Review: Gudetama Cafe in Osaka, Japan (CLOSED PERMANENTLY)
It was no secret that when I went to Japan I had a plan. In fact I had an 11 page itinerary and a 37 page restaurant recommendation list. However there was only one restaurant that I had in my mind before I did any research at all for my restaurant list; the Gudetama restaurant in Osaka.
I wish I could say that I dreamed of going to a tiny, exclusive cubby hole of a restaurant; the type you had to win some sort of Nobel prize before the chief deemed you worthy to be fed. But nope: I really wanted to go to a complete tourist trap.
Because I like my eggs to have butts.
To be fair to myself, it wasn’t really a trap for tourists; it was more of a trap for girls, people who liked weird things, and people who liked cute things.
And in that Venn diagram I landed smack bang in the middle. Like….I’M a girl, I like cute things, and I most definitely like weird things (but like safe weird, not dangerous weird like drinking your own blood; or whatever strange kids do nowadays).
And Gudetama is a very strange mascot indeed, especially coming from the Sanrio camp. The creators of Hello Kitty, the biggest and most insidious money-making cat in the world, probably had no idea that out of all the characters they had tried to force the public to spend a Hello Kitty level of money on; that Gudetama came the closest to reaching her pretty little bow.
And don’t you dare pretend that Hello Kitty isn’t insidious; I still remember the Playboy collaboration, and I WILL NEVER FORGET.
Hello Kitty isn’t the icon that we ask for, she is one that we deserve in our slow descent into darkness as society crumbles around us.
Let’s talk about a lazy egg with a butt!
Gudetama is, frankly, a bit of a loser. it’s an egg yolk with a face that just could not be bothered; in other words it’s the mascot of our times. It doesn’t want to get up; always lying arse up on its bed of egg white, curling in a half broken shell in fatigue, or covered in a blanket of bacon. It literally is a loser; having lost out to Kirimichan the salmon filet head in a 2013 public competition, when Sanrio attempted to find a new food based mascot to earn that sweet sweet cash. Kirimichan still exists; it has a tiny little section for itself in selected Sanrio shops, but it never exploded like Gudetama.
And exploded it did. Gudetama products were flying off the shelves in Japan and internationally. In my native London the Shoryu ramen restaurant chain has had a Gudetama themed limited edition set menu for two years straight as of writing, and I know this because I went both times. Like a moth to the flame.
So yeah…there wasn’t ever an option to not go to the first permanent Gudetama café in Japan. Located in the 7th floor of the HEP 5 department store near Osaka station, Gudetama café has been opened since 2013, and its popularity didn’t seem to be waning when I visited one cloudy afternoon.
The Gudetama Café
When I visited the Gudetama café in March 2019 there was no doubt at all that I was in the right place. The bright yellow café stood out garishly; with multiple Gudetama statues, plush toys and wallpaper staring into my soul from the inside. And it was both the most awful and beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life.
I have a very boring life.
Anyways, unlike the the other limited time period themed cafes which were common in Japan, there wasn’t a long queue snaking round the café and down the stairs (this was a common thing); and I was able to easily get a table for two right away in the far left corner of the store on a weekday afternoon.
Gudetama was everywhere, absolutely everywhere. This was not a tastefully and subtly redesigned machiya similar to the Snoopy café in Kyoto (see my review); someone stared at a bare room here and thought: how many images of this egg with a butt can I feasibly fit in here? And then added 10% to that figure just to be safe.
To my left was Gudetama, to the right was Gudetama, there was a video showcasing the lazy egg’s shenanigans in a loop, and we were ordering food and drinks modelled after Gudetama. Basically all my senses were being assaulted and I loved it.
Except for the shrill video on the loop; that can go die in a ditch.
Myself and my boyfriend each chose a drink, main meal and dessert . I chose the matcha latte, white curry, and uji matcha tiramisu cake; he chose the hojicha latte, beef gyudon, and hojicha tiramisu. The meal for two came to around 3,996.00 JPY / 25.42 GBP; this was expensive for Japan, but cheap for London considering the Shoryu Gudetama set menu was £23pp.
I went in with severely lowered expectations regarding the quality of food, as themed restaurants were not around for the taste after all, but was pleasantly surprised. The rice texture of the white curry was just right and had a strong, if perhaps artificial, flavour to it. The curry itself was lukewarm, but mixed well with the hotter rice. Overall the taste was fine, although the rice to everything else ratio felt somewhat skewed at around 70:30.
But this was inevitable, because Gudetama had a LOT of junk in its trunk, if you know what I mean.
A lot of jiggle in its wiggle you might say?
