Can you believe that the city of Osaka instituted urban planning…..in 1621?? To be precise, that is 398 years ago! Oh, my! (US colleges only started offering Urban Planning degrees in the 20th century.) The Dotonbori District was only 12 years old at the time, having been founded by a man named Doton who built a canal (bori) to connect two branches of the Yokobori River. The Tokugawa Shogunate decided that Dotonbori would be designated the Entertainment District in Osaka. And so, many kabuki and bunraku theaters were established here, as well as numerous places with food, food, food! The word most associated with Dotonbori is Kuidaore, meaning “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food.” Osaka is pretty much acknowledged as the Foodie Capital of Japan for this reason.
So….all these crazy photos with “things” on buildings and lights everywhere! We won’t describe each photo…let them just wash over you. It is pretty wild. Many of the photos show quite famous images. Look for these:
There is the beloved Glico Man, 80 years old and still running, which has become one of the unofficial logos of the city. It has been featured in many movies set in Japan…the other day, we watched the movie Black Rain, with Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia. Filmed in Osaka, the action occurred in most of the places we walked this week and showed the Glico Man in several scenes. The second most-famous logo of Osaka is the Kuidaore Clown, playing his drum, who will be 70 years old next year. Then there are the ramen dragon restaurants, the fugu blowfish hanging lantern (yes, the possibly lethal fish), the Kani Doraku’s crab restaurant, the Daruma snarling man. An interesting note about Daruma: the restaurant specializes in deep-fried meat and vegetables on skewers. However, individual dipping sauce is not provided. Rather, there is a large communal sauce pot with a strict rule: no double-dipping! You get one dunk only. The locals understand this very well, and dipping again for them is taboo, but we wonder how many tourists double-dip mindlessly?
We don’t know what the others are, as there aren’t always English translations, but they were fun and they were attached to the outside of buildings, so we photographed them. We just love the capricious men gracing the front of the Plate Dotonbori Hotel Gloria, as they are so cute. We love the lighted crab leg structure (note that crab legs are offered for 4,980 yen…almost $50 US), the happy Japanese family, Crabman (not Spider-Man) climbing up to the clamshell to claim a pearl, and the pedestrian walkway photos with all the signs and lights. The later it got, the more certain we were that every person staying in every hotel in the city was in Dotonbori last night!
The photo of the two young women are two more interviewers! They were promoting travel to Nagano, where the Winter Olympics were held in 1998. Asking us where we were from, we burst out laughing and said, “Wait’ll you hear this!” They were suitably excited to hear that we just travel. They were among the nicest, sweetest people we have met in Japan! The last three photos are left for your puzzlement, and ours. We have no idea what the giant foods displayed on the buildings are. The fish in the styrofoam cooler was a skeleton stripped of its meat, all laid out perfectly, with the full head lying at the top. Normally the head has the most delectable parts for eating and for making soup, so we don’t know why the head was left intact. A mystery in the Entertainment District, the very exciting, very busy, very alive Dotonbori.