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Groovy Osaka: Shinsaibashi to Dotonbori

Whether you are new to Osaka or a seasoned veteran of the city, there is always something to do or see as you walk from Shinsaibashi to Dotonbori.

By 3 min read 6

When I first arrived in Osaka, I was overwhelmed with all the light. At night, the whole city looks like it has been lined in neon. Even the supermarkets, like Tamade (玉出), rival the pachinko parlors with flashing displays and lights galore.

With its greasy food stands, flashing lights, and cacophony of voices and various advertisements, the heart of this urban carnival is Dotonbori. Whether you are a tourist or a resident of Osaka with some free time, walking around Dotonbori is a great way to experience Osaka.

When to Go

Whether you choose to visit Dotonbori during the day or at night, you will not be disappointed. Though some of the illuminations are not visible until nightfall, many of the electronic displays are always on. The vibrant colors of the signage and animatronic characters can also be seen at all hours.

The Canal

During my first few years of living in Osaka, the canal was a cesspool of rusted bikes and rubbish. Several people died while attempting to swim in it. After extensive construction and cleaning, the canal now has pleasant walkways and boat tours. On occasion, a ragtime band traverses the canal by boat, filling the air with music that emphasizes the unique and homey nature of Osaka. While the boat tours end at 9pm, the canal walkways are always open and offer great alternative views of Dotonbori.

Kuidaore

There is a famous saying from Edo era, “Dress ‘til you drop in Kyoto, and eat ‘til you drop in Osaka (京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ).” The food culture of Osaka is famous throughout Japan, and that food culture is based out of Dotonbori. There are many restaurants and food stands that cater to Osaka specialties such as okonomiyaki, a cabbage pancake with various toppings with a sauce; takoyaki, fried octopus dough balls with a sauce; and kushikatsu, fried food on sticks, again, with a sauce.

Kushikatsu (串カツ) are deep-fried skewers of… almost anything, served with a dipping sauce. They’re a specialty here in Osaka, and one of my personal favourites is Kushikatsu Daruma. Originally started in 1929, the long-running restaurant almost closed in 2000 due to the 3rd generation owner falling ill, but the talented and former boxer, Hidekazu Akai, bought the restaurant and helped transform it into what it is today.

kushikatsu

The restaurant features one of the most intimidating mascots in all of the restaurant industry. At the Dotonbori store, one can see the giant 3D menacing visage taking up a good portion of the building and booming loudly on loudspeakers that you should never double dip. The rumor amongst Osaka natives is that Daruma started the now famous Osakan no-double-dipping policy.

For many years, there was an actual Cui-daore restaurant that had entire floors devoted to each aspect of Osakan cuisine, but it closed in 2008. That hasn’t stopped the colorful storefront itself from being a popular tourist attraction. The drumming clown mascot, Cui-daore Taro, has also retained a great deal of popularity and is featured on many Osaka souvenirs.

Ebisubashi and Shinsaibashi-suji

Ebisubashi is the iconic bridge that connects both sides of the canal. Its nickname is Hikkakebashi, or the “Pick Up Bridge.” Originally named for all the lonely singles who have tried to find dates on the bridge. Now most of the solicitations are of the paid variety and hosts, hostesses, and restaurant workers all aggressively vie for customers, so don’t be alarmed if you are harassed.

To make it across the bridge, you have to dodge the above mentioned hustlers as well as loads of tourists who have stopped to gawk or take a selfie with the giant Glico man, people meeting up with friends, and the occasional protester, performer, or street merchant. If you make it across the bridge, or wisely crossed one block over along the Midosuji, you will find a bustling shopping arcade, called Shinsaibashi-suji, with prices that suit both city residents and visitors.

Access

From Tokyo:

From Tokyo Station take JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line (2:30 hours) to Shin-Osaka Station. Take a subway for 15 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station to Namba Station.

From Osaka:

A five-minute walk from Namba Station to the Dotonbori area.

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  • Tomas Se says:

    Don’t forget okonomiyaki!

  • Lynn says:

    I’m really regretting not visiting Osaka when I was in the area, visiting Kyoto. The kushikatsu especially look good!

  • Mahari Abdul says:

    Amazing!! I’m going to Osaka for 10 or so days in January and I can’t wait to go to Dotonbori!

    • Have Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki!! Also, it is easy to visit Kyoto, 35 minutes from Osaka by train. If you want a cheap hotel, try Hotel Taiyo. Request the women’s only floor, and it is free to make a reservation. 2100 Yen a night.

    • Quincy Fox says:

      I hope this and future articles can help you make the most of those 10 days. Have a wonderful trip!

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