Teacup rings, organic granola, water-pipe art installations, and a doll café are just a few of the many weird and wonderful things that await visitors in Osaka’s Nakazakicho neighborhood. Nicknamed “retro town,” the network of backstreets, row houses, and tunnels in Kita-Umeda is home to over 100 independent cafés, galleries, and variety shops that run out of converted, Showa-period houses. Whether you’re shopping for a unique gift, or simply looking for a quiet place to relax and unwind, Nakazakicho has something for everyone.
The houses survived the air raids of World War II thanks to the neighborhood’s unique architectural structure, but it wasn’t until 2011 that revitalization of the area began.
Local business owner Jun Amanto had the idea to create a space away from the bustle of downtown Osaka where anyone, regardless of age or profession, could enjoy themselves. Amanto’s dream bore fruit when he began to convert one of the old local houses into a community café called Salon de AManTo. News of the café, in which everything was handmade, spread by word of mouth, attracting other artists to the area. The concept of remodelling old private homes began to spread, and the result today is a plethora of sundry shops, art galleries, and vintage clothing stores.
Nakazakicho’s offerings are the epitome of Japan’s zakka trend, which looks at the ordinary and mundane in an astute way. “Zakka” are household goods and novelty items which are both thoughtful and useful, such as origami-crane incense burners, cast-iron animal bookends, and dental floss in a tooth-shaped case.
The white, wooden shelves of Jam Pot are filled with a constantly changing selection of jewellery and accessories from over 80 different artists in Japan, with works ranging from food-inspired jewellery to handcrafted bags and hand-painted ornaments. Jam Pot’s sister store, Guignol, is more steampunk in its offering, exclusively sourcing its goods from France.
For specifically animal-themed gifts, check out Asobiya, which specializes in all things giraffe; or Majo Café, for an assortment of cat crafts. At Only Planet, you’ll find handmade animal figurines and other miscellaneous imports from Bali, Thailand, and Sweden.
If you’re looking for vintage wares and bygone-era fashion, browse through Green Pepe’s vibrant selection.
Bars and cafés
Visit Atelier Sangatsu for rotating art exhibitions and enjoy a beer or cocktail at the art space’s adjacent bar. Around the corner is a hand-painted mural by local school children.
Unwind and enjoy the view at Café Arabiq, with a tasty selection of goodies, including hot chocolate and cake. The small coffee shop is filled to the brim with the owner’s collection of dolls and doll figurines, and also doubles as a second-hand book store.
Pipinera Kitchen serves a light lunch with delicious beverages, including cherry and honey tea and strawberry cream soda. The café-come-shop used to be the home of a British antique furniture dealer and has a collection of Showa-era toys and other retro goods for sale.
Nearest Station: Nakazakicho.