Naniwa: The taste of summer in Japan

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Special To The Japan Times

The small and flimsy Naniwa cafe is located on Tengonakazakidori, one of my favorite shōtengai shopping streets in Osaka. Compared to the neighboring Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, which stretches for 2.6 kilometers, Tengonakazakidori Shotengai is a short stroll. What it lacks in length it makes up for with its eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, including a cat cafe, a freshwater fish bar and a cramped sushi joint where the jokes are served in abundance. Naniwa is in good company.

Though Naniwa serves kakigōri (shaved ice), which is as much a part of summer in Japan as the relentless shrieking of cicadas, the cafe is best known for its fish-shaped taiyaki hot cakes. These are baked the traditional way, with a filling of sweet bean paste that oozes out as you bite in.

Naniwa does a lively trade in take-out orders, but there’s a small seated area inside where you can dig into their desserts. The best-seller is the ujikintoki, a small mound of shaved ice piled into a plastic container and smothered with green tea syrup and a dollop of sweet red beans. Other flavors include milk syrup, strawberry syrup and brown sugar syrup.

Eating kakigōri is all about indulging and treating yourself. If you want to exercise some restraint, however, you can order the smaller-sized option. It’s ¥100 cheaper, and will leave just enough room for you to fill up on taiyaki.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.
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