Nakazakicho is one of Osaka’s hippest, artsiest districts. Characterised by ramshackle buildings renovated into independent art galleries and eclectic thrift shops, it’s a great place to explore both historic architecture and contemporary trends. Below are the best things to do while wandering Nakazakicho.
Nakazakicho started to become a hipster hangout in 2001 when Salon de AManTO opened as an artist refuge in what was then a derelict district. Owner Jun Amanto transformed the 120-year-old building into half café and half community centre. Having recycled every bit of the old building along the way, the retro vibes are delightfully authentic. Since its opening, Nakazakicho has been revitalised as independent artists and sellers have moved in, setting up galleries, cafés and shops. Amanto has since teamed up with other artists to renovate many other Nakazakicho buildings and turn them into creative spaces.
Another thing Nakazakicho is known for is its cute cafés, and Taiyo no Tou is one of the most popular. It’s visually striking, with a colourful exterior and delightfully garish interior. Various antiques and retro furniture decorate the space. Both the food and drink menus tend to include items with lots of fresh fruit and veg – like the root vegetable salad or the mint mojito – and plenty of sweets. They also have a selection of Minoh Beers, a local craft brew. The café is smoke-free and has Wi-Fi.
Nakazakicho is also home to scores of tiny, independent art galleries each with its own unique flair. Irorimura and AIDA Gallery are some of the more well known, but Gallery Yolcha is the best place to start. Located just off the road on a dirt path, the historic wooden building is surrounded by greenery and covered in vines – the scene seems whimsically out of place so close to downtown Umeda. The interior is narrow and filled with hidden nooks and multiple levels accessible only by ladder, making the gallery itself something to enjoy. Both an art gallery and shop, visitors can peruse all sorts of ornaments and accessories made by local creatives. It’s also a great place to simply relax with a cup of tea.
Thrift stores are beginning to gain popularity in Japan, though they tend to favour American trends and manufacturers. Green Pepe has a slightly different vibe. Started by Megumi Ishihara, the shop gets most of its items from Japan and specialises in vintage items from the ’60s and ’70s. Colourful, patterned, one-of-a-kind items fill the racks of the eclectic shop and, though the apparel is geared mainly towards women, there are also sections devoted to male apparel and furniture. The average price is slightly higher than at other thrift stores, but so is the quality.
Nakazakicho is one of the few places in Osaka where niche healthy-eating trends are popular. Vegan, vegetarian and organic foods are quite easy to find on these winding streets, making this a wonderful area for those with dietary restrictions. Granda Familio roasts and mixes its own granola and blitzes a mean organic smoothie. Husband and wife founders Yasuharu and Chiaki Sawada make a point of using natural and healthy ingredients in their food. This wholesome attitude has spread to the atmosphere as well; they often host community events like farmer’s markets and networking events for local mothers.
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