Friday, January 29, 2010

Dotonbori Street and Tsutenkaku Tower

As I wrote in the previous post, after visiting Osaka Castle on January 2nd, hubby and I visited Dotonbori and Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka. First we visited Dotonbori. From Osakajokoen railway station, we took JR Osaka loop line to go up to Tennoji railway station, and then took Osaka city subway Midosuji line train to go to Namba station. From Namba station, Dotonbori Street is about 15 minutes walk up north. Hubby and I were appreciating the high rise buildings in the neighborhood of the railway station, so we lost our way and reached Dotonbori to the west of Ebisubashi Bridge. Hubby looked up the map of the area in a Japanese travel guidebook and realized that we were in the opposite end. So we walked through several small streets and lanes, and after another 15 minutes of walk we reached east of Ebisubashi Bridge where all the glitter and entertainment is.
Dotonbori to the west of Ebisubashi Bridge

Dotonbori is an important tourist spot in Osaka. It is a large scale downtown single street running alongside the Dotonbori canal between the Dotonboribashi Bridge and the Nipponbashi Bridge in Namba. The history of Dotonbori dates back to 1612, when an entrepreneur named Doton Yasui began expanding Umezu River, which ran east to west, hoping to increase commerce in the region by connecting the two branches of Yohori River, which ran north to south, with a canal. However, Doton died defending Toyotomi Hideyori in the Siege of Osaka, and his cousins finished the canal in 1615. The new lord of Osaka Castle, Tadaki Matsudaira, named the canal and avenue beside it as Dotonbori (bori or hori means canal). In 1621, Tokugawa Shogunate designated Dotonbori as the entertainment district of Osaka. By 1662 the avenue had six Kabuki theaters and five Bunraku theaters, as well as the unique Takeda Karakuri mechanical puppet theater. Many restaurants and cafes were built to cater to the tourists and entertainment seekers coming to Dotonbori. However, declining interest in traditional forms of entertainment led to the closing of most of the original attractions of Dotonbori. Its five remaining theaters were bombed and destroyed during World War II. So Dotonbori is a former pleasure district and is well known for historic theaters that no longer exist. Presently, Dotonbori is famous for shops and restaurants that include many of the most popular bars, restaurants, nightclubs, arcades, and pachinko parlors of the city. It is also very famous for many glittering neon and mechanized signs. Masses of neon lights and the atmosphere of the 17th century coexist in the area. Dotonbori is the main destination for food travel in Osaka.

After walking for about 15 minutes, we reached Ebisubashi Bridge. The bridge was originally constructed to provide access to the nearby Ebisu Shrine. Presently, the bridge provides a link between the Shinsaibashi-suji and Ebisubashi-suji shopping districts. This bridge is a popular gathering point and pick-up spot in Osaka. It is also known to be the location of a legendary curse for Osaka baseball Hanshin Tigers team. Towering above the bridge is the famous landmark Glico Man billboard. The billboard of giant neon athlete on a blue track is a symbol of Glico candy, which was originally installed in 1935. The sign has been changed on several occasions to celebrate events such as the World Cup and to show support for the Hanshin Tigers team. Hubby and I took several photos of us standing on Ebisubashi Bridge with Glico Man at the background.
Ebisubashi Bridge and Dotonbori canal

Another side of Ebisubashi Bridge and Dotonbori canal

Down the Ebisubashi Bridge

Hubby and Glico Man billboard

Me and Glico Man billboard

After crossing Ebisubashi Bridge, we reached the glittering Dotonbori Street. There were a lot of people all around us. Dotonbori is the domestic tourist destination for food lovers. Kuidaore is a Japanese word which means to ruin oneself by extravagance in food. It is part of a larger proverb ‘Dress (in kimonos) till you drop in Kyoto and eat till you drop in Osaka’. Nowadays the word kuidaore is usually associated with Dotonbori. People throng here for local traditional cuisines that include okonomiyaki (pan-fried dish with various ingredients), takoyaki (octopus balls), kushikatsu (deep-fried meat, seafood, and/or vegetables on skewers), udon, regional sushi, and many other local foods. The entire area is packed with unbelievable number of restaurants to satisfy the palette of food lovers.
Dotonbori Street to the east of Ebisubashi Bridge

At the beginning of our walk down Dotonbori Street, we saw a crab restaurant named Kani Doraku honten to our left. The famous landmark, a six and a half meter Kani Doraku crab is on the front of this crab restaurant. It is a mechanized crab billboard which was built in 1960, and is able to move its arms and eyestalks. A little further down the street, to our right we saw a food theme park called Dotonbori Gokuraku Shotengai, where all kinds of Osaka dishes like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushikatsu can be enjoyed at more than 40 stores in the venue. Next, to our left we saw the famous fugu pufferfish restaurant named Zuboraya, which had a huge blowfish lantern hanging out front.
Mechanized crab billboard at the top front of Kani Doraku honten restaurant

