Location: Dotombori, Osaka
Nearest station: Namba on the Midosuji line
- A variety of choices
- Video Game and pop culture lovers
- Exploring the quieter side of a popular tourist spot
- Some walking
- Adjustable to budgets
Dotombori is one of the spots in Osaka that all tourists come to visit. They shop in the sprawling shotengai arcades, take their picture in front of Glico Man, and sample the takoyaki that Osaka is famous for. While there are a lot of crowded and touristy parts of Dotombori, this is also a district within Namba where many locals, both Japanese and international, spend time.
Quiet restaurant nooks, unique bars and the cyberpunk stylings of neon reflections in the canals makes the Dotombori dating experience a memorable one.
Dotombori Imai Honten
Dotombori Imai Honten is a noodle shop camouflaged in plain sight. Halfway down the bustling Dotombori street, hemmed in by karaoke, touts, and takoyaki sellers, surprisingly few of the tourists who hover at the traditional entryway make their way past the noren to explore inside. This is a good thing for those looking for a quiet dinner dating spot.
Inside, the restaurant maintains the warm feel of a local noodle eatery with hand written specials on the walls and bamboo receptacles for shichimi spice. English and Japanese menus wait on the tables, ready to accommodate the mix of international customers and Osakan obaa-chan. The fact that many locals come to enjoy their lunch here is an indication of its tastiness.
Compared with the hustle just beyond the automatic doors, Imai is an oasis of calm. Abstaining from background music, the only sound is the slurping of noodles enjoyed Osakan style! The perfect place for easily exchanged conversation over frequently refilled cups of green tea.
Kitsune udon (or soba) is a classic choice. Imai boils its own dashi broth from seaweed and fish.
Ukiyo alley, strung with red lanterns, sneaks down the side of Imai. Here, clinging to the wall, is supposedly the smallest shrine in Japan, dedicated to a tiny god, Issunboshi Daimyojin. Buy an omikuji fortune scroll for a hundred yen, and set off a disembodied but friendly voice thanking you in Kansai dialect. 2D wooden dioramas display scenes from the past. Imai, before it was a noodle shop, was a popular place to listen to music and hosted some famous musicians. Old photos show what Dotombori looked like pre-war, adding to the sense of slipping back in time.
Said to be the smallest shrine in Japan, it is also maybe the friendliest.
As Showa nostalgia booms in Japan, Ukiyo alley offers visitors the retro sights and sounds of that era.
The crowds of pre-war Dotombori.
The narrow path leads to the twisty cobbled backstreet of Kozenji Yokocho, full of yakiniku and bars, and then to the mystical heart of Dotombori: Hozenji temple. Red benches are the perfect place to sit and people watch or chat as cats climb through the gutters of surrounding buildings, and the smoke and smell of incense hang in the air.
Dotombori was once known for its theatres and performers would often come to pray to the moss covered Buddha statues here.
After digesting dinner, cross the Mido-suji to explore the other side of Dotombori.
Depending on energy levels, budgetary considerations and taste, there are a variety of dating options to be enjoyed in this section of the city.
PC and Retro Bar Space Station
The bar can be quieter earlier in the evening, with a live DJ spinning tunes on some nights. With no cover charge and reasonable drink prices, this is a fun and affordable spot to spend some time.
Standard offerings of beer and wine sit alongside staff created cocktails that reference classic video and computer games.
Couples enjoy the cooperative and competitive game offerings.
The Axe Throwing And Shisha Bar
Over eight throwing tools to choose from!
With different plans starting with a base price for time and then an additional cost per weapon choice, the Axe Throwing and Shisha bar is a little more on the pricey side. However, it could be worth the cost to make memories and build a sense of shared trust when handling sharp objects. Knowing how your life partner handles a knife, or shuriken, could be a wise thing too!
With a chill vibe, even late at night, Cafe LA is a comfy spot to hang out, with or without board games.
Black sesame latte
Cafe LA can be an affordable choice depending on how many espresso martinis or POGs (passoa, orange juice and guava juice) a couple enjoys. Board games, however, are free to play.
Dotombori is known for its cyberpunk style and street food, its crowded shopping streets and dark canals which once swallowed Colonel Sanders. For those who love a different dating experience in Osaka, there are calm and quirky subculture nooks perfect for first dates, repeat dates, slowly-becoming-part-of-the-regular-crowd dates and everything in-between.