Dotonbori is a famous tourist destination in Osaka, that runs along the Dotonbori canal. It stretches from Dotonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge and is famous for its nightlife and entertainment, as well as its delicious food.
The best way to explain Osaka’s obsession with food is with the expression: “kuidaore” which can be roughly translated to- “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food” or “spend so much on food that you fall into financial ruin.” Foodies! Assemble!
Dotonbori, or the “bright heart,” of Osaka is located in Japan’s Kansai region and offers a rich variety of regional delicacies. Here’s a list of foods that you simply should not miss when you are visiting this hotspot for tourists and revellers alike:
One of Osaka’s signature street dishes, Takoyaki is a little round shaped ball containing a piece of octopuses. You can also walk around Dotonbori with Takoyaki as it is very portable to eat. Also, don’t miss out on Konamom Museum that immortalizes Takoyaki. Here, You can enjoy eating, cook Takoyaki by yourself and also create a souvenir wax replica.
Another one of Osaka’s symbolic dishes is Okonomiyaki. It is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of flavours and toppings. The name Okonomiyaki is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” or “what you like”, and yaki meaning “cooked” (usually fried). Therefore one can find some Okonomiyaki restaurants that are grill-it-yourself establishments. Here, the server produces a bowl of raw ingredients that the customer mixes and grills at tables fitted with teppan, or special hotplates. It’s an experience!
This is a deep fried stick dish, where katsu or vegetables are on skewers and are usually eaten Kushikatsu sauce. This dish includes various ingredients such as fried including meat, seafood and vegetables but the only rule to bear in mind while stuffing your face with some Kushikatsu is that: You cannot dip Kushikatsu into the sauce more than once!
This is a classic Japanese stir fry noodles dish with pork and vegetables that is seasoned with a sweet & savoury sauce.
Tecchiri & Tessa
If you like seafood and famous Japanese foods, it is highly recommended to try Tecchiri and Tessa in Dotonbori. Tecchiri and Tessa are cooked with fugu (pufferfish). While Tecchiri is served in a Shabushabu style with a hot pot, Tessa in Sashimi style (raw fish). Remember, the poisonous fugu can be lethal; but you can eat it in Osaka without any worries since the chefs have been specially licensed to handle fugu.
Crabs at Kani Douraku
You can find Kani Douraku very easily as there is a large moving crab displayed above its entrance. This is one of the most popular restaurants in Dotonbori, Osaka, and it serves fresh crabs cooked in many ways. You can eat in, or also grab some crab street food and walk around Dotonbori. If you are planning to eat in, it is better to book your seat beforehand as the waiting time can be as long as 3 hours!
Things to do in Dotonbori:
Dotonbori River Cruise
There is a story behind the Dotonbori River. In 1612, Yasui Doton (a merchant) invested his life savings in a plan to divert the Umezu River into a canal system that would link the Umezu to the Kizugawa River. Sadly, Doton never got to complete his project as he was killed in the Siege of Osaka in 1615. Within a year, Doton’s cousins completed the canal and named it in honour of their fallen family member – Dotonbori, meaning “Doton Canal”. The completion of this canal led to easy transportation and was the reason why this area flourished.
Enjoy a relaxing river cruise in the middle of Dotonbori and you can see many of Osaka’s tourist spots along the way.
Dotonbori has been Osaka’s entertainment and culinary centre for centuries. In its prime, it hosted six Kabuki theatres, five Bunraku theatres, and the Takeda Karakuri mechanical puppet theatre. But as many of the old structures were destroyed by firebombing during WWII, Shochikuza is one of Dotonbori’s few theatres that remain. This centrally located kabuki theatre is a marvel in itself. Sitting in the heart of Dōtonbori, it features classic kabuki plays, operas, and modern works, such as dramas and musicals.
With over 60 tiny traditional Japanese restaurants and bars, Hozenji-Yokocho Alley is one of the best nightlife spots in Osaka for drinking. This stone-paved alley will charm you with the old-timey feeling of historical Osaka. Take some time here, as the cobbled road with restaurants and izakaya (Japanese pubs) certainly evoke that Shōwa period (1926–1989) vibe.
Hozenji Buddhist Temple
This quaint little Buddhist temple lies between the bright neon signs of Dotonbori and the shopping malls of Namba. It also somehow serves as a peaceful refuge in the midst of this tangled touristy maze. Now we would highly suggest visiting this temple in the evening when the lanterns are lit giving it a very serene, and magical atmosphere.
Click a picture with Glico man
Okay, what trip to Osaka is complete without a picture with the Glico Man signboard? The Gilco Man is the unofficial mascot of Dotonbori. This is a large neon sign features a man running on a blue race track. It is positioned directly above the Ebisu Bridge. A popular photo spot for tourists and locals alike, this billboard was first put up in 1935 as an advertisement for Glico (a Japanese food company).
Located right under the Glico man billboard, Ebisu Bridge is a popular meeting spot. It also allows visitors to access Ebisu Shrine as well as the Shinsaibashi-suji and Ebisubashi-suji shopping districts.
Take a walk in Dotonbori after dark
Dotonbori is Japan’s second largest city and is best known for its extravagant neon lights, which pierce the night and reflect off the surface of the Dotonbori Canal. During the day, Dotonbori is an entertainment and shopping street; but, at night the bright neon lights make you feel as if the “heart of Osaka” never sleeps.
So, what are you waiting for? Go see all that Dotonbori has to offer.