How to keep the kuidaore spirit alive in Dotonbori

Eat. And eat some more. And it’s easy to do in Dotonbori.

Dotonbori in Minami is probably one of the most recognized places of the city aside from Osaka Castle. Sure it’s crowded, touristy and there’s enough blinking neon signs (hello, Mr. Glico running man billboard) to likely light up an entire town. But it’s also one of the many places in Osaka where you can embrace kuidaore in all its gluttonous glory.

A Japanese word meaning to ruin oneself by extravagance in food and drink, kuidaore has long been associated with Osaka, a city that prides itself for its obsessive love for food.

The Glico Man and the rest of them neon lights welcome you

The Glico Man and the rest of them neon lights welcome you

We get there in the late afternoon after an hour spent in the cat cafe earlier. While there were no crazy neon lights yet, there was already a crowd spilling over from Shin Saibashi-suji and Ebisu Bashi-suji shopping streets. We ducked inside a couple of shops, but there seemed to be more people with the goal to ruin themselves with extravagance in shopping.

Dotonbori has been around since the 17th century when it served as an entertainment district housing several theaters. According to guide books, even back then there were many restaurants to cater to the  mass of tourists and theater-goers taking over Dotonbori every evening.

Walking around

Walking around Dotonbori in the late afternoon as the signboards that line the street start to light up

Minus the many theaters, it seems not much has changed. There’s still a mass of tourists… only this time we’re making the culinary pilgrimage to the birthplace of okonomiyaki (pancakes filled with veggies, seafood or pork), takoyaki (octopus balls) and kushi-katsu or kushiage (deep-fried battered skewers of meat or veggies). Below are where many people stop by to pay their respects…to eat and eat and eat.

The Kani Doraku

The Kani Doraku restaurant has probably the most recognizable signboard (the huge crab) along this street. And judging by the signboard and the name, you can pretty much guess what they specialize in.

Crab for JPY700

We didn’t eat dinner in Kani Doraku and if you’re also on a budget you can just sample the crab legs they cook and sell outside. For two pieces of crab leg, it’s JPY700. Pricey especially if you come from a place like the Philippines (where you can buy a kilo or more for the same price) but it’s relatively so much cheaper than say ordering the Broiled King Crab inside the resto for JPY1,680 and it’s just one (very large) crab leg. Verdict: It was really good, perfectly cooked and almost sweet.

Takoyaki

I’ve always been a big fan of takoyaki so I was really excited to try the ones in Osaka. I didn’t know where to get the best ones but I figured the stalls with the long lines should be okay. Lined up here (just look for the octopus signboard) when we finally saw the queue was gone. Prices start at JPY520 for 8 and JPY740 for 12

Freshly cooked takoyaki buried under

Freshly cooked takoyaki buried under loads of mayonnaise, bonito flakes and a whole lot of goodness

Ramen...

This resto is popular for its ramen. We decided to pass on this because the seating was outside and the weather was getting cold

Care for some gyoza?

Care for some gyoza? You can add this to the list of street food must-eats while you’re strolling down Dotonbori

The restaurant with the face of an angry chef...

Kushikatsu Daruma, the restaurant beside the smaller Kani Doraku, is known for Osaka’s greasy and yummy street treat of deep-fried skewers of battered meat and vegetables. We couldn’t decide whether to eat dinner here or…

Mizuni for okonimoyaki

…here: Mizuno, which is known for its long lines as well as its okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake of wheat flour, yam, scallions, cabbage, pork or seafood, and similar to takoyaki, topped with bonito flakes and mayonnaise (among other tasty things)

While wondering whether we should join the Mizuno queue, P called me over to a nearby corner. Just a few meters away from the noisy, neon-mad and jam-packed street of Dotonbori, was a relatively quiet alley that seemed to have been around for centuries. Turns out, it was Hozenji Yokocho Alley and it’s been around since the 1600′s. Aside from the traditional izakayas and restaurants, you can also find the Hozenji temple there.

Honzenji Alley

We didn’t know it at the time, but we had happily stumbled upon Honzenji Yokocho Alley

Kushi Katsu

Near the temple, we saw another branch of Kushikatsu Daruma (there are a lot of them spread out in Osaka) and decided to have dinner there. It was packed but we didn’t have to wait long for a table. You can ask for an English menu here. They have sets that go for JPY1,800 or order per skewer, which starts from JPY120 to JPY240

Long queue for Ichiran

Long queue for Ichiran, a popular ramen-ya located along the canal

After dinner and a few drinks, a stroll along the Dotonbori canal revealed more restaurants that from the lines or the delicious smells seemed worth the yen and the calories. There was Ichiran, another takoyaki stall with a longer line, a hip-looking bar, an izakaya… but P and I were both full from all the street food nibbles and a kushi katsu dinner (did I mention we also ate a couple of burgers in Lotteria before we even got started?). We were far from being ‘ruined’ by an extravagance in food (I think we spent less than a total of JPY5,000 for all the food), but it was still a fun, tasty evening.

Nearby spots to explore: Amerikamura and Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade

How to get to Dotonbori: It’s a five minute walk from the Namba Station. If you’re coming from the Umeda area, you can take the Midosuji subway line and get off at Namba station; or if you want to check Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade, you can get off Shinsaibashi Station and walk the expanse of the covered shopping street heading towards the Ebisu bridge onto Dotonbori.

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6 thoughts on “How to keep the kuidaore spirit alive in Dotonbori

  1. Great pictures! I get a sense of the place. All I can think of is that Osaka looks like an awesome place to live in since there are so many restaurants and the night life looks exciting and civilised. I also feel that I would have to be there with someone else due to the crowds. I don’t mind crowds but crowds in a country far away from home? Hmm, I think I’d love the company to cling on to.

    Was Honzenji Yokocho Alley an island (or should that be alley?) of peace amidst the chaos?

    You like Takoyaki, too? Awesome!

    Reply
    • Hi Jason, Osaka was fun! Like Tokyo, it has a great energy about it, but it seems far less reserved. The crowd can get a bit overwhelming so being with someone while navigating through it offers some comfort. The takoyaki helps too!

      Hozenji Yokocho Alley was one of the best things about visiting Dotonbori. It has a old-Japan charm about it… and yes, it was an ‘island of peace amidst the chaos’ ;)

      Reply
  2. I love this! I think I will follow in your footsteps and P’s when I finally am able to go to Japan. Now I’m craving takoyaki, just about my favorite Japanese snack, ever — and one that I always sneak into the theatres here when watching a movie, hahaha! Not a big fan of okonomiyaki, which I find to be just grease-filled (though maybe I just haven’t had good ones?) but gyoza, I also love! Great post, Mabes!

    And I need to follow your very good example and start posting about my adventures soon too! :)

    Reply
    • Hey Ters! Yes please post about your adventures! I miss your ‘walking’ posts around SG and did you ever post about your Taiwan trip? Haha, blog post debt! (To add to book debt) I’m also not too crazy about okonomiyaki because it’s just too heavy… maybe that’s why I was easily distracted to explore the alley instead of lining up at Mizuno. I did get to try one on our last night in Osaka, haha! Hinuli ko talaga :P

      Reply

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