Visiting Hozenji Yokocho is like taking a magical walking tour of Edo period Osaka.
Most of the buildings on this cobblestone alley were destroyed in World War II and were reconstructed in their original 17th-century style. It’s impossibly romantic at night when the lanterns are aglow.
The Hozenji Temple (1-2-16, Namba) was founded in 1637 and is the home of Mizukake Fudo, a statue venerating the wisdom king Fudo Myoo. This particular iteration of the deity is completely covered with green moss due to worshippers ladling water (mizu) over him when they pray for prosperity in business and love.
Meoto Zenzai (1-2-10, Namba) is a 19th-century dessert shop that was made famous by Sakunosuke Oda’s novel of the same name. The hot red bean dessert soup is an acquired taste, but the shop is considered a place for lovers because the soup is exclusively served in portions for two.
The wood-paneled whisky and cocktail bar Malt Bar (1-2-19 Namba) has yet to be invaded by the tourist crowds, so enjoy a calm drink in a dark, sophisticated atmosphere with sultry jazz background music. The menu is only in Japanese, so come thirsty and feeling adventurous.
Although its name recalls the spicy green paste, the restaurant Wasabi (1-1-17 Namba, hozenji-wasabi.jp/en) has a menu that is all deep-fried meat skewer goodness. Kushiage is yet another Osaka street food delicacy, but Wasabi serves this mouthwatering crunchy treat with high-class style, using only seasonal ingredients and double-grated breadcrumbs to make the coating extra crispy. The menu is prix fixe, and the dishes are chosen by the chef.
Osaka has a huge population of Korean immigrants, so yakiniku is extremely popular. At Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M (1-1-19 Namba, matsusaka-projects.com), choose from prime cuts of meat and fresh seafood so flavorful they don’t even need the traditional tangy yakiniku sauce. Tip: Osaka is known for its love of horumon — organ meat like tripe, heart and tongue. Don’t be shy; done properly, horumon is so delicious you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try it in the first place.