Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka

Night time in Dotonbori Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka

Exploring the funky and fun at Dotonbori in Osaka

Osaka’s Dontonbori district is really crazy! This strange and fun part of Osaka feels like a combination of a tacky tourist trap and amazing food destination all wrapped into this cool and unusual destination. Although food is a major draw to Dotonbori, the area is quite eclectic with all the neon light like New York’s Time Square, the tourist trap and delicious seafood at Fisherman’s wharf in San Francisco, seedy red light district of Amsterdam, the back streets of Montmartre, and even the impromptu street performers at Leichester square in London. The Dotonbori district combines all of these bizarre attractions into one area filled with all the glitz and even more outrageous acts that you couldn’t even imagine. The area is a major entertainment zone filled with the night clubs, strip bars and mega dance halls open all night and into the early morning for all the party set to get a little crazy and forget about their daily grind the following day.

Here are some highlights of visiting Dotonbori from sunset until late into the evening hours


The lights of Dotonbori at night in Osaka

The lights of Dotonbori at night in Osaka


The main square at Dotonbori really feels like Osaka’s version of Times Square with its vivid neon lights, illuminated billboards and mechanized screens along the main boardwalk. At night-time, the more strange and crazy your outfit is, the better it looks in Dotonbori….although you never know if the Harajuku, pimp boys or sweet smiling girls are looking for trade or just getting you to visit a local bar or restaurant and rack up a tab, it’s business as usual in Dotonbori.


Street scene at Dotonbori - Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka


Dressed to impress or at least stand out in Dotonbori for the night


Smiling girls at Dotonbori -Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka




Main square with neon at Dotonbori - Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka


It seems like the gaudy and flashy all clash here and vie for your attention – bigger is better and draws in the crowds. Everything and everyone tries to draw you in, and it’s intoxicating with all the noise, loud barkers, giant crabs and bright neon – they are all trying to draw your eye to check out what is going on inside. It’s almost sensory overload walking through the neon lit zones and masses of people all looking for food and entertainment at the same time. For a breath of fresh air and respite from the crowds, the Dotonbori canal behind the main promenade is more low-key and calming for the eyes especially at sunset below. There are still a variety of dining venues around the canal to explore if you want to stay away from some of the crazy and loud venues around Dotonbori.


A small canal in Dotonbori - Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka

Would you eat at this dive with the giant crab?


Dotonbori with huge 3d displays - Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka

Dotonbori with huge 3d displays – the bigger, the better.


There’s always entertainment going on the streets with barkers, hip hop dancers and girly boys latching onto you to get you into their bars to rack up a tab on those expensive drinks. Yes it’s entertaining and you’ll never know what to expect just walking down the block. A very popular term in Japanese is Kuidaore translated loosely as “ruining oneself to extravagance in food” and this is apropos for eating out and even gorging on the abundance of food venues in Dotonbori. You can try some of the popular local dishes from the region including: okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and kitsune udon.

Eating some delicious sushi in Dotonbori


Trying fresh sushi in Dotonbori, Osaka


Street performers strut their stuff every night


Dance performance at Dotonbori in Osaka


For pure entertainment, food venues and people watching this is the place for visitors to check out Osaka’s crazy but fun late night gathering spot. You definitely be entertained or shocked by all the activity and strange vibe of this lively city.

Tips for exploring Dotonbori

Best photo moments are at night at all the main promenades and neon boardwalk area.

Beware of barkers trying to get you to visit their establishment, they are very aggressive.

People are not camera shy here, but if you initiate conversation or gesture with your camera, you may just get more than you bargained for.

Make sure you check out the menus first so you don’t get sticker shock with some of those prices.

Drinks can be expensive here in Dotonbori so be careful of those barkers and pretty girls getting you to visit their bars

Street performers are at every corner and always appreciate tips

Check out the side streets or quiet areas for some of the hidden gems and nicer restaurants


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Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka



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28 Responses to Exploring Dotonbori in Osaka

  1. Paulo@Travel Bugs May 21, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    Great photo of Dotonbori

  2. Suze - Luxury Columnist February 18, 2016 at 3:37 am #

    I like the hairstyles of the locals – very quirky! You’ve really captured the essence of the area here, Noel

  3. Hitch-Hikers Handbook February 16, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    I miss Japan and its cuisine! I bet you had so much fun!