Dotonbori Gokuraku Shotengai food theme park

Zuboraya fugu pufferfish restaurant

Walking down the street further, we saw a lot more restaurants and crowd of people. To our right we came across an eight-storied building, where the famous Osaka Meibutsu Kuidaore restaurant used to be. This restaurant was founded in 1949 but closed down in July 2008. The famous mechanical drum-playing clown ningyo doll modeled after Bunraku puppets, Kuidaore Taro, was installed in front of this restaurant in 1950. In July 2009, Kuidaore Taro returned back in front of the commercial entertainment complex that opened at the former site of the restaurant. It was a delight to see the ningyo doll. In addition, there was a clock representing life-sized Glico Man next to this building, and hubby took a photo of me standing in front of the clock.
Restaurants and crowd of people at Dotonbori Street

Mechanical drum-playing clown Kuidaore Taro

Kuidaore Taro at the top of commercial entertainment complex

Me standing next to Glico Man clock

As we walked further, we came across many more restaurants. I was stunned by the unbelievable number of restaurants and the passing crowd, and forgot to take photos. So after walking for some time, I turned around and took photos of the street. To our left, we saw another crab restaurant named Kani Doraku nakaten with a mechanized crab billboard located at the top front of the restaurant. To our right, there was a ramen restaurant named Kinryu Ramen (golden dragon). In fact there are three of these restaurants in Dotonbori, one at each end of the street and one in the middle. The chain is well known for its ramen noodles as well as for its giant three-dimensional golden dragon billboards. To the left side of the street facing Kinryu Ramen restaurant is another restaurant of note named Creo-ru, which sells kushikatsu, takoyaki and okonomiyaki. The three dimensional billboard of kushikatsu daruma at the top front of the restaurant as well as the daruma doll installed in front of the restaurant were a bit scary looking!
Restaurants and shops in Dotonbori

More restaurants and shops in Dotonbori

Mechanized crab billboard at the top front of Kani Doraku nakaten restaurant

Golden dragon billboard at Kinryu Ramen restaurant

Kushikatsu daruma billboard at top front of Creo-ru restaurant

Daruma doll in front of Creo-ru restaurant

Walking further, we saw a small food stall named Honke Nippon Ichi Otako that sold takoyaki. It is a very famous stall and there was a big queue of people in front of the stall. We had to wait for almost 45 minutes for our turn to buy takoyaki. We bought two packs of takoyaki and ate them sitting at a stone bench in the street. It was delicious. Walking further, we saw many more restaurants.
Honke Nippon Ichi Otako food stall


Hubby eating takoyaki

Restaurants in Dotonbori

We had seen most of the famous restaurants, so we turned around and returned to the commercial entertainment complex where Kuidaore restaurant used to be. We bought two tickets worth 500 Yen per person to see a 30-minutes owarai mini-live event named ‘Kansai New Star Live’. Owarai is a form of Japanese comedy show that includes traditional manzai style stand-up comedy along with dajare gags and puns. Three groups named Idaten, Okayama Tsutomu, and Hikokigumo performed at the event. The show was really funny, and hubby and I laughed until tears came to our eyes.
A staff advertising owarai mini-live event in front of commercial entertainment complex

Advertising pamphlet of Kansai New Star Live event


Okayama Tsutomu


After seeing the Owarai event, hubby and I left Dotonbori Street and went down the Ebisubashi Bridge to a restaurant named Menzy that specializes in abura (oily) soba. We each had a bowl of abura soba noodles, which was heavenly and scrumptious.
Menzy restaurant

Delicious bowls of abura soba noodles

Hubby eating abura soba

Next, hubby and I went to see Tsutenkaku Tower located in Shinsekai district of Naniwa ward. From Dotonbori Street, we walked for about ten minutes to go up to Nippombashi railway station. At this station, we took Osaka city subway Sakaisuji Line to go up to Ebisucho station. The tower was located about 3-minutes walking distance from the station. We reached the tower at about 4 pm.

Tsutenkaku means ‘tower reaching heaven’. The present tower is the second to occupy the site. The original tower was built in 1912 and had an eccentric design that combined the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The tower was located adjacent to an amusement park named Luna Park. The first kanji character of the word Tsutenkaku is also a character in the name of Michio Doi, the developer who built the first tower. Unfortunately, it was dismantled in 1943 to supply iron for World War II. After the war, the citizens lobbied to rebuild the tower. A private company named Tsutenkaku Kanko Co. Ltd. was established and the present second generation tower was erected in 1956. This tower is a well-known authentic landmark of Osaka. It has a height of 103 meters and the main observation deck is at a height of 91 meters. We took several photos of the tower while we walked down the Tsutenkaku Hondori Street. The tower looked amazingly stunning in the sunlight.
Me standing on Tsutenkaku Hondori street with Tsutenkaku Tower in the background

Tsutenkaku Tower

Another view of Tsutenkaku Tower

Tsutenkaku Tower as viewed from just under the tower

We purchased tickets worth 600 Yen per person as admission fee for the observation deck located at the fifth floor of the tower. We got beautiful panoramic view of Osaka city from the observation platform. At about 4.45 pm the sun set and the lights of Shinsekai district and surrounding areas lit up slowly. The streets, houses, buildings, everything lit up, and created a dramatic view of overflowing lights. Looking straight down, we saw the brightly lit Tsutenkaku Hondori walking street that we used to reach the tower. Far away Osaka Castle could be seen as a dot like structure. We dropped a 100 Yen coin into a slot in a telescope and looking through the telescope, great details of the castle could be seen which was brightly lit up and seemed so near.
View of Shinsekai district from the observation deck of the tower

