When one speaks of Osaka, many people recall the huge Glico billboard and the giant crab sign with moving legs. These symbols of Osaka are located around the Dotonbori River in Namba district. Dotonbori is full of flashing neon flights and shoppers, and a Ferris wheel can also be found overhead, as though a theme park had suddenly appeared in the street.
One can surely be mesmerized by the masses of neon lights, labyrinthine of streets with multi colored shops including pachinkos, karaokes, drug stores, boutiques, souvenirs shops to restaurants that cater to all kinds of demand. The street is always full of noise, full of light, full of energy. Dotonbori is the heart and soul of Osaka, a street that never sleeps. Osaka is known as the food haven of Japan- especially here in Dotonbori, come and experience “Kuidaore”, literally meaning eat till you drop. From the takoyaki stands to the okonomiyaki restaurants, you can never get enough of the gastronomy galore here.
I totally agreed. When I arrived in Osaka, I was so overwhelmed with all the neon lights. At night, the whole city looks like it has been lined in neon. Even the supermarkets, rival the pachinko parlors with flashing displays and lights galore.
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.
Best seen at night, Dotonbori never truly closes with some restaurants open 24 hours. At night it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanised signs.
There are several famous billboards and characters in Dotonbori. One is the well-known Glico billboard at the foot of the Hikkake-bashi bridge. The Glico billboard was first installed in 1935. Its design changes with the times and it is now in its 6th generation. Next is the billboard of the specialist crab restaurant "Kani Doraku". It is a huge crab with slowly-moving mechanical legs located about a 30 second walk from the Glico billboard. If you keep walking down Dotonbori past Kani Doraku, you will see a doll in striped clothes at the entrance to the "Naka-za Kuidaore" building. This is "Kuidaore Taro", one of the special characters of Dotonbori. If you see all three of these landmarks, you've covered Dotonbori well.
Dotonbori is full of energy and delight. The whole street is like a theme park, with so many oversized and colorful decorations.
Kani Doraku Crab is on the front of the crab restaurant Kani Doraku. It is mechanized, being able to move its arms and eyestalks. Built in 1960, this mechanical billboard soon spawned imitations, including a squid that puffs steam and oni (demons) that light up at night.
By now, you’ve be awed by one advertisement board emitting bright lights with a giant neon athlete with his tracks. This other star, The Glico Man looks like an advertisement for a sports related company but alas! This is actually the symbol for Glico Candy, the manufacturer for the very famous Pocky and Pretz. Yes, these are great souvenirs to bring home; you can find them in supermarkets and drug stores anywhere in Japan. However, make sure you try the famous Takoyaki-flovored Pretz which is only available in Osaka! The Glico Man with his famous victory post has even become a symbol for Osaka.
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.
Kuidaore Taro used to be in front of Kui-daore restaurant, which has now closed down. The mechanical drum-playing clown, also known as the Kuidaore Ningyo, installed in 1950. Every March the visiting rikishi for the Osaka Grand Sumo tournament used to line up with Kuidaore Taro for photos.
Views of Dotonbori at sunset, just before the night kicks in.
With its greasy food stands, flashing lights, and cacophony of voices and various advertisements, the heart of this urban carnival is Dotonbori.
Dotonbori is such a fun place to be and a memorable one for years to come. Please explore this awesome street with an amalgamation of everything Osaka! Whether you are a tourist or a resident of Osaka with some free time, Dotonbori is definitely a must-visit in Osaka!
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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