Osaka’s entertainment district

02 April, 2012 by

Mention Dotonbori to any foreigner and the image of Osaka’s famous Glico Man neon sign and giant mechanical crabs come to mind. But to locals, it is best known for its offering of nighttime entertainment. In either case, the streets of Dotonbori come alive each night to make for an interesting visit.

Dotonbori has its roots as an entertainment town all the way since the 17th century, when it housed a great concentration of Kabuki and puppet theaters for Osakans. But as times changed, it shifted toward less innocent forms of entertainment.

I’d love to say that this canal town also being home to carnal pleasures, but the nastiest of Osaka lies further south in Nishinari-ku’s Tobita Shinchi. Instead, you’ll find a great number of clubs, bars and kyabakura in Dotonbori, making it sort of Osaka’s equivalent of Shinjuku Kabukicho.

Possibly Osaka's most famous street.

Also one of the few places with an active night life.

As with any place in the world with an active night life, Dotonbori is also home to numerous eateries that open till late. The signs from these shops have become quite symbolic of the town, especially the giant mechanical billboard above each branch of Kani Doraku, a famous restaurant specializing in Hokkaido crabs. The giant crab has become just one of the many elements of tourist culture in Osaka. It is possible that Kani Doraku’s popularity inspired many of the other shops to adopt similarly outrageous signage of their own.

Walking along Dotonbori.

Ridiculous signage.

More extravagant displays.

Yakiniku Restaurant.

Another iconic character of Dotonbori is Kuidaore Taro. The robotic clown used to play outside of a sukiyaki restaurant here, but with the closure of the establishment, Kuidaore Taro is now exhibited on the first floor of the new Nakaza Kuidaore Building instead. Also on the first floor of Nakaza Kuidaore are a number of souvenir shops, selling exclusive omiyage.

Outside the Nakaza Kuidaore Building, which sells all manner of touristy stuff.

At Dotonbori Bridge.

At the northern end of the street, the Dotonbori Bridge connects to the adjacent Shinsaibashi, another lively popular shopping district in Osaka. Perhaps what makes Dotonbori so unsettling is that all of the host and hostess activity are concentrated on this one bridge.

Tons hostesses and many more hosts.

It doesn’t help that it is next to impossible to avoid Dotonbori Bashi if you’re coming here, since it is also adjacent to where the famous Glico Man sign is. Thankfully, compared to the touters in other Asian cities, Japan’s are pretty mild (and most avoid foreigners anyway).

To those who are open to it,  Dotonbori-bashi can be an interesting sight. And while activity here is mostly limited to host clubs and kyabakura. The availability of plentiful Love Hotels here suggest that there is more to meets the eye.

Glico man.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

#  #  #

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.