Historically known as the local theater district, today Dōtonbori is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Osaka. With a vibrant nightlife scene and an abundance of restaurants and shops, this area is known for its illuminated signboards running along the canal. Check out this list of ten things to do in the area.
Stroll along the Tonbori Riverwalk
The Dōtonbori canal is right in the heart of the bustling Namba district. The adjacent Tonbori Riverwalk comes alive at both day and night with plenty of shops and restaurants and live music performers. Here, visitors can enjoy an al fresco meal or relax inside one of the many cafes and bars looking out on to the river. Have a walk along the canal just to soak in the busy and exciting atmosphere or take in the neon lights over Dōtonbori Bridge and indulge in the culinary treats in this wonderful area.
Enjoy a Tonbori River Cruise
If a river walk doesn’t entice you, try a Tonbori River cruise. It’s a 20-minute cruise starting from near Namba Station, which takes visitors along the Dōtonbori Canal. On the cruise, tourists can get a feel for the Osaka atmosphere as the cruise passes some of the most famous sights, like the Glico running man sign. It’s the ideal setting in which to relax, people watch, and wave at passers-by on the promenade. Furthermore, it’s a great way to spot a restaurant to revisit later!
Spend all your money on Shinsaibashisuji
The Shinsaibaishi shotengai is one of Osaka’s longest shopping arcades. The arcade boasts a wide variety of shops, both local and well-known international brands, like H&M, Zara, Bershka and Forever 21. Shinsahibashi is a great place to people watch and get a sense of the local trends and fashions. The arcade is jam-packed with restaurants and cafes serving everything from waffles and crêpes to pizzas. Here, you’ll find lots of little bars that are worth exploring as well.
Party all night in Sōemoncho
The Dōtonbori area is always very busy and lively, but it is especially vibrant at night. Sōemoncho is the heart of the evening exuberance. With a large range of bars and karaoke joints, this area is one of the most exciting places to be. Most of the restaurants are open until the early hours of the morning so you’ll find lots of people heading over to indulge in some of the tasty, traditional fast foods after they’ve hit the clubs and bars.
Travel back in time on Hozenji Yokocho
The Hozenji Yokocho is a narrow, stone-paved path that leads to Hozenji Temple. The lane creates the ambiance of olden Osaka from hundreds of years ago. Cozy and quaint, both sides of the lane are lined with small food shops and cafes serving traditional Japanese food. Find the path just next to Dōtonbori Street and head down to spot the famous Fudomyoo statue covered entirely in moss, and more formally known as the Mizukake Fudo. Be sure to check out this scenic and picturesque area which is fantastic for travel photos.
Pause in peaceful Hozenji
This quiet, tranquil temple is almost out of place in busy downtown. This religious site was founded in 1637. Most of the buildings were lost in the Second World War and now only two remain. Visit to see Fudomyoo, a deity taking the form of fury and who is said to protect people against evil, conquer all demons, and grant all wishes. People splash water as an offering to the deity and pray for their prosperity. Because of the amount of water splashed onto it, the statue has grown a large amount of moss.
Watch traditional kabuki plays at Shochikuza
This centrally located Kabuki theater, sitting in the heart of Dōtonbori, is a must-see for anyone visiting Japan. The performances are only in Japanese and do not cater to English speakers; however, the performances are so visual that they are easy to understand. You’ll find yourself invested in the plot and laughing along with the characters in no time. Kabuki is a Japanese form of traditional theater combined with dancing. Immerse yourself in this aspect of Japanese culture and head over to the Osaka Shochikuza for some dramatic performances.
Marvel at the gaudiness of Chinese Cafe 8
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$$
This weird and wacky Chinese restaurant just off the Dōtonbori Canal is a must-visit for two reasons – the food is amazing and the decor is…unique. The menu features hundreds of authentic Chinese staples served 24 hours a day and the tables are decorated with gigantic golden Buddhas. The walls are covered in gold moulds of, well, “adult body parts” might be the best way to phrase it. There is a shrine to the male member as well.
Learn about and eat street food at the Konamon Museum
Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
A trip to Osaka would not be complete without a visit the Konamon Museum. The museum is a new tourist attraction all about takoyaki, a tasty Japanese street food. The bottom floor of the museum boasts a delicious takoyaki restaurant with carefully selected wines and champagnes for pairing with your meal. The museum also offers some truly unique experiences. The first is being able to make your own takoyaki wax figurine to take away. The second is being able to watch takoyaki experts create some of this delicious food up close.
Mon - Fri:
11:30 am - 7:15 pm
Sat - Sun:
10:30 am - 7:15 pm
Pose in front of the famous Glico Sign
The “Glico Man” is the symbol of south Osaka. In fact, if you don’t take a photo posing as the running man in front of the sign, you may as well not have visited Osaka. This sign, advertising popular Japanese snack maker Glico (heard of Pocky?), was put up in 1935 and remodeled 2014 maintaining the old design but adding new LED lights and animations that change with the time of day. The best photo-op spots are on the adjacent Ebisu Bridge or across the river on the Tonbori Riverwalk.