Dotonbori is both the name of the canal and the street running parallel along the waterway, filled with hundreds of street food stalls and busy restaurants. It is considered to be the main spot in Osaka for kuidaore, which loosely translates to “eating yourself into financial (and physical) ruin.” It’s also the best place in Osaka to get entertainment, shopping, nightlife, and quality Kansai street food, all in one bustling hub.
Overwhelmed by all of the options for restaurants? Wondering where to eat in Dotonbori, Osaka? Check out our Dotonbori guide, right here.
Brief History of Dotonbori
Dotonbori has had a reputation for being Osaka’s hub for commerce and entertainment since Edo era Japan. The river and waterway of Dotonbori was established in 1612 by Yasui Doton, the area’s namesake and a savvy merchant. Yasui Doton invested greatly into expanding waterways from the Umezu River into a series of networked canals that reached the Kizugawa area.
Sadly, Yasui Doton died before completing his endeavor during the siege of Osaka, leaving it up to his cousins to finish the canal. They subsequently named it after him, and the Dotonbori area became famous in the 1620s for hosting an exciting range of entertainment venues. This included theaters, playhouses, restaurants, and tea houses. Unfortunately, bombings during the Second World War destroyed most of the area.
With rapid economic growth, the Dotonbori area in Osaka has since been rebuilt and now has been a flourishing dining and entertainment district for around 400 years altogether. Dotonbori is an absolutely mouthwatering paradise for foodies with street food vendors, izakaya-style pubs, and tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) okonomiyaki restaurants everywhere you look.
When night falls, the glimmer of neon lights and the glistening water of the canal give an atmosphere of nostalgia and excitement, with plenty of nightlife venues and bars open till the early hours of the morning.
Join an Osaka Food Tour to explore Dotonbori with a local!
What to Do in Dotonbori, Osaka
Visiting Dotonbori on your next trip to Osaka? Dive into its crazy food culture and local entertainment headfirst! Here are some ideas for what to do in Dotonbori, Osaka:
- Grab your (essential) selfie with Dotonbori’s resident Glico Man
- Jump on a relaxing Tonbori River Cruise
- Shop till you drop in Shinsaibashi-suji Shotengai Arcade
- Join a Dotonbori tour to explore secret back alleys!
- Learn everything you need to know about takoyaki at the Konamon Museum
- Wander down Hozenji Yokocho Street and visit Hozenji Temple
- Catch a Kabuki show at Shochikuza Theater
1. Grab your (essential) selfie with Dotonbori’s resident Glico Man
Advertising the snack-making mogul’s famous mascot, Glico Man is the main icon of southern Osaka. He has reigned over the Dotonbori area since 1934 (with the exception of a revamp in 2014). If you’re visiting Dotonbori, you definitely have to take a selfie with Glico Man, one of the most iconic local photo opportunities (try taking it from Ebisu Bridge)!
For more foodie pics, you can’t go wrong with snapping photos of all of the mouthwatering, giant-sized models of Japanese food hanging above storefronts!
2. Jump on a relaxing Tonbori River Cruise
See Dotonbori from a different perspective and jump on a tourist river cruise that floats up and down the canal. Hosted in bright yellow open-air boats, the journey takes about 20 minutes and you can buy tickets and board near Namba Station.
3. Shop till you drop in Shinsaibashi-suji Shotengai Arcade
In the Dotonbori area, Shinsaibashi-suji Shotengai is an enormous covered shopping arcade where you can shop till you drop! Stretching across almost 600 meters, there’s a great mix of smaller local stores and restaurants, as well as bigger name brands retailing here if you want to check out the local fashion scene.
4. Join a Dotonbori tour and explore secret back alleys!
Discover a deeper level of Dotonbori with insider knowledge when you join the Daytime Food Tour in Osaka Dotonbori. Led by a local tour guide, you'll visit the best Japanese food spots in Dotonbori including a takoyaki shop that was recognized by the Michelin Guide!
5. Learn everything you need to know about takoyaki at the Konamon Museum
The Konamon Museum is dedicated to all things takoyaki, the famous Kansai-style street food of grilled octopus balls! Learn all about this oozing, octopus-filled street food snack and watch the masters at work, speedily turning octopus balls and serving up steaming takoyaki that's loaded with generous toppings!
6. Wander down Hozenji Yokocho Street and visit Hozenji Temple
Built in 1637, the peaceful Hozenji Temple is tucked away down the narrow lane of Hozenji Yokocho street. The temple is one of only two buildings in the area that has survived World War II. You'll feel like you've gone back in time to the Edo period of Japan as you pay your respects at the temple. While you’re in the area, browse through the tiny restaurants and family-run cafes along the alleyway.
