Osaka is a Garish but Romantic City of Waterways.

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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


Osaka Castle



What is common among those cities such as Amsterdam, Bangkok, San Antonio, Suzhou, and especially Venice which is very famous for a movie starring Katharine Hepburn? Those are cities of water. You can see beautiful waterways throughout the cities. Boats and gondolas sail on a river exhilaratingly. And don’t forget Osaka, please. Osaka castle stands at the heart of the city where the total area of waterways accounts for ten percent of the urban area. The downtown is surrounded on all four sides by rivers and numerous streams flow, which creates unique scenery.


In addition, people in Osaka have distinctive spirit being very frank and open-minded. Looking at the neon signs, they may seem too garish. However, the nature of Osaka people is one of their attractiveness.


Osaka has two aspects. One is garish atmosphere. The other is a city of romantic waterways. I would like you to enjoy both aspects of Osaka.



What Garish Neon Signs in Dotombori!



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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau





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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


Famous Advertisements



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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


Restaurant Specializing in Crab



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© Copyright 2003-2015 Osaka Prefecture, All rights reserved.


Please look at the glaring neon signs of the Image 4 and the big crab of the Image 5. While watching them on TV, most Japanese feel those are too flashy. Here is Dotombori which is the most garish downtown in Japan. By the way, the legs of the big crab are moving by electricity.


This area has long tradition and history. During the Edo period from 17th to 19th century, the capital was located in Kyoto, the center of the government was in Edo (Its present name is Tokyo), and the hub of economy was in Osaka nicknamed as “Kitchen of Japan”. For this reason, there was the huge business district called “Senba” where numerous prosperous merchants stood side by side. (A literary work of “Makioka Sisters” by Junichiro Tanizaki is written about four sisters growing up there.) Minami area centering Dotombori was the place to enjoy amusement for well-off people.


This is why Minami had something tasteful. However, traditional merchants developed into business corporations. The relationship between masters and servants was changed into that of employers and employees. In the trend of the times, “wealthy masters” became “company presidents” and moved to make a home in high-class residential areas like Ashiya. (Link to the location) And Minami became the downtown with the common touch.


Since early times, there were many “make shift playhouses” presenting “Joruri puppet plays”. Osaka used to be a source of performing art and formed go-go culture. In this area, today, several theaters specializing in comedy attract ordinary people and professional comedians show interesting talks and plays every day. You can casually go to those theaters.

I describes neon signs above mentioned as “garish”, but we can well understand the nature of Osaka people who never try to be cool, and are frank and interesting.



To the “Deep South”, Shinsekai


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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


Tsutenkaku Tower and Twilight Shinsekai Area



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(Photo by (c) The writer of this article)


Shopping Street named Jan-Jan Yokocho


Thirty minutes’ walk from Dotombori to the south will take you to the Tsutenkaku Tower (A link to the location), a symbol of Osaka, which rising for the sky.


This area is named “Shinsekai” which was missed out on the wave of postwar reconstruction and was a very dangerous place. Even local taxi drivers avoided the neighborhood as much as possible. For this reason, this area was left far behind in urban redevelopment. There were shops, restaurants and buildings out of date and in the process the whole area fell behind the times.


However, as the proverb goes “bad luck often brings good luck”. The good example is Shinsekai around the tower. We can hardly feel something unique to Osaka around the JR Osaka station surrounded by high rises. On the other hand, Shinsekai is filled with a nostalgic atmosphere. The other day I tentatively visited the zone and was surprised to see that the image was changed because it was crowded with many tourists. There were long lines in front of small restaurants introduced in travel guidebooks!


How about making a little side trip to Shinsekai for those who would like to enjoy truer Osaka downtown than Dotombori. The atmosphere of small and colorful alley gives you an aspect that Osaka is somehow lovable. This area is very intriguing place, isn’t it?




People in Osaka are Extravagant in Food!

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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


Although it takes about 30 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto by train, the atmosphere of both cities and people’s natures are completely different. An interesting word says that Kyoto people are extravagant in dress (Refer to this site) and Osaka people in food.