Food in the boot?
Filling in the stocking?
Are you picking up what I’m putting down? Because I’m pretty sure I made some of those up.
You could tell that a lot of care was put into how the curry was presented, as expected of themed restaurants, and it met my expectations fully in how I imagined a blobby yellow thing with a butt should look like in reality. It was nothing like the themed Gudetama menu in London, where the most theme-like food item was essentially a hasty little Gudetama face scribbled on an egg yolk.
Although not all the food items available had as strong an effort placed in its theming, some little details were given to every piece. My matcha latte had a Gudetama face on it, my tiramisu had a Gudetama face on it, my boyfriend’s hojicha latte had a face on it, and his gyudon had a face on it. Pretty much everything had a face on it, and it was amazing.
I had a taste of the gyudon and it was tasty, with a healthy amount of juicy meat and hot fluffy rice. I never had a bad gyudon in my life, and assumed that this was the Japanese equivalent of toast: even a child could make it tasty.
The lattes both tasted delicious; they were warm, creamy and had a distinct green tea taste to them. The Gudetama image sprinkled on top was cute, and the drinks came with a free coaster which disappeared straight into my bag. Unfortunately the coasters were only made of card and felt flimsy.
The desserts were definitely the highlight of the meal; the tiramisus were soft, creamy and refreshingly sweet. It didn’t need the Gudetama gimmick and would have sold on its own in a normal restaurant. The unexpected quality was explained by the collaboration between the Gudetama café and the famous green tea brand, Maccha House. In fact the tiramisu was actually Maccha House’s most famous dessert: the Uji Matcha Tiramisu.
They didn’t change the tiramisu at all in its migration to the Gudetama café; the ingredients still consisted of matcha from Uji, Kyoto, and mascarpone cheese. The only Gudetama addition was the Matcha dusted pattern on top and they had kept the traditional masu box as part of its presentation. Note that the lattes were also part of the collaboration with Maccha House, which also explained their quality.
Unfortunately this collaboration was for a limited time only, from March 14 2019 to May 6 2019, and I was lucky to visit within this time period. I highly recommend you to try these products if it’s still available now or in the future, or to just go to the official Maccha House store in Kyoto.
The Interior Design
Of course the main purpose of coming to the Gudetama café was to feed your eyes and I took the chance when we were waiting for our meal to do exactly that.
This included perusing the shelf selling Gudetama goods next to the till. Unfortunately nothing caught my eye, but apparently you would be buying the goods at a discount inside the café. It still seemed expensive to me, but I had a low price tolerance for plastic goods.
I have to say…they might have overegged the decorations (Get it? Do you get it? I’m a genius).
There was such an assault of yellow in the café, and the noise from the television was so blaring, that it firmly limited the appeal of the restaurant to children and young people, as well as one-and-done visitors such as tourists and those in social media. That made temporary collaborations such as with Maccha House very important to bring in fresh interest. There’s a reason why permanent themed cafes are rare; people tend to move on from the gimmick, and so the Gudetama café has the right idea in setting up these daily events.
So in conclusion, I strongly recommend going to Maccha House for their fresh Tiramisu and hot lattes.
Wait a minute…
Let’s try again.
The Gudetama café is worth a visit for fans of the character, the younger crowd and the curious. The theming is strong, the TV noise unfortunately stronger, and the food is fine if pricey for its quality in Japan. In fact the deaf should enjoy it as well, since your experience would be 30% improved without shrill singing periodically blaring into your ears. I strongly recommend going during special collaboration periods with other brands as well, especially when Maccha House is, um…. in the house (I’m sorry). There’s no hurry though, this café isn’t leaving the HEP 5 building any time soon, and the egg with a butt is popular enough to have similar cafes all around Asia. Gudetama has quite the fandom right now, which is not bad at all for what is essentially a lazy loser.
HEP 5 Building
Afterwards we walked around the HEP 5 building to browse the stores and two areas of interest was the Crayon Shin Chan themed shop and the Jump manga and anime shop. I bought an embroidered cloth with a character from Kimetsu no Yaiba, a relatively low key manga and anime I highly recommend for the beautifully unique style, old fashioned demon hunting adventures and the hilariously straight arrowed nature of the main character Tanjirou.
Address: Japan, 〒530-0017 Osaka, Kita Ward, 5, 北区角田町５−15 HEP FIVE 7階
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:00
Tip: The cafe is on the 7th floor of HEP building and is walkable from Osaka, Umeda or Hanshin-Umeda stations; should be easy to find on the floor but if you can’t see it immediately it’s in the opposite direction from the ferris wheel.