7. Catch a Kabuki show at Shochikuza Theater
Shochikuza Theater is one of the few buildings that survived the chaos of World War II. Today, you can see this iconic theater in the Dotonbori area and embrace the culture of Japan by watching a traditional kabuki show.
What to Eat in Dotonbori, Osaka
Here are some of the absolute must-try street foods in Dotonbori for any foodie:
- Egg Tart - Andrew’s Eggtart
- Crab - Kani Doraku
- Akashiyaki - Dotonbori Kukuru
- Candied Fruit - Taro’s Parlor
- Gyoza - Osaka Ohsho
1. Egg Tart - Andrew's Eggtart
Egg tarts from Andrew’s Eggtart Dotonbori Honten are absolutely delicious as a bite-sized dessert! These Western-style sweets are made of round, flaky pastry cups filled with soft, oozing egg custard and cream. You can get all sorts of flavors including matcha green tea (with red azuki beans and black kuromitsu syrup), chestnut, strawberry, apple cinnamon, chocolate, and more!
The store is named after a man named Andrew who lived in Macau, where the flagship store originated from. It’s located directly across from the landmark Shochikuza Kabuki Theater.
2. Crab - Kani Doraku
Head to Kani Doraku Dotombori Honten, the giant crab store that’s brimming with Dotonbori crab products and souvenirs! Here, you can pick up all kinds of crab-themed snacks to take home like kanisenbei (crab rice crackers) and specialty crab sukiyaki hotpot kits that include tiny carrots cut into the shape of crabs!
To eat on the go, you can try nigiri (individual sushi pieces) and makizushi (rolled sushi) to name a few. Taste a specialty rectangular crab sushi that’s neatly tucked away into a bento box, or dine in at the crab restaurant for an immersive dining experience in Dotonbori!
3. Akashiyaki - Dotonbori Kukuru
Takoyaki are pan-fried balls of batter that are filled with octopus pieces, cooked individually on a special griddle with rounded indents. It’s known as a quintessential Osaka food or Kansai street food. However, at Dotonbori Kukuru you can try akashiyaki, which is the lesser-known cousin of takoyaki.
Akashiyaki are similarly ball-shaped bites of batter with octopus inside, that originated in the neighboring Hyogo Prefecture's Kobe area (famous for Kobe beef). The difference is that akashiyaki uses a batter that is eggier and oozing, and rather than being slathered with sauce like takoyaki, akashiyaki is dipped in a clear dashi (fish-based broth). It has a softer texture and is full of octopus flavor.
4. Candied Fruit - Taro’s Parlor
Candied fruit is a popular street sweet in Japan, and you can try it at Taro’s Parlor. Named after Dotonbori’s mascot, “Kuidaore Taro,” this shop sells iconic candied fruit towers on a stick! The sugar shell around the fruit makes it look almost icy, and the sticks come with a lucky four-leaf clover. They’re an easy Japanese street food to enjoy as you wander through Dotonbori.
5. Gyoza - Osaka Ohsho
Osaka Ohsho is a famous gyoza dumpling chain that started out in Osaka but now has many stores throughout Japan. These oversized potstickers are definitely a must-eat Dotonbori food! Get some pork and cabbage gyoza packaged up in a signature box and enjoy with a dash of gyoza dare (a dumpling sauce made of soy sauce, chili oil, and vinegar). The inside of the dumplings are juicy and one side is always fried to crispy perfection!
How to Access Dotonbori
You can easily reach Dotonbori from Osaka city through the subway or trains. It’s a 5-minute walk from JR Namba Station. You can take the Yamatoji Line or access JR Namba Station from Shin-Osaka Station through the Tokaido-Sanyo Line. Alternatively, take the subway Midosuji Line to Shinsaibashi Station and exit through the Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street to reach Dotonbori.
To learn more about other places to visit in Osaka, check out our list of the Best Things to Do in Osaka.
Whether it's discovering the area with a Dotonbori tour or exploring all the possibilities for what to eat in Dotonbori, Osaka for yourself, this lively entertainment district has something for everyone! It’s a central hub in Osaka for the best Kansai-style street food and Dotonbori shopping; brimming with bars, restaurants, and street food stalls at every turn. Dotonbori comes alive at night as well, with its giant foods lit up to create a nostalgic atmosphere, and plenty of local izakayas to explore deep into the night.