Osaka has various delicious and inexpensive foods. A doll beating a drum in stripe cloth is named “Kuidaore-Taro” meaning a guy extravagant in food who has been loved by Osaka people. “He” is a mascot like KFC Colonel Sanders. In 1959, a restaurant-specific and eight-storied building was constructed. Taro had entertained and attracted customers in front of the huge restaurant building which was unfortunately diminished because of being ageing. Though, “Taro” is still well and beats a drum at another food mall.


And then, let me introduce Osaka local specialties!



Takoyaki (Octopus Dumplings)


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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)





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(Photo by (c) Ashinari)


Takoyaki Stall


Takoyaki are octopus dumplings. At first, flour is mixed with water. And pour it into single purpose cast-iron pan like the Image 11. A piece of octopus and minced cabbage are put into each round hole and baked into round shape. Please eat them with sauce and green laver while they are hot.



Kushikatsu (Skewered Dishes)


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(Photo by (c) Ashinari)





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(Photo by (c) Ashinari)


Please dip Kushikatsu in special sauce.




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(Photo by (c) The writer of this article)


Please click the Kushikatsu Menu to enlarge, and you can read it in English.



Kushikatsu is deep-fried and skewered food. Meat, fish, vegetables, everything and anything eatable are threaded onto skewers, dipped into batter and then deep-fried. You can dip the fried food into special sauce and eat it with raw cabbage. It is a really good taste. Please click the menu of the Image 14 to enlarge. It is also written in English. By the way, cabbage has free refills at most shops.






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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)





Okonomiyaki is a kind of pizza-shaped pancake. Pork, egg, minced cabbage and flour mixed with water are put into a bowl and scrambled up. It is baked on an iron pan for a few minutes. Putting sauce and mayonnaise, and sprinkling shaved bonito and green laver, Okonomiyaki is completely prepared.


Making Takoyaki needs a specially-made iron pan and the sauce of Kushikatsu is difficult to re-create the special taste of shops which have their own recipes. Unlike those dishes, you can cook Okonomiyaki easily at home. Please give it a try!




Let’s Enjoy Sightseeing Cruise on the Waterways.



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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


Cruising along Cherry Blossom




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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


An Amphibian Bus



In Osaka where many waterways slowly run throughout the city, about ten companies provide short cruising courses in all kinds of enjoyable ways. In springs, you can see full-blown cherry blossom from a boat. High rises around Nakanoshima area or garish neon signs in Dotombori, of course, are included in cruising routes.


The features of cruising are not only scenery. Some serve dishes by a first-class hotel restaurant. Others provide traditional houseboats and serve tempura, sashimi, and sake. Amphibian buses are very interesting vehicles to get on.


Seeing traffic jams on shore, a boat freely cruising in waterways gives you distinctive pleasure unlike ocean cruising. To our joy, frank people in Osaka sometimes wave their hands to passengers.




The Galaxy on the River



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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau



On 7th July, it is the day of “the Star Festival”. It is said that a female weaver “Orihime” (Vega) and a male cowherd “Hikoboshi” (Altair) can meet each other but only once a year in the Galaxy. In the twilight, the surface of the river being portrayed as the universe, people release blue LED light bulbs as stars.


And then, the Galaxy which can be seen in the space is created in the downtown river. On this day people usually write their wishes on a stripe of paper and hang it on a bamboo leaf. Why don’t you release a light with your wishes?



The Tradition



During the Edo period, contrary to your expectation, feudal lords and their subordinate warriors always struggled financially. It was because they collected rice as tax from farmers. It was almost all of their revenue. Ironically, however, in the year of an abundant harvest, as the price of rice decreased samurai were reduced to poverty more and more.


Rice as tax was transported to Osaka. The price was determined by open market forces. In the process, Osaka merchants came to have much more economic power than feudal lords. By the way, the World’s first future trade was conducted in this city, Osaka. It is surprised that one of the business tycoon kept goldfishes in a glass-paneled aquarium on ceilings.


Feudal lords had to borrow money from merchants to make ends meet. As social class, feudal lords had well higher position than merchants who really had economic power. This is why people in Osaka may still carry the legacy of their frankness and the spirits of defying authority.




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(c) Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau


Main Street Mido-suji and Ginkgo Trees


Reference Lists


Waterways in Osaka

Downtown Minami

The Galaxy Project

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