Not far from Namba, in south Osaka, Dotonbori is the section of city that displays the most gaudy and pulsating and raw side of Japan's most demonstrative metropolis.
The neon alone is worth the trip. Better yet is the people watching.
Tourists - Japanese and now quite a few from Asia (tour groups from China, individual Koreans and Taiwanese) - wander the area semi-stunned by the passing show.
Bee-hived hairdos, mini mini-skirts, knee-high boots, and nail attachments on the women; wind-tunnel effect hairstyles, sheer black pants, pointy shoes, and darting eyes on the men.
The area of Dotonbori was developed in the early part of the 17th century by Doton Yasui, a local merchant, who expanded what was then called the Umezu River. A typical Osaka businessman, he was hoping to connect the two branches of the Yohori River with a canal - and thereby improve business and the flow of goods - but died before the work was finished.
The canal was completed in 1615, and the lord of Osaka Castle named it for Doton, who had died in battle.
Six years later the area was designated an "entertainment district," and by the 1660s there were six kabuki theaters, five bunraku theaters, and many restaurants and bars and brothels.
Most of those theaters are long gone, and the area was bombed to the ground during World War II.
Today it is a thriving nightlife area, with plenty to see, do, and buy.
The central area of Dotonbori is the Ebisubashi bridge over the canal, from which you can see the famous Glico neon sign (above right).
The bridge is jokingly referred to as "Hikkake Bashi" ("pick up bridge") because of the action at night and the many pimps who congregate on the bridge after dark. (These men, pictured above, earn money not by prostituting women, but rather by trying to entice women to host bars. They get a cut of a client's tab.)
Among restaurants, Kani Doraku is perhaps the best known. That is because of the delicious crab and the massive moving "crab" above the main entrance.
You can walk north from Ebisubashi up the arcade. Store after store after store will no doubt entice you.
From Namba Station, it is a 5 - 10- minute walk north up Midosuji. JR, Nankai Railways, Kintetsu Railways, and the Osaka subway lines all stop here.
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Monday, March 09, 2009