Dotonbori is one of the most famous districts in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city. If you were to ask me what is the one neighbourhood you MUST visit in Osaka, it would be hands down Dotonbori. Heck, if you had just one day in Osaka, Dotonbori is the best place to see and experience Osaka. Dotonbori is Osaka’s most famous district for a good reason. With Dotonbori’s rich history, vibrant nightlife and many eats, it’s no surprise that the area draws tons of visitors daily.
Food in Dotonbori is incredible, and I felt like I was eating nonstop while in the area. Dotonbori is very street food friendly, and there’s so much that you can eat from street vendors in this area. If you’re looking for restaurants to eat at, Dotonbori also has you covered, as it has eateries ranging from cheap eats to fine dining.
If you’re planning to visit Osaka’s most famous district, read this detailed guide to help you plan your trip. This guide covers what to do in Dotonbori as well as a food guide to help you plan your meals (expect nonstop eating). I’ve also included a useful Google Map that you can save on your own account so that you don’t need to recreate the wheel!
Download my google maps to use for your own Dotonbori map
Click here to view all the places I talked about in this post. If you have a Google account, you can save this map to your own account for easy planning. This map includes a Dotonbori food map as well as all the things you can do in Dotonbori.
#1 thing to do in Dotonbori: Take a photo with the Glico Man in Dotonbori
At first glance, you might wonder what’s so special about this “Glico Man” sign. I mean, why are people holding up their hands in the air to mimic his pose? Well, that’s because this Glico Man sign is symbolic of Osaka! This sign was remodelled in 2014 after the original sign that was put on display in 1935. If Glico sounds familiar to you, it should be, because the Japanese brand is the maker of the delicious Pocky!
#2 thing to do in Dotonbori: Visit Kuidaore Taro, Osaka’s beloved mascot
At first, I was perplexed by the popularity of this clown figurine and couldn’t understand why everyone wanted to take a photo with him. I learned that Kuidaore Taro was originally the mascot of a famous restaurant in Dotonbori, Cui-Daore, which first opened its doors in 1949. The restaurant’s founder, Rokuro Yamada, wanted to find a way to attract families with children and settled upon a cheerful looking clown. What’s interesting is that Rokuro could not figure out what the clown’s face should look like, so he decided to use his own face for Kuidaore Taro. Over the decades, the restaurant went through many changes, and its popularly started to drop in the 1970s. When Emperor Hirohito (裕仁天皇) passed away in 1989, Kuidaore Taro showed respect by changing his stripes to black-and-white stripes. This change caused a sensation all over Japan, and Kuidaore Taro’s popularity skyrocketed.
The restaurant eventually closed its doors in 2008, and Kuidaore Taro was displayed in different events across Japan. But a year later, Japan decided that Kuidaore Taro should return to his hometown, and thus, the Nakaza Cuidaore Building is where he stands today.
#3 thing to do in Dotonbori: Stroll through Dotonbori’s shopping street
Dotonbori is most famous as a shopping street, as it has everything from large Japanese stores to small independent shops. From clothes to kawaii souvenirs, there’s something for everyone on this street. There are also many places that offer tax-free shopping if you spend over a certain amount. What a great way to stock up on delicious Japanese snacks!
Even if you’re not into shopping, seeing how stores advertise their shops is quite interesting. Most stores have their workers waving street signs while shouting at the top of their lungs to attract customers into the store. Many of them are advertising “time-limited discounts” that go up to 70%. Of course, it’s all in Japanese, so I say just go into the store if it looks appealing to you.
If you’ve had enough of Dotonbori shopping street, head north to Shinsaibashi to find one of Osaka’s longest shopping arcades.
Fun shops to visit:
- don Quijote dotonbori
#4 thing to do in Dotonbori: Visit Amerikamure and the triangle park
Amerikamura is the Harajuku of Osaka, where you will see the latest fashion and vintage clothing stores along the streets. It’s hard to define where this area starts and stops, as it’s an area filled with interesting shops. While it has the word “American” in its name, the area does not have an American feel at all. A fun shop worth visiting in this area is the Flying Tiger Copenhagen.
