Saturday, February 6, 2010

Osaka: Dotombori

If ever in Osaka, one would be "missing out" if he left without visiting Dotombori (pronounced Dou-tom-bori); a single street filled with shops and restaurants located alongside the Dotombori canal. A popular destination for tourists and locals alike, Dotombori is a highly enjoyable destination with a very distinct energy and spirit full of Kansai pride. It is home to famous landmark signs, large, animated store front displays, an abundance of neon lights, and many delicious and reputable restaurants. Although Dotombori can be fun during the day, I recommend one visit this street in the evening, when the street will be attractively lit up with all of the neon displays.

In Japan, most people know Dotombori as the location of the Glico (a well-known and trusted sweets brand) light sign landmark: a large neon sign with an athlete raising his arms in a victory pose while running on a blue track. Because of the Glico sign’s popularity as a picture-taking spot, a smaller replica of the neon sign was created as a photo-opportunity spot on the actual street itself. Kuidaore Taro, another landmark of Dotombori, is another character one must take a picture with. In Japanese, “kuidaore” means to “eat until one falls over-both in terms of fullness and of lack of money". Because Osaka is well-known for its many delicious dishes, Kuidaore Taro embodies this spirit in the form of a mechanical man playing his drum while dressed as a clown.

Speaking of “kuidaore”, Dotombori is also home to many delicious restaurants featuring regional dishes such as Okonomiyaki (a type of delicious and flavorful pancake containing a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, meat or seafood), Takoyaki (octopus dumplings), Udon and Sushi. The street also has Kani-douraku, one of Japan’s most famous crab restaurants—recognizable by the huge 3-D crab store front display—as well as Zuboraya, a restaurant serving fugu, or puffer fish, for those in an adventurous mood. (Fear not, the puffer fish is a Japanese delicacy and the Japanese have mastered the art of removing the poison from these fish to serve only the most tasteful and edible areas.)

Dotombori is also the perfect and entertaining place for purchasing souvenirs filled with the Osaka spirit. Gift stores carry a variety of articles such as Takoyaki flavored candy and drinks as well as Dotombori character themed cell phone straps along with a variety of other interesting merchandises.

If one wishes to visit Dotombori after a large sports victory—such as the victory of Osaka’s baseball team (the Hanshin Tigers) or a Japanese victory as a whole such as winning the WBC—he/she can witness a rather exciting but unsanitary tradition of people jumping into the Dotombori canal. Although I cannot recommend jumping into the canal, for obvious hygienic reasons, it may be exciting to witness this unified and high-energy event as well.

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