After a few nights in Osaka, with one being rained out. We finally made it to the Dōtonbori district.
The Dōtonbori is a neon lit street that stretches along the Dōtonbori canal in central Osaka. Famous for its restaurants and giant neon signs, it's a must visit destination whilst in Osaka, or even the Kansai region.
It was only a couple of train changes for us to get down to the street, including a transfer at a station that had "She'll be coming round the mountain..." as the departure melody for trains. Worth it for that alone! In no time we made it to the closest station and made our way to the surface. It's always interesting coming up from a subway station to the real world, will it be quiet and dimly lit? or will you come up to an explosion of lights, food and people? Definitely the latter.
Once up on ground level we are surrounded by Osaka. The sounds of a hundred pachinko machines rattling in an adjacent parlour, to the bustling sounds of an arcade just on the other side of the road, we were thrown into the middle of one of Osaka's busiest areas.
We made our way to the Dōtonbori entrance which is beautifully lit up with neon signs welcoming you, however before we ventured down we walked to the bridge over the canal to see one of the area’s most famous sights. I see this as Osaka's times square, the sides of all the buildings painted with a collage of neon advertising blinking and whirling around in various patterns, it's almost hypnotic to watch. It was a photographers dream. After many shots trying to get that perfect one, we made our way back to the streets entrance and started looking around.
What I love about the Dōtonbori is all the stores have these elaborate entrances with eye catching lanterns, screens and shop signs. From giant moving crabs for a crab restaurant, to the big fugu lanterns for a world famous eatery that specialises in serving the toxic fish, there is so much creativity and artistry put into their shop fronts, I loved it.
With restaurant greeters trying to lure us in to taste their delicacies we finally saw one that seemed different, Shabu Shabu. Shabu Shabu is a Japanese cooking technique where you get various ingredients, like thinly cut meats and vegetables and you put them in a stirring pot and cook them, then eat them with various dipping sauces. That’s right, we were cooking our own meal again.
We got into the tiny elevator the greeter pressed level 8 and we made the rocky ride up. But this elevator had such lovely pink carpet, come to think of it, this may be the first time I’ve seen carpet in an elevator, oh Japan, you think of everything! On arrival to the restaurant we were asked to take off our shoes and take a locker, and then we’re shown the ropes of this dining establishment. There was a neat little buffet for salads, and vegetables and noodles to cook, and unlimited Melon Soda, this dinner was going to be off the hook!
We were then taken to our little dining room, oh yeah, we don't sit with just anyone we get our own dining capsule (as did everyone but, whatever.) we hop in awkwardly as we are sitting on the floor with a great foot well under the table which has our kitchen in the middle, a cool Japanese hotplate and our server puts on this amazing smelling pot of broth to simmer away. We got comfortable and took silly pictures, as all self respecting foodies do. Then the menu's came and we were delighted to the fact that it was an all you can eat, for 90 minutes, just pick your meat level (like Mario, but meatier.)
This meal was amazing. We cooked up a feast of Chicken, Beef, Duck, some seafood and a bounty of vegetables from the buffet. Did we get carried away? Sure! but you know what they say "When in Rome... or Osaka!" Between cook offs with each other's wild concoctions in the pot, we got quite the chuckles from the signs in our room with amazing "engrish" promoting the benefits of Shabu Shabu.
We really did get our 90 minutes in here, it didn't help that there was a doorbell for summoning more meat boxes! Yeah we Shabu Shabu till we dropped.
Once we were all done we gathered our things and kept walking through the Dōtonbori. This place is a bit of a tourist trap as well as, they clearly know their market and every shop sells trinkets and various boxed goods for you to take home to your loved ones with pictures of Osaka tower and Osaka Castle plastered all over them.
It was here however where I saw one of the most amazing things ever! A oval Ferris wheel that went around a building! The Japanese love their Ferris wheels, in fact I would wager that you couldn’t find a Japanese city without one. This was just crazy seeing this yellow step child of the classic Ferris wheel which, to only make things better, was wrapped around a 7 story Don Quixote! Oh yes it was like heaven in downtown Osaka.
These are the quirky things I love about Japan. Where else would think "you know what this 24 hour sells everything store needs? A big yellow Ferris wheel around it" "Uh sir, the building isn’t round" "Shush you infidel, just make it oval!" "As you wish, your majesty".
As we made our way back to the train station to wander back to the hotel for the night, we stumbled upon another what seemed like a Hep Shopping mall! Now as you may recall, When we first arrived in Osaka we went to the giant red Hep-5 Mall with, surprise surprise a giant Ferris wheel on top of its 12 stories. Well, we found another place similar on the way back. Namba HIPS is another mall however they decided to, you know to differentiate, carve a giant hourglass shape out of the front of the 10 story complex and put a giant drop type ride in the middle. You know, like your local mall. It's very cool to watch all the screaming kids at night with the hue of neon red reflecting off the silver exterior of HIPS.
Well after getting drunk of the clamor and visuals of the Dōtonbori, we crashed back at the hotel tried to get some sleep as we were heading out the next day on a Shinkansen day trip to Hiroshima.