#5 thing to do in Dotonbori: See traditional shops and restaurants in Hozenji Yokocho alley
Walking through this narrow alley will take you back to what Osaka felt like hundreds of years ago. Both sides of the street have small shops and cafes serving traditional Japanese food. This alley is also one of the best nightlife spots for drinking as there are over 60 Japanese restaurants and bars in this alley alone. It is easy to miss if you don’t keep your eyes open for this alley.
#6 thing to do in Dotonbori: Find peace at the Hozenji temple
I’m sooooo disappointed that I didn’t continue walking to the end of the alley because I would have arrived at this beautiful temple! Don’t make the same mistake as me! Anyway…
This tranquil temple is honestly a hidden gem in Dotonbori and is accessible if you keep walking to the end of the Hozenji Yokocho alley. Here you will find worshippers praying in front of the Mizukake-fudo statue, which is covered by green moss. In case you are wondering where the moss came from, the moss comes from all the splashed water from the worshippers.
#7 thing to do in Dotonbori: Take a stroll along the Tombori River Walk
Walking along this river walk, whether it is in the daytime or at night is a great way to experience Dotonbori. There are tons of shops along this canal as well as restaurants and lots of live music. It’s definitely a great place to people watch and take in the energetic vibe.
The Dotonbori canal is quiet and serene during the daytime, while it gets super busy and packed at night.
#8 thing to do in Dotonbori: Take a relaxing Tonbori River cruise
Seeing Dotonbori on the Tonbori River cruise is another great way to experience Dotonbori. The cruise is just 20-minutes long and starts near Namba station. If you want a longer boat ride, consider taking the 40-minute ride with the live jazz performance.
#9 thing to do in Dotonbori: Take in all the glittering neon lights in Dotonbori
You’ll see strange things like a giant octopus and a large hand clutching a piece of sushi. Or the face of an angry looking Japanese chef in front of the Daruma Dotonbori restaurant. And of course, the famous Kani Doraku billboard that specializes in crab dishes.
#10 thing to do in Dotonbori: Play in the arcades
I am not an arcade person and yet I LOVED going to the arcades in Japan. They have so many fun games to try, and those UFO catchers (aka claw machines) are so addictive! Even if you are not an arcades person, you’ll find a visit to the Dotonbori arcades to be very lively. It’s also enjoyable to watch people plan some of the challenging games! There are so many arcades in the Dotonbori area, and you’ll spot some when walking around the Dotonbori street.
#11 thing to do in Dotonbori: Take in the energy on the Dotonbori bridge
The Dotonbori bridge is a great place to take in the sights and sounds of the district. Be warned though, it gets very busy at night! It’s a great place to catch the sunset and admire the river with all the restaurants and shops lined along the river.
#12 ride the ferris wheel at Don Q
Get an aerial view of Dotonbori by riding the ferris wheel! If you buy something from Don Q, you can ride the ferris wheel for free!
What to eat in Dobontori
Honestly, doing nothing but focusing purely on eating in Dotonbori will keep you super busy because of the sheer number of things to try in that area. Here are some delicious things to try when in Dotonbori. Consider trying Osaka Group Kuromon Market Food Walking Tour or Dotonbori Street Food Crawl and Walking Tour if you are looking to do a food tour.
Dotonbori must eat #1: Takoyaki
This famous street food originated from Osaka, so of course, you can imagine the many stalls that sell this delicious snack in Dotonbori. Takoyaki is one of those things that you most certainly must try when in the area and Dotonbori is the place to find the best takoyaki in Osaka. This delightful fried snack is made of batter that has eggs, Japanese stock, flour, octopus pieces, green onions and pickled ginger. Takoyaki often comes with some sort of sauce, dried bonito and mayonnaise. But, because of the fierce competition in the area, most stalls have unique creations. For example, many places allow for toppings like boiled eggs and shredded cheese.
