Nestled in the midst of Minami, one of Osaka’s most chaotic districts, is a quietly exotic side street. Turning off a narrow alleyway from the Sennichimae shopping road, a wooden sign is visible that reads “Hozenji Yokocho” (Hozenji Temple Alleyway).
Continuing down the cobbled street glistening with water, the fragrance of incense wafts across from the left-hand side. Straight ahead lies the Mizukake Fudo-son statue, which visitors ladle with water as they ask for blessings, leaving it perpetually coated with an atmospheric layer of green moss.
The temple has been steadily visited by worshippers since the Meiji era, which encouraged the creation of eateries and bars in its environs.
Around the beginning of the Showa era, the area was also a center for the two performing arts of rakugo (comic storytelling) and mansai (double stand-up comedy). The neighborhood was destroyed by bombing during the Pacific War, but was revitalized as an area of entertainment during the postwar period, including reconstruction of its cobblestone road. Hozenji Yokocho has been the subject of many novels, films and songs.
Osakans’ love for the alleyway was on full display after it burned down in 2002. New building regulations required widening of the road but locals asserted that this would disturb its character. Some 300,000 signatures were collected almost immediately, resulting in an ordinance that permitted the alley an exemption to retain its original width of 2.7 meters. With its historical flavor restored, the short 100 meter-long road is home to numerous establishments that Osakans are proud to call their own, including bars, famous kappo cuisine restaurants, eateries serving dishes such as yakitori grilled chicken, oden (hot pot-style stew), sushi, and more.
Dotonbori is known for its lively atmosphere, featuring flashy, moving signs that make the area somewhat reminiscent of a theme park. It is, however, also home to another beloved side of the city: a tiny alluring alleyway that features a lovely traditional vibe from days past.
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