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Good restaurants in Kobe and Osaka for parents traveling with infant?

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My wife and I are on the lookout to sample some good food in Kobe and Osaka this winter, while traveling with our 1 year old daughter. She's generally well-behaved and can tolerate a high chair for 1.5 hours, pretty much eating anything we give her off our plates. However, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be welcomed at some of the high end Japanese restaurants.

Looking for any recommendations for good restaurants in Kobe and Osaka that would appropriate to bring her to. I've read through the helpful threads here but its hard to know how formal these restaurants are (e.g., Maimon, Kuruma, Sushi Toyo, etc.).

We're interested in finding good Kobe beef place (teppanyaki perhaps?), sushi, ramen, and izakaya. Thanks a lot!

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  1. Are you thinking of squeezing in a retreat to an onsen (hot spring resort) during your time in Japan? If so, your best bet to having the best Japanese meal with a 1yo is to have a kaiseki dinner experience in your own tatami-mattress room... 10-15 course lavish traditional Japanese feast brought right to your ryokan/hotel room. You can request the meals to be brought at the time of your choice (although usually limited to like between 6-8pm or something along those lines), and your baby can chill out next to you, hopefully, while you eat. Onsen ryokan/hotels generally have package deals that include dinner and breakfast. The meal quality varies; generally you get what you pay for, although not always. Although Arima Onsen is very convenient to Kobe, the place I really recommend would be Kinosaki Onsen on the Sea of Japan coast of Hyogo prefecture, probably 2-3 hours on the express train from Kobe/Osaka. I think there's less of a hit-and-miss with the quality of food/lodging there (vs at Arima), with kaiseki meals tending to emphasize crabs although there could be seasonal variations.

    As for high-end restaurants, I have to say it's not typical to see infants at high-end places in Japan. As for ramen, most of the acclaimed places have small, cramped spaces that are not conducive to bringing along a baby, although I've had surprisingly good ramen at food courts in Japan and you should be open to trying out those places. Of course there are many great take-out options in Japan, including deli's at depachika, bakeries (Vie de France, Pompadour and Donq are all great chains), even burger joints (eg, MOS Burger). There are some good street foods to be had in Osaka, including takoyaki. There are some great hotel buffets in Japan, and those places are more kid-friendly. I know that chowhounders eschew chain places, but I really enjoy certain chain restaurants in Japan, and a lot of these places are more amenable to bringing along a baby. I'll list some of these places.

    - Kani Doraku: Crab-themed restaurant chain with many locations throughout Osaka/Kobe area. They have great crab kaiseki meals that are significantly better value during lunch/afternoon hours. Ask for booth seating (zashiki), which makes it easier to have your baby hang out next to you while you eat, although be careful that some zashiki tables have wells that drop down underneath the table where you hang your feet.

    - Japanese-style natural food buffet: There's a few chains serving this type of food, including several locations in Osaka/Kobe area. In Kobe, there's a place on the 10th floor of Daimaru Dept Store called Satoyama (里山dining 野の宴). A lot of vegetable-based "nature food", although it's not necessarily vegetarian or organic. Hard to explain. Everything from pickled items to curry to tempura to salad to desserts, with traditional Japanese tilt. Places like this would be kid-friendly.

    - Chunagon: Lobster equivalent of Kani-Doraku. There's a location inside the Oriental Avenue right next to Shin Kobe station. Little pricier, more sedate and upscale than Kani-Doraku. But I've actually been here with the baby, and it worked out okay. I had their cheapest lunch kaiseki combo, which was still very delicious.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chowmouse

      chowmouse, thanks so much for the detailed reply! I really appreciate it.

      I think that Kinosaki Onsen may be too far for us but would love to check out Arima Onsen, even though it may be hit-or-miss. Do you have a favorite ryokan to stay and eat in Arima?

      1. re: silent129

        I've been to Arima Onsen and I've had a soak in one of their onsens, but have never spent a night there.

        Just did a quick search and came out with a couple places that have relatively high marks.

        Ginsuiso Choraku (http://www.japanican.com/hotels/shise...
        )They appear to feature Kobe beef in their kaiseki. Better pics can be seen on their Japanese website at http://www.choraku.com/cuisine/index.....

        Hanamusubi (http://www.hanamusubi.co.jp/en/)

    2. There's many restaurants by the name of Sushi Toyo in Osaka.

      The one that I've mentioned on the board here before is at:
      3-4-1 Sakuragawa, Naniwa-ku, Osaka-shi

      It's quite close to Namba. It's a quiet neighbourhood place with only a few seats. I only knew about it because I used to live in the neighbourhood. They do set meals at lunch and dinner (sushi, tempura, soup), but of course it's best to do a sushi omakase. It's not formal - they often have a TV playing in the evening and they do offer takeout for locals.

      But if you search on google, the first result to come up will be another, more well-known restaurant:
      2-17-29 Ojicho, Abeno-ku, Osaka-shi

      The closest station is Higashi-tengachaya. It's a bit more off the beaten path. I haven't been there, so I can't speak to how formal it is or whether it would be appropriate to visit. However, a friend of mine swears by this restaurant.