A hipster haven in an Osaka neighborhood unchanged since before WWII.
Nakazakicho is a charming, historic neighborhood tucked away from the hyper-modern sprawl surrounding it. Despite its location next to Osaka’s busy Umeda business district — a place with more high-end shopping centers, restaurants, and clubs anyone could count– Nakazakicho has remained quietly residential and independently commercial. Though its residents are predominantly of the older generation, the neighborhood has gained a following as an art district populated by young hipsters.
Colorful murals and sculptures are now scattered among the faded business signs and houses from earlier eras.
It may seem an anomaly that this tiny neighborhood has managed to escape commercialization, but it’s not such a mystery to the locals. Osaka was heavily firebombed during World War II which left much of the city leveled.
Nakazakicho was one of the few places to miraculously avoid damage. The houses were well-constructed for their time and built very close together, making them sturdier. The resilient houses remain to this day, giving the area its quaint, bygone atmosphere.
Nakazakicho’s humble beginnings
Though the area has retained its pre-war atmosphere for decades, Nakazakicho has taken on a new life as a popular arts district that’s home to trendy cafes and vintage shops.
It started in 2001 with the opening of Amanto Cafe. The owner, an artist also named Amanto, created the space for all kinds of people to come and mingle or just relax. It quickly became a haven for artists.
At the time, many of Nakazakicho’s buildings had fallen into disrepair (including the one Amanto Cafe now occupied) so, Amanto teamed up with some of his artist patrons and friends. Together they got to work on revitalizing other buildings and establishing the artist community that flourishes today.
Since then, dozens of independently owned art galleries, shops, and cafes have opened.
Colorful murals and sculptures are now scattered among the faded business signs and houses from earlier eras. Galleries can be found in apartment complexes, cafes under elevated railway tracks, and second-hand shops in old warehouses. Residential and commercial dwellings collide, yet thrive side by side.
Nakazakicho is a lovely place to spend a day, or even a few moments escaping the rush of nearby Umeda. The best way to experience it is simply to wander and see what interesting gems you can find.