When recommending interesting things to do in Nagoya, the first place my native friends spun me around and pushed me towards was Osu. Around here, Osu Kannon Shopping Street food, clothing, and knick-knacks are known for their wacky eclecticism.
You never know what compelling head-scratcher of a sight you’ll stumble upon here. On my last trip, I managed to glimpse a man proudly showing off his owls in the middle of the road, along with an idol group spontaneously performing under a giant beckoning cat statue. Needless to say, I was sufficiently entertained.
Everyone I know loves Osu shopping street for a different reason. One friend lauds the vintage clothing shops, another loves the cat café, and naturally, I’m partial to the smattering of J-pop and K-pop stores. But the one thing everyone enjoys about this famous Nagoya destination is the street foods, which are just as diverse and eccentric as the small mom-and-pop stores they’re sandwiched between.
For the last 400 years, Osu has hosted a hodgepodge of commercial shops surrounding Buddhist temples, the most famous of which is Osu Kannon itself. Throughout the centuries, these streets have transformed into a popular fashion district, secondhand flea market, and cosplay stomping ground all in one. Osu even contains a temple nestled within the arcade, Banshōji, said to be connected to the Tokugawa clan—and a dragon statue with digital light and water shows every two hours.
Today, you can find everything here from handmade leather and kimono to premium international groceries to a store devoted entirely to selling cat-themed dishware. And of course, lined with Japanese food stalls, Osu is one of the only places in Nagoya where tabearuki, or walking while eating, is not only allowed but encouraged. And encourage you I shall!
Here are some of the best street foods at Osu Kannon Shopping Street!
Osu Kannon overflows with multicultural character, with restaurants selling everything from Italian pizza to Indian naan. Among the offerings is banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich famously sold by street vendors and made with a split baguette. At Bep Viet, the chefs make it right in front of you, allowing you to clock each colorful ingredient they layer on.
Bep Viet’s baguette was wonderfully toasty, and the flavorful white sauce and pickled daikon brought the pork sausage inside to life. You can easily inhale one all by yourself, but it’s big enough to share with a friend if you want to save room for more street snacks (and I know you do!).
Taiyaki is a popular Nagoya street food, with innumerable stalls in Osu Kannon selling their own take on the traditional Japanese fish-shaped waffle. Most stalls offer common fillings like red bean paste and custard along with seasonal varieties like yakiimo (Japanese sweet potato).
But if you’re a fan of matcha, or green tea, I recommend trying Omedetaiyaki’s matcha custard taiyaki. Matcha can sometimes overwhelm with grassy pungency, but when combined with custard, it becomes light and palatable even for the matcha-averse. Thus, if you’re looking to dip your toe in the shallow end of traditional Japanese flavors, this taiyaki is a good first step!
Right by the road that cuts through the two main streets of Osu lies a stall loudly hawking dango, or traditional Japanese sticky balls of mochiko (rice flour) on skewers. Among the many food stalls operating calmly, Shinsuzume Honten felt like transportation to a noisy summer festival, where vendors cook the food so close you can smell the smoke.
Shinsuzume Honten offers two flavors of dango: kinako (roasted soy flour) and mitarashi (sweet soy sauce), both grilled fresh by a woman who simply asked us, “How many?” The mitarashi had just the right amount of golden char, while the kinako presented a pleasing mix of nuttiness and brown sugar. Note: if you’re wearing black, the evidence of kinako consumption may well follow you in powder form.
A relatively new appearance on the Nagoya food scene, Taiwanese bubble tea, or tapioca, is experiencing a major boom in Japan. The winding line for Ding Tea certainly reflected its popularity!
Ding Tea’s most popular flavor is their brown sugar milk tea, depicted on the sign at truly soaring heights. With thick swirls of sweet brown sugar and a rounded cup, this may be the most unnervingly photogenic bubble tea I’ve ever seen—perfect for plastering on Instagram. The matcha milk tea received great reviews as well! This stall also offers passionfruit and mango fruit tea, for the lactose-intolerant among us.
Karaage, or Japanese fried chicken, is like KFC but better. And by the grace of Amaterasu, there’s no shortage of it in Osu. But after picking this karaage stall practically at random, if you asked me what to eat in Nagoya, I would now send you marching straight to Torigane Shouten.
I thought no cut of meat could match the black magic of a Famichiki from Family Mart, but what a fool I was. The savory citrus-soy sauce flavor of the ponzu atop the pile of steaming hot juicy karaage sent me flying into orbit. If a citrus-phobe like me can appreciate it, anyone can. They also offer spicy Korean and Indian curry flavors, so skip the long line at the neighboring Kin no Torikara and hit Torigane Shouten instead.
As soon as I saw the sign for yakiimo (Japanese sweet potato) ice cream, I knew it was just weird enough to deserve my yen. Récolte-ôsu offers many unexpected flavors, like peach and black sesame, along with conventional chocolate/vanilla options, swirled atop a cone filled with yakiimo puree. While a confusing combination, it was worth it for the thick and satisfying ice cream alone. Eating the ice cream and potato together left me dubious, but separately they’re both winners.
Crepes, a thin French pancake the Japanese adopted as an ever-popular street food, abound in the side streets of Osu Kannon. Follow the waft of strawberry slices down an eastern side street, past the massive Taito game center, to find my favorite crepe stall: Dipper Dan.
What’s special about Dipper Dan is their hot and cold sweet crepes, not to mention their ample benches (a valuable find in Japan!). Rest your tired behind while enjoying a hot apple pie crepe—the custard is thick and plentiful, and the cinnamon apples at the bottom are about as close to American apple pie as you can get here. My compliments to Dan himself.
When contemplating Nagoya sushi options, don’t forget the best rice topping of all: the old standby, straight-up grilled meat. Nikuzushi, or “meat sushi,” often involves particularly high-quality Kobe beef, pork, and even horse meat. Never before have I seen a place selling nikuzushi in Nagoya, so if you’re looking for something unconventional, bring your party to Waburi on your trip to Osu.
Ultimately, you’ve got a wealth of choices for sweet, savory, and liquified street food when wandering through Osu Kannon. But my biggest tip is: buy the weirdest thing you see... and also karaage. Your friends will thank you!
A two-minute walk from exit 9 of Kamimaezu Station (on the Meijō and Tsurumai lines) leads to the east end of Osu’s two main shopping streets, while a two-minute walk from Osu Kannon Station (on the Tsurumai line) brings you to the west end.