The city of Osaka is Japan’s third largest city in terms of population, with over 2.6 million inhabitants. Despite being a more modern city, the city also has a lot of history, like the oldest Shinto shrine, and traditions to offer. The port city is known as the culinary capital of Japan and is the birthplace of some delicious Japanese dishes such as okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. The people of Osaka have a reputation for being more rebellious but at the same time more down-to-earth, humble, and gentle. The welcoming town with its friendly people, vibrant nightlife, excellent shopping, and delicious food is well worth a visit!
Osaka has two major city centers: the Dotonbori and Namba area which is called Minami (south in Japanese) and Kita (north in Japanese) referring to the Umeda area. Minami is the most famous and popular tourist destination in Osaka City which is filled with numerous gaudy neon lights and an enormous variety of restaurants and bars. Here are places we recommend you visit and things to do in the iconic Minami area: Dotonbori and Namba.
- 1. Take a lot of cool pictures at Dotonbori Street
- 2. Make your own takoyaki at Konamon Museum
- 3. Enjoy Osaka’s food culture at popular restaurants
- 4. Take a 20 minutes journey on Dotonbori River Cruise
- 5. Make a wish at Hozenji Temple and feel the town’s history at Hozenji Yokocho
- 6. Join the food tour guided by Osaka locals
- 7. Try local specialty at Kuromon Market
- 8. Watch comedy shows at Namba Grand Kagetsu
- 9. See the kabuki performance at Osaka Shochikuza Theatre
- Where to stay in the Osaka Dotonbori area?
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1. Take a lot of cool pictures at Dotonbori Street
This colorful street runs parallel to the canal’s south bank and is often referred to as the heart of Osaka. The buzzing entertainment district with its many bars and izakaya is popular among youngsters and after-work drinkers. On this iconic street are also many popular tourist attractions such as the huge billboards with a giant pufferfish, an octopus, a clown, and the Kani Douraku crab all vying for your attention and creating an amusement park-like atmosphere. The most famous and symbolic one is Glico’s Running Man signboard. Glico is a big Japanese food company. People usually take pictures on the bridge over the canal with this signboard in the background.
Kani Doraku has another iconic signboard in Dotonbori. This 3D sign board clearly represents what this restaurant offers – crab cuisine. You can eat in or grab some crab street food and walk around the area. There are branches in Osaka and other parts of Japan, but the one in Dotonbori is where it all started and thus worth a visit. Pay attention to the signboard; the huge crab even moves its legs!
Kuidaore Taro, a statue of a drummer with round glasses and a colorful outfit that shows some resemblance to Wally from where is Wally?, is another icon of Dotonbori or even Osaka. This statue was installed in front of an entertainment building with the purpose to attract customers. Osaka is historically a city of merchants and has a rich food culture. For this, Osaka is known as a city of kuidaore (食い倒れ) which translates into “eat till you drop”. Therefore, this Kuidaore Taro statue represents the Osaka food culture. In souvenir shops in Dotonbori, you will find many kuidaore Taro goods.
2. Make your own takoyaki at Konamon Museum
Konamon Museum is a four-floor building on Dotonbori Street which is specialized in takoyaki. Takoyaki, savory octopus balls, is a famous Japanese dish that originates from Osaka. On the first floor, there is a famous Takoyaki restaurant where you can eat. You can even make your own takoyaki here using professional equipment. On the second floor, you can learn more about the history of Dotonbori, Namba, takoyaki, and takoyaki sauce. On the third floor, you can experience making a replica of takoyaki with wax which you can see in display cases outside of some takoyaki restaurants.
11.30am – 10pm
3. Enjoy Osaka’s food culture at popular restaurants
When you walk around in Dotonbori, one thing you cannot miss is the smell of food. As the nation’s food capital, Osaka is famous for its delicious cuisine. And Dotonbori is said to be the best place in Osaka to experience its food culture. There are several famous restaurants in Dotonbori.
“Kukuru” is a very famous takoyaki shop. Kukuru can be found all over Japan but the one in Dotonbori is the very first one that was open. People become addicted to their yummy takoyaki which is crispy outside and creamy inside with big chunks of octopus.
Hariju has been serving prime Japanese beef dishes in Dotonbori since 1948. There are three restaurants in the Dotonbori area. The main and original restaurant serves shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. Hariju Grill serves other beef dishes like beef steak, beef cutlets, and stewed beef. Curry Shop serves several kinds of beef curry rice.
Kinryu Ramen has five branches in the Dotonbori and Namba areas. This ramen restaurant is famous for its signboard with the 3D dragon. Ever since the restaurant opened in 1982, there have been only two items on the menu, Ramen (¥600) and Chashu Men – ramen with more slices of braised pork – (¥900). This restaurant is very popular also with the locals.
