How are Don Don Donki stores in Singapore different to that in their country of origin, Japan? Let’s check out exploring this Mega Donki here in the heart of the Osaka Dōtonbori district. This Don Quijote in Dōtonbori is not the largest in Japan, but one of the most iconic. Namely because of a huge Ferris wheel which sit in the entire facade of the building. It is in fact taller than the building itself.
You could remember Don Don Donki as the Japanese value retailer which took Singapore by storm a couple of years ago. Starting with their first branch at Orchard Central which we check out in 2017, and their following rapid expansion with branches in 100am and City square mall. This outlet in Japan is not too different.
Ebisu Tower ferris wheel
Moreover, located along the Dōtonbori canal in the buzzing shopping district in Osaka city. This Mega Don Quijote Dōtonbori here is unlike your typical Penguin mega store. Here, it sits outside the mall is a rather special looking Ferris wheel attraction.
Called the Ebisu Tower ferris wheel, the ride is a unique one, with a non-conventional shape. It is not even circular, but rather comprises of a vertical tower with semi-circular capped ends. At night, the capsules are individually lit with circular rings. The ride opens till late from 11am to 11pm daily.
Additionally, a giant cartoon mural of the deity of commerce, Ebisu is pictured with the Don Pen. The penguin is Don Quixote mascot, also immortalised on the Ferris wheel. Also, notably, Ebisu is synonymous to the Chinese God of fortune. His role here is possibly to act as a mural to bring in business.
Furthermore, entry to the ride attraction is located on the mall’s third floor. You will have to make your way up stairs or escalators past the rows of cramped and overly packed aisles and shelves full of quick retail merchandise.
Moreover, in pure Japanese fashion, you buy your ride tickets using the vending machines at the ride entrance. 600 yen per person. You pass these to the staff at the end of the queue line to board your ride.
Self righting rotating capsules
Additionally, the Ferris wheel has a unique loading system. You enter the capsule on the opposite inside end of the wheel facing inwards. After loading and ride lap bars in place, the entire capsule will rotate 180 degrees to face you outside the building. Moreover, the capsules are shielded by clear acrylic bubble sphere, protecting you from the weather.
Interestingly, given the odd shape of the wheel, the capsules employs and active motor balancing system. This rotates the capsules automatically as you approach the curved portions of the wheel, keeping the capsules right side up. This is unlike traditional gravity weighted gondolas. You can hear the motors continuously making adjustments as you roll over the curves.
At the top of the 77 meters tall tower, the views at the top are just alright, but not breath-taking, just rows and rows of ended shops which makes up the dense Dōtonbori districts. A ride takes about a quick 15 minutes holds 32 gondolas. About a third the time taken for large observation wheels, like the Singapore Flyer for instance.
In typical Japanese fashion, the mall is cramped and spans multiple floors. Walkway are narrow with shelves packed to the brim with goods of the trade. Also, here you can find pretty much under the sun. From food stuff, fresh produce to hardware, clothing, toys, computers and souvenirs. You can also find rows of liquor, sake and Grand Seikos watches on sale too!
Moreover, the mall also does follow a rather unconventional layout, with a central stairwell serving most of the floors. You can pay at the checkout counters on any floor. However it is advised to avoid the ones of the ground floor as they are always packed with long queues of tourists.
Interesting finds not in Singapore
Addition interesting finds not available in Singapore are rows of tobacco openly displayed products and accessories, as well as Airsoft hobby guns and hunting gear. Also, some of these are notably contraband goods in Singapore which are legal here in Japan. Also, there are also huge sections dedicated to car accessories.
You can also find selections of rare Kit-kat flavors which is notably also available in Singapore too. Moreover, the upper floors involves a maze network of escalators and staircases.
Moreover, these always randomly pop-up in a corner of the upper floors. Tad like an after-thought in the building design. These upper floors usually stock non-food items such as hardware or travel goods. The upper floors are also notably quieter with lower pedestrian traffic.
For the record, Don Don Donki, the name we know of in Singapore is known as Don Quijote in Japan and is actually the actual name of the establishment. They did not use the name in Singapore due to trademark issues.
All in all, the shopping experience here in Don Quijote Dōtonbori Osaka is not too far off from that in Singapore. I can say, the experience in Singapore is as authentic as it can get, say less the variety of certain goods.