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Japanese Culture
Dōtonbori (道頓堀, Dōtonbori) - This is one of the principal tourist destinations in Osaka, Japan. It is a single shopping/restaurant street, running alongside the Dōtonbori canal, and stretches between the Dōtonboribashi Bridge and the Nipponbashi Bridge. Dōtonbori is officially a part of the Namba district of Osaka, south of Shinsaibashi.

A former pleasure district, Dōtonbori is famous for its surrounding theatres, shops, and restaurants and the many colorful neon and mechanized signs, including snack/candy manufacturer Glico's giant electronic display of a runner crossing the finish line.

Dōtonbori traces its history back to 1612, when entrepreneur Doton Yasui was expanding the tiny East/West running Umezu River, hoping to increase commerce in the region by connecting the two branches of the North/South running Yohori River with a canal. Doton’s task was interrupted when he died defending Toyotomi Hideyori in the ill-fated Siege of Osaka, but his cousins carried on his legacy and finished the canal in 1615. The new lord of Osaka CastleTadaki Matsudaira, named the avenue Dōtonbori in honor of its visionary even though Doton had been his enemy during the siege.

The character of Dōtonbori became defined in 1621 when the newly minted Tokugawa Shogunate instituted urban planning, designating Dōtonbori as the theater and entertainment district of Osaka. The Broadway and West End of its time, by 1662 the avenue boasted six Kabuki theaters and five Bunraku theaters, as well as the unique Takeda Karakuri mechanical puppet theater. To support the flood of tourists and entertainment seekers pouring nightly into Dōtonbori, many restaurants and cafes were built, further establishing Dōtonbori's reputation and position as an entertainment district.

Over the years, declining interests in traditional entertainment saw the closing of most of Dōtonbori original attractions, and the final five theaters were bombed and destroyed during World War II, leaving only the restaurants that we see today.

As a domestic tourist destination, Osaka is known for its food, and Dōtonbori is the main destination for food travel in Osaka. It is always featured in guidebooks for both foreign tourists and domestic. Osaka regional cuisine includes okonomiyaki (pan-fried batter cake), takoyaki (octopus dumplings), udon (a noodle dish), as well as regional sushi and other traditional Japanese foods.

Kuidaore (食い倒れ)
Kuidaore (食い倒れ, Kuidaore ) is a Japanese word meaning roughly “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food.” It is sometimes romanized as cuidaore, and is part of a larger proverb: "Dress (in kimonos) till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka" (京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ).

The word is associated with Dōtonbori, often used in tourist guides and advertisements, due to the excess and extravagance of restaurants available. It can be seen in the names of several locations in Dōtonbori, such as the mascot Kuidaore Taro and in the restaurant Cui-daore.

Restaurants of Note

Kinryu Ramen: There are three Kinryu (Golden Dragon) Ramen restaurants in Dōtonbori, one at each end of the street and one in the middle. The chain is notable for its giant three-dimensional golden dragon billboards, as well as its outdoor seating consisting of tatami mats. Unlike many Japanese restaurants, Kinryu Ramen is open 24 hours, and offers a free garlic and kimchi bar.

Kani Doraku: A crab restaurant, easily identified by its giant moving crab billboard. One of the most famous landmarks of Osaka.

Otakoya: The famous and popular takoyaki stand, usually with a long, long line leading up to the counter.

Zubora-ya: A fugu restaurant with a huge blowfish lantern hanging out front.

Dōtonbori Ramen Taishokudo: A ramen restaurant formed by eight famous ramen shops from across Japan who banded together to form this one ramen paradise.

Cui-daore: a massive eight-story restaurant with a different Osaka cuisine on each floor, it is a self-proclaimed contender for the world’s largest restaurant.

Hariju: A beef restaurant from 1924.They use only Japanese beef. One of the more famous beef restaurants.

While Dōtonbori is packed with interesting billboards and buildings, there are three main landmarks that are most often featured on postcards and advertisements for Osaka.

Kuidaore Taro: In front of Cui-daore is the mechanical drum-playing clown, also known as Kuidaore Ningyo. He was installed in 1950, and instantly became a popular tourist attraction, even now swarmed by crowds of tourists patiently waiting their turn to snap a memento. A popular sight is Dōtonbori in March, when the visiting rikishi for the Osaka Grand Sumo tournament line up with Kuidaore Taro for photos.

Kani Doraku Crab: This six and a half meter crab fronts the famous crab restaurant Kani Doraku. It is mechanized, being able to move its arms and eyestalks. Built in 1960, the mechanical billboard soon spawned a craze of imitators including a squid that puffs steam and oni that light up at night. The Kani Doraku crab is responsible in many ways for the current look of Dōtonbori; it appears on postcards and websites probably more than any other symbol of Osaka.

Glico Man: Originally installed in 1935, the giant athlete is a symbol of Glico candy, featuring a running man on a blue track. The giant neon sign has been revised on several occasions to celebrate events such as the World Cup and to bolster team spirit for Osaka's baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers.

Information source: “Dōtonbori.” Article date: 29 Dec. 2007. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 4 Feb. 2008 <Dōtonbori>.

Video - The following was filmed in Dōtonbori. The video is of people at a street food stand.





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