This restaurant will soon celebrate its 100th birthday and is famous throughout the country for its kushikatsu. Kushikatsu is a deep-fried skewered meat, fish, and vegetables, another signature dish from Osaka. The dish was originally invented as cheap fast food for lower-income workers in the early 20th century but nowadays loved by everyone. In Kushikatsu Daruma, when the kushikatsu is served, you dip the kushikatsu into a pot of sauce that is on the table and eat. But be careful, double dipping is not allowed!
4. Take a 20 minutes journey on Dotonbori River Cruise
A fun way to discover the Dotonbori area from a different vantage point is the Dotonbori River. The Tombori River Cruise takes you to see the nine bridges over the river and the busy downtown area in approximately 20 minutes. During this relaxing cruise, a guide will tell you more about the area. The tickets can be purchased at a boarding point located near Tazaemon-bashi Bridge. You can enjoy seeing the Dotonbori area from a different perspective than when you walk around.
1am – 9pm weekdays
11am – 9pm weekend holidays & summer peak season
Admission ¥900 (adult)
5. Make a wish at Hozenji Temple and feel the town’s history at Hozenji Yokocho
Near Dotonbori Street, a short walk from the Dotonbori Bridge, there is a small temple called Hozenji Temple. On the temple’s premises, you will find a famous Buddha statue. It is said that once upon a time an elderly woman made a wish to this statue by throwing water on it and her wish came true. From that time people have been making wishes by throwing water on it, resulting in the statue being covered with moss. It is believed that this Buddha can help to make any wishes come true, thus many people come to this temple to make their wishes.
Just behind Hozenji Temple, there is Hozenji Yokocho which is a historic stone alley from the Edo period. This alley stretches out for about 80 meters and is home to many local restaurants and bars. You can find sophisticated restaurants for Osaka’s specialties such as okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) and kushikatsu (a battered and deep-fried street food) and for high-end Japanese food such as fugu (Japanese pufferfish or blowfish), sushi, and kaiseki ryori (a traditional Japanese multi-course meal). There are also some cafes offering Japanese sweets and desserts. This quaint alley has a totally different atmosphere from Dotonbori Street with its flashy colors and lights, and noise.
6. Join the food tour guided by Osaka locals
By now you can probably guess that Osaka is well-known for its food culture. Osaka and especially Dotonbori is a great place to indulge yourself and try some of this delicious Japanese cuisine. You can explore the rich tastes and get excited on your own, but you might want to consider joining a food tour! The guide will tell you all about Osaka’s history and of course the cuisine. As the culinary capital of Japan and home to many world-famous dishes, Osaka is a great place to learn more about Japanese cuisine!
7. Try local specialty at Kuromon Market
A visit to the culinary capital wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its’ kitchen: Kuromon market. The lively, covered market is almost 600 long with shops selling all of Osaka’s best (and strangest) specialties. The market dates back to the Edo period, when it was known as Enmyoji market, after the Enmyoji temple that was located nearby at the time.
8. Watch comedy shows at Namba Grand Kagetsu
People from Osaka are said to be outgoing and funny, and many Japanese comedians are in fact born in Osaka. Namba Grand Kagetsu is Osaka’s theatre famous for its comedy shows, such as Manzai (duo stand-up comedy), Shin-Kigeki (“new” comedy), and Kontos (comic chat). But people can also attend music and acrobatic performances. The theatre has shows on a daily basis, most unfortunately only available in Japanese. When you understand Japanese, attending a show should definitely be on your itinerary!
9. See the kabuki performance at Osaka Shochikuza Theatre
Osaka Shochikuza Theatre is another theatre in the Dotonbori district, it regularly shows kabuki performances. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese form of performance art that involves rhythmic music, dance, easily recognizable make-up, and costumes. Kabuki plays are based on historical events and moral conflicts. Even when you cannot understand what is being said, even Japanese can have a hard time because often old language is used, it is still great to watch (a part of) a kabuki performance because of the costumes, dances, and interaction. And if you are lucky there is an English audio guide available.
Where to stay in the Osaka Dotonbori area?
Experience the warmth and charm of the city’s culture and spend the night here too. From unique boutiques to designer hotels, as well as larger hotel chains and quaint, traditional ryokans, Osaka has a large offer of hotels. Here are some of our top picks in the Dotonbori area:
- Hotel Ichiei – a traditional ryokan in the middle of the buzzing district.
- Dotonbori Hotel – a hotel that very much welcomes travelers from all destinations, as you can easily recognize from the funny entrance!
- OYO Hotel Asiato Namba – an affordable hotel in a very convenient location.
How was our list of things to do in Dotonbori? When you are in Osaka, this area in the south is a must-visit place. Do you feel inspired to travel to the buzzing city? We hope you enjoy Osaka’s lively atmosphere and yummy foods.
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