Hubby enjoying the view as street lights and buildings slowly lit up at dusk

Me enjoying the view of Shinsekai at dusk

Night view of Shinsekai district from the observation deck of the tower

Brightly lit Tsutenkaku Hondori walking street

Osaka Castle as viewed through a telescope

Billiken, the God of good luck or ‘things as they should be’, is enshrined on the fifth floor observation deck. Billiken is a popular American charm doll that came to Japan in 1910, and was enshrined within the amusement park named Luna. The wooden statue of Billiken went missing when the park closed in 1923. The present statue of Billiken was made from old photographs and placed inside the tower in 1979. There is something very charming about the smile, upturned eyes, and pointed head of Billiken. The statue has become closely associated with the tower. It is believed that if we rub the soles of his feet, our wish will be fulfilled.
Statue of Billiken at the observation deck of the tower

After staying at the observation deck for about 45 minutes and enjoying the panoramic night view of Shinsekai district and surrounding areas, we left the tower. While walking back to Ebisucho railway station via Tsutenkaku Hondori Street, we saw that the tower was beautifully lit up. The tower is famous for its neon lights, which is changed every few years. Hitachi has sponsored the tower since 1957, and the light designs usually spell out Hitachi advertisements, although one side of the tower is occupied by a public service announcement. We took several photos of the tower as the advertisements and the colors of neon lights changed. The tower looked gorgeous and grand. As we neared the end of the walking street, the neon turret at the top of Tsutenkaku Tower became visible. The neon turret is connected to the meteorological observatory, so that the tower acts as a weather tower. It indicates the weather of the next day through a combination of three colors. The turret showed white colored neon lights which meant that the next day was going to be a clear day.
Brightly lit Tsutenkaku Tower

Photos of the tower with changing colors of neon lights and advertisements

White colored neon lights of the turret at the top of the tower

'Tsutenkaku Hondori’ written using neon lights

Hubby and I loved visiting Tsutenkaku Tower. At about 6.30 pm, we returned to Namba railway station. There was a beautiful New Year decoration inside the railway station, which hubby and I appreciated for some time. We had dinner at a ramen restaurant named Tenkaippin located near the railway station. Tenkaippin was founded in Kyoto in 1971 and now has over 200 restaurant chains in Japan. The ramen of this restaurant is famous for thick broth gravy-like soup called kotteri-style soup. The broth is made from chicken and a variety of ingredients rich in collagen and vegetable fiber, which gives the soup its gravy-like texture and deep rich flavor. I had the ramen with toppings of chashu pork and boiled egg, while hubby had toppings of chashu pork and a lot of spring onion. The ramen was rich and thick with a smooth, savory, and memorable taste. Chilli garlic paste was also provided to add extra texture and flavor to the soup. The ramen was super delicious.
New Year decoration inside Namba railway station

Delicious bowls of Tenkaippin ramen

Hubby eating Tenkaippin ramen

After dinner, hubby and I returned back to our hotel near Shin-Osaka railway station. We were very tired due to a lot of walking the whole day. It was only 8.30 pm but we retired to bed rather early and had a good night’s sleep. The next day we visited several temples and shrines. In the morning, we visited Shitennoji temple about which I will write in the next post.


Satish said...

Manisha your travelogue is very interesting to read. Thanks for this treat, its as if walking with you and Mr. Nagata along the streets f Dotonbori. I specially liked the night view of the city better and the brightly lit Tsutenkaku tower.
You have a wonderful flair to writing and should put these travelogues into a small book form later. It does help us sitting so far to see japan through your eyes. Thanks and greetings fro los Angeles.

nupur said...

Manisha, thanks for the interesting informations you have given us about japan . The night view is really beautiful. We are also enjoying with you.
Thanks and best wishes for you.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your nice comment Satish. Feels good to know that you liked reading this post.

Hubby and I enjoyed visiting Dotonbori Street and Tsutenkaku Tower. We really 'ate until we dropped' in Dotonbori :)

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Nupur. Yeah, the night view from top of Tsutenkaku Tower is superb!

Please visit my blog often and keep your valuable comments :)

zat said...

3 of us planning to go to japan next year. is 1 day to cover Osaka enough? can u suggest the best place to visit?
My plan is to visit the Kaiyukan in the morning, then go to Universal studio then spend the evening until night at the Osaka town..dotonbori, minami namba do some shopping, is feasible and interesting? thank you

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Zat, there are many sightseeing places in Osaka. We covered only a few of the places visited by tourists.
I guess the places you suggested are good enough to visit in a day if time is limited... Because I feel Universal Studio might need more time as usually there are long queues at every attraction. So probably you can cover Universal Studio and one or two more places in a day. I feel that at least two days might be required to see all the touristy places...
Have a nice trip!