Known as the central heart of Osaka’s busy Minami district, Dotonbori is well-known for scenes such as tourists crowded around the famous Glico sign to take commemorative photographs. Few people know the origin of the area’s name, however, which in fact comes from Yasui Doton, who poured his life savings into a river excavation project 12 years after the decisive battle of SekigaharaLater, the southern side of Dotonbori became home to small theater houses, soon developing into the go-to local district for performing arts including kabuki, puppet theater, gidayu theater, pageant-style shows, and more.
For artists aspiring to the stage, Dotonbori held a Broadway-like attraction. The major Osaka performance halls are the Shochikuza Theatre for Kabuki, the National Bunraku Theatre for ningyojoruri, and the Namba Grand Kagetsu and the Kadoza Theatre for beloved Osaka comedy shows—all of which draw lively crowds on a daily basis. Eating and drinking establishments also began to open in response to the theatergoing crowd, and one technique to distinguish a shop from its numerous competitors was to erect an enormous sign.
Flashy shop billboards are now a well-known feature of the Dotonbori district, including the aforementioned Glico, along with massive-sized crab, octopus and pufferfish signboards. One of Osaka’s best-loved photo opportunities is with the drum- and gong-clanging mascot known as Kuidaore Taro, which is in fact Japan’s first robotic sign, controlled by a bunraku puppeteer. Another increasingly popular attraction is the Dotonbori Riverwalk, which is perfect for riverside strolls.
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