Ukiyo Shoji: A Secret Alley Lined with History
As the crowds stream along Dotonobori admiring larger-than-life signs hung above doorways, there is a small alley that is often overlooked. Known as Ukiyo Shoji (浮世小路), this narrow street sandwiched between buildings tells the history of this area’s development.
History of Ukiyo Shoji
When the nearby canal was built by a local entrepreneur in 1612, it connected two branches of the Yokobori River. Creating a busy trade area, it soon developed to be known as the entertainment district of Osaka, filled with theaters, restaurants, and bars. Its status was made official in 1662, and ever since then, this area has drawn the liveliest of patrons to eat, drink and be merry. Using art installations, statues, and signboards, Ukiyo Shoji tells the story of Dotonbori’s past in creative and colorful ways.
Characteristics of Ukiyo Shoji
Only 1-meter wide, the alley is really only big enough for one person to walk down at a time. It is around 20m long and is a short journey through the history of the area. It is easy to miss, so be sure to look out for it between the large Karaoke Store and the traditional Japanese restaurant next door. As you step into the lantern-lit street, you’ll be greeted with a variety of displays, each depicting a different facet of the area’s past.
Artworks of Ukiyo Shoji
Showing daily life from the Taisho Era (1912-1926) up until the Showa era (1926 - 1989) the delicate scenes are fascinating. Hand made and with 3D detail, they draw you in and help imagine what life was like before the neon signs and visitors filled the streets.
There are many small touches that it is fun to spot along the alley, including painted signboards and small figures, including a cat with a fish in its mouth. Discovering each element is like a treasure hunt along the way.
There are a number of shop signs and dedications to the popular music scene of the 1960s, with caricatures and musical instruments enshrined in glass displays.
If you’re looking for good luck, be sure to get a fortune (omikuji) paper from the tiny shrine dedicated to a local fairytale character called Issun Boshi. Said by some to be a small child and others to be only a few centimeters tall, he traveled from Kyoto and up the nearby river in a bowl using a chopstick as a paddle and succeeded in his journey. Now a symbol of good fortune, he is said to provide good luck, so it’s worth a try if you have tests or an important project coming up. If you receive a bad fortune, you can tie it carefully to the nearby bars with the others - this is to be sure your bad luck stays at the shrine.
How to Get to Ukiyo Shoji
If you are already walking along Dotonbori, it is easy to find the small alley if you look carefully. Heading east, you can spot the large sushi hand of Genrokuzushi, and continue walking a few yards until you see a karaoke store on your right. Just before this store is the alleyway, which may look dark but will have lanterns lit inside.
From Osaka Stations
Dotonbori and Ukiyo Shoji are easily accessed with a selection of stations nearby including Osaka Metro Namba Station, Osaka-Namba Station and JR Namba Station.
- From Osaka Namba and Osaka Metro Namba Station, Dotonbori is best reached via Exit 25 - from there it is a couple of minute’s walk due north.
- From Nipponbashi Station, Dotonbori is best reached via Exit 7 and is a few minutes walk due north.
From Osaka Airports
- From Kansai International Airport, you can catch the Nankai Airport Rapid Express direct to Namba Station. The journey takes 45 minutes and costs 930 yen. Alternatively, there are limousine buses available which arrive at Namba Station, but these take closer to an hour.
- From Osaka International Airport Itami, you need to take a limousine bus to the OCAT bus terminal in Namba Station which takes between 40 minutes to one hour.
- Name: Ukiyo Shoji (浮世小路)
- Address: 1-7 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
- Entry: Free
- Opening Hours: 24/7
- Regular Holidays: None
※Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), some of the shops and restaurants may be temporarily closed or have different hours from the hours stated here.