Price range for takoyaki: 450 – 700 yen for about ten takoyaki balls
Where to eat takoyaki in Dotonbori
- Takoyaki Wanaka
- Acchichi Honpo
- Creo-Ru: This place also serves okonomiyaki
- Takoyaki Juhachiban Dotonbori:
Dotonbori must eat #2: Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake (or Japanese pizza?) made from batter and a combination of different ingredients. This pancake is made of flour, shredded cabbage, seafood, and meat. Vendors may serve choices such as octopus, squid, prawn, pork, beef or shrimp. There’s always mayo, dried bonito, and okonomiyaki sauce to top off this delicious dish.
Price range: 750 yen and above, depending on the toppings you choose
Where to eat okonomiyaki in Dotonbori
- Hozenji Yokocho
- Tsuruhashi Fugetsu
- Chibo Dotonbori
- Okonomiyaki Tombe
Dotonbori must eat #3: Melonpan
While researching on things to eat in Osaka, melonpan kept coming up. This sweet dessert is called so not because the pastry tastes like a melon. Instead, this sweet treat gets its name because of its rock melon shape. The pastry itself is buttery and moist with a flakey crust. It actually reminds me the HK pineapple buns. A scoop of ice cream of either vanilla, Hokkaido melon or green tea is added to the bun, making it a delicious dessert. There’s only one place to eat this delicious treat, and that’s at the food truck in Dotonbori.
Price range: 400 to 700 yen
Dotonbori must eat #4: Yakitori
Yakitori is grilled chicken on a skewer and is ubiquitous around Dotonbori. These bite-size pieces of chicken are flamed over a charcoal grill before it gets seasoned with pepper or wasabi. If you like intestines, liver or chicken heart, these parts of the chicken are available on a skewer as well.
Price range: around 500 yen for two skewers
Where to eat yakitori in Dotonbori
- Torikizoku Dotombori
- Yakitori no meimon Akiyoshi Shinsaibashiminami
Dotonbori must eat #5: Ramen
Ramen is a must eat when in Japan and is a favourite for locals and tourists. The broth is often rich and flavourful and comes with meat, boiled egg, seaweed and onions. While there are many places to eat ramen, not all are the same. Variations come in the form of broth, noodle texture and toppings, making every ramen restaurant different from the other.
Loud slurping in Japan is not considered rude, so slurp away! Slurping noodles is a custom that dates back to the Edo period and is integral to Japan’s culture.
Price range: 600 yen and up, depending on your customizations
Where to eat ramen in Dotonbori
- Kamukura Dotombori
- Kinryu Ramen
- Imai Hoten Dotonbori: Udon is their specialty dish, but they serve delicious ramen as well
While not in Dotonbori, another great place to eat ramen is at Ippudo Namba, which is close to the Namba station.
Dotonbori must eat #6: Taiyaki
Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped cake that’s often filled with a sweet paste inside. The “fish” is really pancake or waffle batter that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. This sea bream dessert comes with fillings such as red bean paste, custard, chocolate or sweet potato. Taiyaki is cheap quite filling so be prepared for that.
Tip: Your taiyaki is often made fresh before your eyes, so make sure to let it cool down before you eat!
Price range: 100-300 yen
Where to eat Taiyaki in Dotonbori
- Naruto Taiyaki Hompo
- Street stalls around Dotonbori
Dotonbori must eat #7: Kushiage
Considering how Osaka is the birthplace of kushiage, it’s no surprise that you will see many places serving this delicious snack. Basically, anything fried on a stick is kushiage since “kushi” means stick while “age” means fried in Japanese. That means you’ll find a variety of delicious kushiage, including meat, cheese, fruit and even mochi. Try Kushiage at different places as each vendor has their own variation of this popular dish.
Price range: 200 yen
Where to eat Kushiage in Dotonbori
- Kushikatsu Daruma Namba honten
- Hozenji Yokocho wasabi
Dotonbori must eat #8: Crepes
Crepes stands are ubiquitous in Dotonbori and it’s definitely a great snack in between meals.
