There are many wild and wonderful things about Japanese culture that people can appreciate. From their rolling mountainous landscapes, constant cultural festivities, and beautiful national costume, Japan is simply a country brimming with life and character.
One of the things we’ve learned to love and really appreciate is that they seem to have a word to express some truly beautiful things; things that not even the English language has a word to describe.
‘Shinrinyoku’: when you’re walking quietly through a forest and basking in the atmosphere, or simply forest bathing.
‘Ikigai’: someone’s reason for being, why you get up in the morning.
‘Wabi-sabi’: wistfully describing the beauty that lies in the imperfections in nature.
We could go on all day about these exquisite Japanese words, but we’re really here today to break down one: kuidaore.
Even if you’ve never heard of it before, kuidaore is definitely something most people have experienced. It is used to describe the situation when one wholly and unapologetically eats themselves into bankruptcy, in short, to eat oneself into total ruin.
Never have we heard of a more bittersweet word. Foodies around the world would gladly agree that if there were one thing we had to spend our money on for the rest of our lives, it would be food. The intrinsic and pure happiness felt when eating delicious food is quite unlike any other feeling. Some might go as far as saying you’re elevated to euphoria for moments when taking your first bite into delicious food.
Kuidaore describes all of the above in one simple word. It implies that the love of food is just so extravagant, one would happily spend all of their money and go bankrupt just to eat! Naturally, when you break up the words, ‘kui’ means eating, and ‘daore-ru’ means to go bankrupt, to be ruined.
Kuidaore & Dotonbori
Whilst the origin of why and how is unknown, kuidaore has been commonly associated with the Dotonbori district, and it’s not hard to see why. Dotonbori is located in Osaka, the unofficial (or official?) food mecca of Japan. It’s long been touted as the place to be for any foodies visiting Japan.
To be frank, food is good almost anywhere you go in this country. It has the highest concentration of Michelin-star restaurants around the world, and the Japanese principle of dignity and high work ethic is unmatched, from restaurant owners in tiny laneways to chefs at 5-star hotels.
However, Osaka is simply on another level.
Its history as being the best city to feed its 19-20 million inhabitants well has earned it its reputation of kuidaore. Concentrated areas around Dotonbori offer attacks on all the senses: fresh food scents waft through the nose; neon signs and LED lights flash with food advertisements; the sounds of fresh pancakes as they sizzle and vendors as they call out will make you feel overwhelmed.
The best way to experience kuidaore in Dotonbori is to indulge in all the foods that are associated with this sensation.
Okonomiyaki is the quintessential Osaka dish. You can get it everywhere around Japan, but it hits different in this city. It is a savory pancake made from eggs, flour, grated yam, and shredded cabbage. It’s then filled with whatever ingredients you want; some popular proteins include pork, prawns, cheese, etc. Lastly, it’s topped with sweet brown sauce, mayo, powdered nori, and bonito flakes.
The Classic Osaka snack. These ball-shaped octopus dumplings are cooked fresh to order and are filled with sliced octopus, ginger, spring onions, and tempura crumbs. They’re finished off with a sweet brown sauce, mayo, powdered nori, and bonito flakes.
Kushikatsu are basically skewered meats or vegetables– breaded, crumbed, and then deep-fried into a crispy golden finish. You can then opt to dip it in a variety of sauces. Common skewers consist of chicken, pork, quail eggs, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and shiitake mushroom.
4. Kitsune Udon
Kitsune udon is believed to have originated directly from Osaka. It consists of thick udon noodles served in a delicious fragrant dashi broth. It is topped with sliced or whole deep-fried tofu. It’s a simple dish that’s incredibly rich in flavor.
If you’re planning on a trip to Japan sometime soon, one of the best things you can plan for yourself is a day to overindulge in food and experience kuidaore!