Dotonbori Street in Osaka, Japan

Kuidaore, a Japanese word meaning “to ruin yourself with extravagant food,” has become synonymous with the city of Osaka. How could we possibly not love this place?

Osaka is the undisputed culinary center of Japan, in fact several writers have proclaimed it the food capital of the world, but we were determined to find the heart of the center. That could only be the small downtown district known as Dōtonbori.

Named for the seventeenth century canal that runs beside the street, Dōtonbori has become the epicenter of kuidaore. For hundreds of years the area was famous as the place for Kabuki theatres, but they are all gone now. Restaurants began replacing them after the war, and with their arrival came some creative signage.

In fact, the competition for most eye-catching advertising extravaganza is nearly as much of a draw as the food. Several signs are tourist attractions in their own right, especially the giant neon Glico Man, famous for being the first on the block.

Almost as popular is the mechanical drumming clown, Kuidaore Taro, who stood guard in front of the Cui-daore Restaurant for years. Since the restaurant closed he has been enshrined at the Nakaza Cuidaore Building, where he draws crowds into the shopping center.

When the crab restaurant Kani Doraku erected their giant mechanized crab sign back in 1960 they kicked off quite a craze of giant animated seafood signs.

Several spectacular giant octopus renditions marking spots for Osaka’s signature dish, takoyaki, vied for our attention.

And a huge blowfish lantern adorned Zubora-ya, a fugu (deadly poison blowfish) restaurant that, believe it or not, we didn’t try.

See more about our night in Dotonbori – we ruined ourselves with food!

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