Osaka’s Pontocho District
Hozenji Yokocho is a street located near the iconic Namba station and a picturesque area in the heart of Dotonbori, the lively district of Osaka. This 80-meter-long backstreet reminds of Pontocho Alley, its famous counterpart in Kyoto. It is home to the small Hozen-ji temple and of miscellaneous restaurants thriving in a warm and colorful atmosphere.
Many Japanese yokocho are famous, such as the often mentioned:
A yokocho is a characteristic feature of the Japanese city and consists of a side street connected to a main avenue. It is usually composed of a passage, or a labyrinth of typical narrow streets lined with small eateries, making it an ideal place to grab dinner in the early evening. On top of this, Hozenji Yokocho in the south of Osaka transports visitors back in time.
Revival of traditional Japan
The lovely, cobbled street of Hozenji Yokocho indeed reminds of Japan at the end of the 19th century. At nightfall, the soft light of its paper lanterns 🏮 is even more attractive. The reminiscence of traditional Japan offers a stark contrast with the other parts of Dotonbori district and Osaka as a whole, which are characterized by large modern avenues illuminated by neon lights.
On the daytime, Hozenji Yokocho offers a discovery off the touristic beaten tracks, and at night, it reveals a more authentic Japan, when its many restaurants open to gourmets happy to enjoy all the culinary specialties of the area:
- Okonomiyaki, the famous Japanese savory crepe,
- Katsudon, a bowl of rice topped with breaded pork,
- Kushikatsu, fried skewers of vegetables, meat, and shellfish.
It is hard to resist in front of all theses delicacies and the delicious scents floating from the eateries. To better enjoy the specific atmosphere of Hozenji Yokocho, it is strongly recommended to go at the end of the day, from 7 p.m. and to not be afraid of the crowd in such a small space.
The little Hozen-ji temple and its Mizukake Fudo
Before or after a gourmet break in one of the restaurants, we suggest visiting the little Hozen-ji temple, from which the street’s name derives. This Buddhist temple built in 1637 has the reputation to help fostering prosperity, professional success, and love.
The original buildings were all destroyed during World War II bombings, except for a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings of Buddhism. The statue was nicknamed Mizukake Fudo ("Water-splattered Fudo") as there is a custom to splash some water on it after praying. Locals as well as visitors happily give into this ritual, and consequently help maintaining the moss covering that smoothens the aspect of Fudo, usually appearing wrathful and menacing.
Monks of the Jodo sect (Pure Land School of Buddhism) to which the temple is affiliated, patiently wait near the monument to receive donations from passersby. When receiving some change or a banknote, the monk will give a small packet enclosing two little kawaii band aids at the image of the temple.
The authentic soul of Osaka
The east and west entrances of the passage are ornamented with signs paying tribute to two celebrities of the city, both originating from Osaka and who had their popularity peak in the post-war period. They are indeed decorated with calligraphies respectively made by:
- Harudanji Katsura III (1930 - 2016), a specialist of rakugo comedy theater, and,
- Kambi Fujiyama (1929 - 1990), an actor and comedian.
Hozenji Yokocho is a passage with an authentically Japanese charm, and is easy to include in a sightseeing day in Osaka. The access is easy from Kuromon Market, which is located nearby. It is also the ideal place for dinner before a night stroll along Dotonbori River and continue the immersion in the festive ambiance of the city.