Other things to keep try when in Dotonbori
- Mozzarella cheese hotdogs from 5 Star Hotdog
- Gyoza hotdog
- Kitsune Udon
- Fugu (puffer fish)
Popular Dotonbori restaurants
While I focused mostly on street food and cheap eats while in Dotonbori (was on a strict budget because I was travelling for a year), there are plenty of great sit-down places to try. I’m creating this list for you and for myself for when I come back to Osaka one day!
Dotonbori restaurant #1: Kushikatsu Daruma Dotonbori
This restaurant has been around since 1929 and is one of the best for kushikatsu. This place has over 40 options of kashikatsu to choose from and ranges from shrimp, vegetables, to cheese and chicken. What makes this restaurant stand out is how the food is coated with a thin coat of batter and fried to perfection. Of course, you’ll have to try their deep-fried pork on a stick, as that is what they are known for in Osaka.
Note: There is a condiment station at the stall where you can dip your skewers in a savoury sauce. It’s important to know that no double dipping is allowed as it is considered rude in Osaka (and gross, period)! If you want more sauce, use cabbage leaves to scoop it up.
The restaurant is easy to spot as you’ll see a massive signboard of a serious-looking chef, as well as a long lineup in the front of the store.
Dotonbori restaurant #2: Kani Doraku
Not only is this restaurant famous for seafood, but you’ve likely seen it in photos many times without realizing it! The restaurant had a huge mechanical crab attached to the front of the building. This restaurant specializes in crab and kaiseki and has many different crab dishes. Think, crab leg, boiled crab, steamed crab, crab in custard, soup and even crab sashimi. You can also get some grilled crab as takeout.
Make sure to book online before you head over to avoid the long waits. You can book a reservation online here.
Dotonbori restaurant #3: Zuboraya
This restaurant is hard to miss as the front of the shop has a fugu (blowfish) on its billboard and is famous for specializing in fugu. This poisonous fish is a delicacy and has been part of the Japanese cuisine for hundreds of years. What makes this dish different from the rest of Japanese food is that you can die if the fish is served to you without proper preparation. Yep, die. Insane, right?
It also sounds like an excruciating way to die as the poison kills the victim via asphyxiation while conscious! Fortunately, Japan has strict laws about restaurant preparation of fugu. All chefs have to go through two years of training to learn how to remove the toxic parts of the fish to avoid meat contamination. So really, your chance of dying from eating this fish is practically zero because of the strict regulation.
If you’re a chicken like me and would never try fugu, watch this video instead.
Directions: How to get to dotonbori
The nearest station to Dotonbori is Namba station. Once you get off this stop, walking to Dotonbori is less than a five-minute walk
How to get from Osaka station to Dotonbori
Walk to the nearby Umeda station and take the Midosuji line to Namba station.
Where is Dotonbori?
Dotonbori is in the Minami Osaka area
Hotels near Dotonbori
If you are looking for hotels that are in (or very close to) Dotonbori, here are some great choices:
- Best Western Hotel Fino Osaka Shinsaibashi: I stayed here during my trip and felt it offered good value. It is within walking distance to Dotonbori and is close to two subway stations as well. You can read my detailed blog post about the Best Western Hotel Fino Osaka here.
- HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi: This three-star hotel is just 600 meters away from the Dotonbori river and has an average rating of 9.3/10 from over 2,300 guests
- Sotetsu Grand Fresa Osaka – Namba: This three-star hotel is also located near Dotonbori and in a great location
- Dotonbori Hotel: Here’s another excellent hotel that you will likely notice if you’re walking around Dotonbori. The entrance has four culture statues which will definitely catch your eye. Not only is it in a convenient location, but the hotel also offers free ramen and beer to guests after 10:30 pm!
Best time to visit Dotonbori/ Dotonbori hours/ Dotonbori opening hours
It’s better to visit Dotonbori after 5 pm as that’s when the area becomes lively. That’s when all the neon billboards are lit up, and the nightlife becomes alive. It also becomes very busy (but not as busy as Tokyo or Kyoto) so be wary of that.
Dotonbori is an absolute must-visit, and you can easily spend all your time exploring the area. The history, the vibrant nightlife and the countless dineries make this place an exciting place to visit.