 PM. It is relatively new, opening in 2013. Amano is not open on Tuesdays. Like Harasho, it is on the expensive end, coming in at 21,000 yen per person, or 197 USD. This also includes tableall’s booking fee of 4,000 yen. Again, you don’t have to book on tableall.com, but it can be easier for tourists to secure a reservation. Without the website, it is 15,000 yen or 140 USD. Other items that customers might add (like sake) are paid for at the restaurant.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO:
Chef Yoshihiro Amano emphasizes quality and has experience as a former fishmonger. Due to Amano’s skill in selecting quality fish, his restaurant is well respected in the Osaka sushi world. His courses have seven or eight dishes and a variety of catches. If you enjoy sake, consider coming to Amano. The chef personally selects eight types to pair with his dishes. There is a nice selection of vintage and local sake for patrons to enjoy. Steamed abalone is one of his famous dishes, due to its incredible flavor. Each meal starts with tsumami small dishes, with edomae maki to conclude the meal. A lot of attention and detail is put into each dish, creating an intimate and high quality Osaka sushi experience.
Like Harasho, the Michelin stars means that Amano is constantly full. Therefore, you’ll want to book in advance to secure a spot, as there are only about ten seats available. This can be done online on websites such as tableall.com or jpneazy.com, or on the phone. This restaurant also has a simplistic design to it, creating a beautiful, Instagram worthy experience. Amano is a truly unique restaurant that is definitely worth visiting, if it is in your budget.
There are clearly many wonderful choices when it comes to Osaka sushi. Whether you want kaiten or luxurious sushi, there is an option for you. Osaka has great sushi, so even if you cannot visit one of these places, do not stress. You can still get an authentic, delicious experience while visiting. With options for all budgets and preferences, make sure to visit at least one place. And when you do, do not forget to take pictures of your experience. It will be one that you want to remember!