With a vibrant nightlife scene and home to Osaka’s “kitchen”, Dotonbori is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Historically, it’s known as the local theater district and to this day, you can still watch kabuki plays, which is a must-see for anyone visiting Japan! Famously known for its illuminated signboards running along the Dotonbori River, there are plenty of things to see and do here.
From eating regional food such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki to shopping for unique Japanese items, we’ve compiled six awesome activities you can do to fill your trip with delicious street food and entertaining sightseeing in Dotonbori. These spots can all be seen in a day on foot, so put on your comfiest shoes to fully enjoy the experience!
Pose in front of the famous Glico Man
Your Osaka trip is not complete if you did not have a photo with the famous Glico Man. It’s like going to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower. The sign was put up in 1935 to advertize Japanese snack maker Glico (a.k.a where Pocky came from). In 2014, the larger-than-life sign was remodeled by adding LED lights and animations, which quickly became an Osaka landmark. The best photo-op spots are on the adjacent Ebisu Bridge or across the river on the Tonbori Riverwalk, so, put up your hands and pose like the Glico Man!
Have more fun by posing with another large 3D billboard such as the Kani Doraku crab in front of the crab restaurant, Kani Doraku. The six and a half meters mechanized crab is even able to move its arms and eyestalks!
Watch traditional Kabuki plays at Shochikuza
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture and enjoy a traditional Kabuki play at Shochikuza. Kabuki is a Japanese form of traditional theater that incorporates dancing. While the performances are usually in Japanese, the shows are visual so you don’t need to understand Japanese to enjoy it. Head over to the Osaka Shochikuza for some dramatic performances!
Eat your way through Dotonbori
There’s a reason why Osaka is known as Japan’s “kitchen”. The Kansai’s port city is famous for its cuisine and there is plenty of food to eat here! You should definitely not miss to taste Osaka’s regional dishes such as okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake. There are a variety of flavors and toppings for okonomiyaki, and some restaurants offer the chance of self-cooking on the table!
Another classic Osakan dish is the kushikatsu, a deep-fried stick dish. Various ingredients such as meat, seafood and vegetables are deep-fried and there are buckets of sauce to dip the kushikatsu. But be sure to only dip once for hygienic reasons!
If you like seafood, head over to Zuboraya Dotonbori where you can try “fugu” blowfish! On its menu are tessa, a thinly-sliced raw blowfish served sashimi-style, tecchiri hotpot which warms you up in winter, and deep-fried blowfish that offers springy and juicy texture.
To make it easy for you to try all the food Osaka has to offer, join a walking food tour!
Learn about Osaka’s street food at the Konamon Museum
Now that you’ve tried all the street food, head over to the Konamon Museum where you can try your hand at cooking takoyaki, a ball-shaped Japanese snack usually filled with diced octopus. You can even make your own takoyaki wax figurine to take home as a souvenir! The first floor of the museum is a takoyaki restaurant where you can watch takoyaki experts make this delicious snack up close.
Cruising on the Dotonbori River
If you’re tired of walking, then take a break by getting on a boat to cruise along the Dotonbori River. The boat departs from the Tazaemonbashi Bridge Boat Dock and will cruise through the Dotonbori area where you can enjoy a new perspective of Dotonbori during the 20-minute mini cruise. Enjoy cruising along the river while viewing cherry blossoms in the spring, and shiny illumination in winter.
Shop until you drop at Shinsaibashi
What’s a trip to Osaka without doing some shopping, right? Head over to Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street where you can find everything from kimono to footwear to jewelers and trendy fashion boutiques. Take a stroll through the 380-year-old shopping area where you can enjoy window shopping while savoring delicious street food along the way.
Go back in time at Hozenji Yokocho
Stroll through the old town of Osaka where you can feel the vibe of the yesteryears through its narrow, stone-paved streets. Be sure to stop by the Hozenji Temple where it’s said that if you sprinkle water on the Mizukake Fudo statue and make a wish, it will come true. Since it has been watered for many years by thousands of visitors, the statue is now covered in moss!
The Hozenji-Yokocho Alley is also one of the best nightlife spots in Osaka to grab a drink or a bite to eat. There are over 60 tiny traditional Japanese restaurants and bars here that you’d feel you’ve travelled back in time. It’s such a charming spot to hang out with the locals!
Pro tip: In Kansai dialect, arigato becomes ookini, so thank the locals with it!