IT was like entering the surrealistic world of comics. Dining with Japanese, they seem to nod or giggle at almost anything and everything. So when I told them there were tadpoles in my cold gelatine dessert, they hit the floor with laughter. ''No, no, no,'' said our hotel host as she stirred the sticky contents in her tiny porcelain bowl with wooden chopsticks. ''These are extracts from plants grown in this area [Osaka] only. It's our speciality and very nice.'' Yes, I later agreed. Though lacking in taste, what appeared to be, er, tadpoles, did have the cooling and refreshing quality which is a prominent feature of Japanese summertime cuisine. Sashimi, pickled vegetables, rice, scrambled eggs and misoshiro, all served cold in tiny portions, are available for not only lunch and dinner, but also breakfast. But for Hong Kong Chinese accustomed to steamy-hot food all year round, three days of summer were quite enough. After a couple of Japanese meals and plenty of sashimi, sushi and salted fish at the hotel, I decided to venture into one of the many underground shopping malls in the heart of Osaka city to find hot rice and noodles. One way of getting there from our hotel was simply by walking. But beware, you are likely to be run over by either pedestrians or bicycles if you take to the streets during the peak hours. The shopping arcade is alongside an underground station and there are probably more food outlets in the complex than shops. The strong smell of cooked food, fruit and coffee is overwhelming. Japanese bars look mysterious but inviting from the outside, with big red lanterns hung on either side of the entrance. Inside, they are packed with men in business suits, many who appear merry and drunk. That may explain why when I ventured in there wasnot a woman in sight. On I went to the shop next door which sold rice crackers in sesame and salted fish. I would never have believed the same piece of cracker could be wrapped up in so many different ways. A look at the price - around HK$80 for a box of 16 crackers - convinced me it was far too expensive because I might find the same product in a supermarket in Causeway Bay. At last I found a restaurant which offered not only hot rice and noodles but also a wide variety of ice-cream. But wait: it is called Ching Ming - the same name as the Chinese ''grave-sweeping'' festival. I thought I would give it a miss.