Translated by Misaki
Dotonbori Things To Do - Osaka's Vibrant Downtown For First Timers
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Dotonbori is one of the top destinations in Osaka for travel. Filled with bright lights, jumbo restaurant signs and the Glico man, this is a must-visit neighborhood. Read on to find out things to do, local Osaka dishes to eat, and how to have a memorable trip.
Dotonbori, Osaka - Enjoy Bright Lights and Local Food
Dotonbori is one of the most popular destinations in Osaka. Located in the southern part of the city, just past Namba and Shinsaibashi, there is much to see, eat, and drink in this lively neighborhood. While it is a popular area, it is hard for travelers not from the Kansai region to know what to experience here.
This article introduces what to do in this famous neighborhood, including seeing the colorful restaurant signs, local food like takoyaki, shopping, and activities.
Things to do in Dotonbori
Dotonbori is the name of the downtown area of Osaka. It is also the name of the Dotonbori River, which flows just north of the downtown area. There are many restaurants, colorful signs and buildings, and shops that will keep you entertained all day and night.
The name "Dotonbori" originates from the merchant Doton Yasui, who began construction of the river in 1612. "Bori" refers to the canal that was created by digging.
Jumbo Restaurant Signs
In Dotonbori, there are many restaurants with playful signs. You can have fun just by walking and looking around. One of the most famous signs is the one in front of this sushi restaurant, shaped like a chef's hand making sushi.
Pictured above is a takoyaki shop. Takoyaki is a classic, popular food that originated in Osaka. The batter of takoyaki is filled traditionally with tako (octopus), which is then cooked in a circular shape, forming balls. This snack is usually served fresh and hot, topped with a savory sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and bonito shavings. The sign for this shop makes it obvious that they serve takoyaki here.
This is a gyoza (dumpling) store. Gyoza is originally a Chinese dish, usually made with minced meat and vegetable filling wrapped in a thin layer of rice dough before being boiled or fried. In Japan, yakigyoza, which is gyoza grilled on an iron plate or in a frying pan, is very popular.
This restaurant serves fugu (pufferfish). The specially-trained chefs in Dotonbori prepare this poisonous fish in a manner that makes it safe for consumers.
If you continue walking around in Dotonbori, you will find more flashy signs for a variety of restaurants, competing with each other.
Meet Kuidaore Taro, the Mascot of Dotonbori
If you walk around Dotonbori or Osaka, you will likely see the character pictured above. Its name is Kuidaore Taro.
Kuidaore Taro appeared in 1950 as a mascot of a restaurant called Kuidaore. "Kuidaore" is a Japanese saying that refers to eating until you literally fall over, or stuffing yourself. "Taro" is a common first name in Japan. There is so much food to try and enjoy in Osaka and in Dotonbori, making this a very fitting mascot for the area. Kuidaore Taro has been associated with Dotonbori for many years.
Restaurants in Japan were once considered places for adults to enjoy exclusively. The founder of Kuidaore wanted to make a restaurant for families and created this mascot. Kuiadore Taro is a robot, energetically beating his drum, ringing the bell, shaking the head and lip-syncing.
Must-Eat Osaka Food
With dozens of restaurants and eateries concentrated in Dotonbori, you can find pretty much any food Osaka is famous for here.
As mentioned above, takoyaki is a very iconic dish. We recommend exploring the neighborhood by ordering a tray of takoyaki to go and eating as you walk around. If you prefer sitting, there are benches along the canal.
Try Freshly-Made Takoyaki
While traditional takoyaki is always popular, there are a number of shops with unique flavors as well. Pictured above is KUROTAKO, known for creative dishes and black-colored takoyaki.
They serve delicious takoyaki with ise ebi (*1) extract. Make sure to stop by if you are craving a different type of snack.
*1 Ise ebi is a Japanese spiny lobster and is considered a delicacy
Depending on the time you go, you will see people waiting in line for the takoyaki here and at other shops.
Please note that KUROTAKO is reported to no longer be in business. However, there are many other specialty takoyaki stands in Dotonbori.
Crab and a Sit-down Meal at a Famous Restaurant
Famous for its moving crab sign, Kani Doraku is also recommended for visitors wanting to enjoy a sit-down meal. This is a higher-end restaurant with a menu that includes fresh crab, hot pot, and even traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. The dishes here are high-quality and exquisite. They also serve crabs to go.
Kani Doraku Dotonbori Main Branch
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Chuo, Dotonbori 1-6-18 Google Map
Enjoy Classic Osaka Ramen
Another popular spot in Dotonbori is Kinryu Ramen, marked by the gigantic dragon on the roof. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day and is ideal for late nights. It is known for its simple ramen menu and unlimited toppings to customize your noodles, like kimchi and chives.
Pictured above is part of the dining space. Tatami mats and tables are placed on small stands, on which customers eat ramen while being watched by people passing by. There are also similar mats and low tables located inside.
The classic ramen here is made with pork bone broth and is rich in flavor. Each bowl is priced reasonably (from around 600 yen). If you want to truly experience food in Osaka, Kinryu Ramen is the place to visit. We highly recommend trying the ramen at this restaurant.
Kinryu Ramen Dotonbori Branch
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Chuo, Dotonbori 1-7-26 Google Map
Cruising on the Dotonbori River
Try the cruise along the Dotonbori River to take in another view of the neighborhood. The cruise also allows visitors to take a break from the crowds.
The boarding point is visible from the center of Dotonbori. Tickets cost 900 yen for adults and 400 yen for children. The ride is sure to make your time in Dotonbori all the more special.
Adventure in Dotonbori
Dotonbori is a famous and lively neighborhood in Osaka enjoyable during the day and in the evening. From its jumbo-size restaurant signs to fresh takoyaki and late-night ramen, this is a destination you won't want to miss.
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Chuo, Dotonbori 1 and its surroundings
Access: walking distance from Namba Station (use exit 14 from Osaka Metro Midosuji Line or Kintetsu Railway Namba Station)
Official Website: Dotonbori Town Guide (Chinese, Korean)