  4. Anna @ shenANNAgans February 15, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    I freakin LOVE Japan, the food, the culture and the people, I reckon it is my spirit country. 🙂
    I have spent a little time Osaka, but it was a long time ago, and I for some reason thought sake shots with the uni students would be a whole lot more fun than exploring this beautiful country.
    The sushi platter would go down a treat right now, wish the screen was scratch and sniff or beam me up scotty! 🙂

  5. Krista February 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    Really love the photos you captured of the people on the street. Such great shots. 🙂

  6. Paul (@luxury__travel) February 15, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    Japan is such a fascinating country and somewhere I’d love to return. I made it to Tokyo last year but didn’t have the opportunity to explore any further. I found the culture fascinating and would love to learn more.

  7. Elissa February 14, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

    I love Osaka, just a little bit louder and brighter than some other places in Japan. Lots of great food, too. Fun seeing all your photos in this post.

  8. Karilyn February 14, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    Japan is seriously the most amazing country I have visited. I love the spunkiness and uniqueness of the people, the totally random street performances that happen everywhere, the history and culture are fascinating. I only passed through Osaka, but I can see here it has a very similar vibe to the other cities we made it to.

  9. Mar Pages February 14, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

    The lights reminded me of those at the Shibuya crossing, and the hairstyles like those at Harajuku! Would love to check the bustle out soon, with some of that food in tow.

  10. budget jan February 14, 2016 at 3:48 pm #

    Dotonbori is an exciting district to visit. We went there for the afternoon/night from Kyoto and had a great time. Your photos take me back!

  11. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family February 13, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

    Osaka is firmly on my wishlist for 2016. I’ve been to Tokyo but that’s it. Hope to explore more of Japan in the summer.

  12. Rosemarie of Travel and Beyond February 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Japan is my favourite place in the world. I would visit every year if I could!

  13. Paula McInerney February 13, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Don’t you just love Japan, and all of its quirks. The food stands on its own

  14. Chris February 13, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    I love how vibrant that city looks, bright lights, lots of people. Awesome. Great post.

  15. Rosemary February 13, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    The sushi looks amazing, but the place looks crazy!! What an interesting sensorial filled experience! Can’t wait to visit soon.

  16. LeAnna February 13, 2016 at 7:49 am #

    You had me at “Amazing food experience” I am ALL about food while traveling! While I typically am not a huge fan of major touristy areas/ traps, this looks like one of those locations in a place that you have to at least just stroll down to be able to experience it once

  17. Lesley February 13, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    It does look a little bit like Times Square but maybe more neon. I love all the colors.

  18. AcrossCities February 13, 2016 at 7:22 am #

    I absolutely love Japan! But I sadly have only been to Tokyo. I need to go to Osaka and other parts of Japan soon!

  19. Himanshu February 13, 2016 at 6:49 am #

    Never been to Osaka and dotonbori is absolutely a new place. Looks vibrant.
    Thanks for sharing.

  20. alison abbott February 13, 2016 at 6:08 am #

    Looks like you better have a good nights rest before heading into the Dotonbori section. Wow! Love all the street action and the fact that people are not camera shy. It would be a fun place to head with a camera and I can see you enjoyed it. Was the sushi any better that the yummy bites we can get here in the sates?

  21. Fiona @ London-Unattached February 13, 2016 at 4:53 am #

    wonderful photos as always Neil. And the sushi looks spendid.

    It seems like a very atmospheric place

  22. Karla | karlaroundtheworld February 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    I loved food tripping in Japan. There is so much to explore and everything is just so fresh and delicious. We walked around Dotunburi too.

  23. mark wyld February 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    looks like an amazing place to spend a few hours strolling through watch street performers and eating great food. Really enjoyed your photographs

  24. Eileen | The Food Avenue February 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    The sushi looks delicious! My boyfriend loves Osaka. We are hoping to go to Japan next year and I will remember your posts!

  25. Erin February 12, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    Japan is on my list. i’ve never been. Although some of those characters you met might convince me otherwise haha.

    • Noel February 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

      They look strange but really are pretty tame outside of the aggressive barkers

  26. Hung Thai February 11, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    Nice pictures. I only stayed a night in Osaka so didn’t get to experience this – although I can’t imagine it being any more happening than shinjuku and shibuya where I did spend quite a bit of time.


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