Here’s How the Dotonbori Shopping Experience Will Change in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

They're planning a shift from global tourists to locals.

Due to the spread of new coronavirus or COVID-19, the number of foreign tourists to Osaka has decreased greatly. We spoke to Minoru Kitatsuji from Dotonbori Shopping Association, which is one of the symbolic places of Osaka affected by the virus, about their situation now and what they will be working on.

(This interview was conducted after the state of emergency was lifted, maintaining social distance while wearing a face mask.)

Minoru Kitatsuji from Dotonbori Shopping Association, standing in the quiet street because of the virus.

Dotonbori Shopping Association put up a banner saying “Ganbare Wuhan” to cheer up Wuhan, China where many were infected by the virus in February. They also put up a banner saying “Ganbare Minami” and “Ganbare Osaka” in mid-April when the virus was spreading in Japan. Restaurants and shops in the shopping association have also put up posters with messages unique to Osaka such as “Makehende Zettai Hikkurikaeshitaru (We won’t lose. We’ll flip it over)” by Chibusa, an
okonomiyaki restaurant and is attracting attention.

The poster by Chibusa, an
okonomiyaki restaurant

What is it like in Dotonbori now?

By the end of March, the number of people out were about 10% of the usual years and many shops and restaurants closed before the state of emergency was announced on April 7. Many students from all over Japan usually come to visit during Golden Week (a week-long Japanese national holiday at the beginning of May), but this year, there were times when not even one person was walking down the street. This hasn’t happened once in 100 years; I believe this happened for the first time in the 400 years of Dotonbori’s history.

Few can be seen even in the afternoon.

What is Dotonbori Shopping Association working on right now?

When the association put up a banner “Ganbare Minami” in April, shops and restaurants also made “Makehende (We won’t lose)” posters with each of their uniqueness. After the state of emergency was lifted, “Yattarude (We will do it)” posters also came out in preparation for reopening.

Please tell us about Dotonbori culture.

Dotonbori is a city of play, so it seems sad when the entrance lights of Osaka Shochikuza are out. Ainosuke Kataoka, a Kabuki actor, came to the ceremony on June 2, too.

“Dotonbori Makehende! Art Gallery ~Minami no Machi no Akari ha Keshimahen (We won’t turn out the lights of Minami)~” Ainosuke Kataoka appeared in the ceremony.


What are the characteristics of Dotonbori Shopping Association?

The media often says that Dotonbori has a sense of unity. We don’t hold meetings right now, but talking on LINE, when one said they’ll make a poster, many followed. As you can tell from the song “Tonbori Ninjyo” sung by a Japanese traditional ballad singer Yoshimi Tendo, it’s a place with warm hearts.

The “Yattarude” poster of Dotonbori Shopping Association

What will the association be working on from now on?

We realized how much Dotonbori relied on tourists from abroad. From now on, we would have to make plans for Japanese tourists. In 2015 when it was Dotonbori’s 400
th anniversary, we decided to research how we could maintain the popularity and increase the visits by Japanese tourists. Since Dotonbori started as a town of play, we hope many live entertainments gather here. Holding the Bon Odori Festival this year is hard, but we will hold Dotonbori River Manto Festival, coloring the riversides with lanterns.

Please tell us about holding the Dotonbori River Banto Festival.

Some people suggested canceling the festival, but we decided not to because we are in a situation like this. Each year, the lanterns were donated mainly by groups related to the association, but this year anyone can through the internet. We’d like young women to take part too, and post photos of lanterns with their names on social media.

Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Kansai Walker™ (5 June 2020)

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