We get super snacky and snappy happy in a depachika, a Japanese department store food hall. A depachika is a must for any gourmet traveller, not just for the amazing range of food, but for free samples! (Warning: huge bandwidth hog post - 80+ photos).
Miss Chicken and I are lost in a subterranean shopping mall in Himeji, a small town not far from Osaka, famous for the wonderful historic Himeji castle.
Then we stumble upon a depachika, a vast market of food porn. Depachikas are often found on the bottom floor of department stores, kind of like David Jones Food Hall in Australia. There's dozens and dozens of little stalls selling everything from humble deep fried snacks to pre-cooked main meals to expensive ornate, lavish foodie gifts (gift giving is a serious business in Japan). The range of food and the presentation is jaw-dropping, and each depachika we visited was quite different.
This depachika in Himeji is not the fanciest we have visited, it's a laid back kind of town, but the crowd factor is low on a weekday morning, perfect for a photo frenzy. And a free sample frenzy...
We read in the wonderful book Untangling My Chopsticks, A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto that it is customary to buy once we sample, but we are geijin, a pastey pair of foreigners, we just smile like idiots and move onto the next sample.
Squid on stilts - I think they look like they are going to walk away.
We tried these lovely fruity gums, they were sweet and juicy.
A yummy looking lotus root and fishy pieces salad - or it could be gluten.
Croquettes are everywhere - why not buy them ready to take home and fry?
A seafood mornay with good luck kitties on the side.
Thinly layered cake, often sold as large rings.
Blueberry and marzipan tart - we went back for seconds on this freebie.
A beautiful package of honey and tea. I nearly bought this just for the box and the french style illustration.
No, it's not cake but a giant slab of rice, cut into smaller sizes below.
The in-store sushi master. Look at those lovely fresh fish ready to be sliced.
We tried this octopus and the seller here smiled and knew we were going to say 'oh my god'...
Even the smallest lunch boxes looked lovely. Okra, egg and yam paste to go.
Cream puff master. Curiously, the machine made nine waffles at a time but was sold as lots of eight. Who gets the left over one?
Halloween was in full swing. It fits in well with the traditional Japanese harvest theme.
Mmmmmm chocolates. Didn't get to sample these!
Chestnuts were in season and were sold in most places, in many different ways.
The most expensive melons this side of Hollywood.
Vegetables ready to deep fry.
This beef worked out around $80 a kilo.
Glorious bento boxes.
Grilled fishies like in our earlier izakaya experience.
Have some cake - dozo!
Sencha - roasted popped bits of rice mixed in with green tea.
There's so much food you need to sit down and get something to eat just to cope with it all.