It would be an understatement to say that Osaka, a city known for eating and drinking to excess, has a lot of bars – the number of drinking establishments, crammed together in every available space, is uncountable. This leaves room for an incredible amount of experimentation and variety. Neat niche places like video and board game bars, as well as establishments catering to fans of anything from absinthe to BDSM to reptiles, are all over the city. Here are some of the best.
Space Station is a staple of the niche bar scene. It’s packed with both locals and tourists almost every night of the week, so it’s a great place to meet like-minded people from all over the world. Space Station is the only game bar in town that doesn’t have a cover charge – you only pay for your drinks, many of which are named after video game characters you love, like the “Floating Peach” and “Gin Sonic.” To find it, just look for the flashing, animated LED staircase at street level, and climb on up!
A cross between a fetish bar and a gothic apparel shop, a trip to Farplane is to step into a more erotic side of Osaka nightlife. Farplane is an excellent gateway into this exciting and sensual world, conveniently located in Shinsaibashi just around the block from Space Station. Dark and decorated with neon lights and lots and lots of penis-shaped accessories, Farplane is a wacky place to go any night, though they host regular burlesque shows and other kinky events worth checking out.
Get your fix of both booze and cats while in Osaka at Fukunekodou. The name means “Lucky Cat Bar,” but the patrons are the lucky ones, as they get to fraternize with the friendly owner and her three cats. In addition to a wide selection of drinks, amazing curry dishes are on the menu, all handmade by the owner. This bar has a retro, Showa feel and many regular patrons, so a visit is like peeking into a more timeless and authentic side of Japan.
This up-and-coming bar is another focused on games, except those of the analog variety rather than digital. This board game bar has well over 100 to choose from, and the all-you-can-play option costs only 500 yen (US$4.50). The Hearth hosts regular game nights and tournaments. They also have a rooftop beer garden, perfect for summer barbecues and movie nights. The food, made by chef and co-owner Jake from Australia, is amazing and includes delicacies that are hard to find in Japan like lasagna and cheesecake.
This small bar is built around – and literally of – a rather unique theme. Shinka is a secluded, subterranean submarine bar. Constructed partially out of actual submarines, this is an atmospheric and photogenic place to enjoy cocktails when looking for a more than average night out. Though it is somewhat hard to find, a night spent in the eccentric, steampunk-inspired Shinka is sure to be a wild ride.
Located just adjacent to Triangle Park in Amemura, Bar Nayuta is one of the coolest and most cosmopolitan bars around. What makes it so special is that there isn’t really a set cocktail menu – instead, guests tell the owner (whose English is quite good) about their current mood or preferred tastes, and he concocts an incredible drink just for you. The atmosphere is gothic and mysterious, perfectly suited to this “nocturnal apothecary.” You can expect to find people from all around the world at Nayuta indulging in shisha and glorious cocktails.
In a town known for being a little odd, Kinguu is one of the strangest bars in the city. This Victorian horror-themed bar is sure to delight fans of the macabre and bizarre. Kinguu is one of the only places to get real mead and absinthe in Japan, and both are absolutely perfect to drink in a bar that feels like a retro horror movie. This small bar is dark and crowded with taxidermied animals, including an actual camel. The owner fully embraces this atmosphere by wearing clothing and makeup resembling the Crow, but don’t be fooled; he is incredibly kind and speaks English very well.