Searching for Kampai-Man at Sake no Daimaru

       酒の大丸 @ 都島

by Matt Kaufman

Inspired by the documentary, Searching For Sugarman, Shorinji Wes Osaka and I set out in the pouring rain to Sake no Daimaru in Miyakojima to find the legendary drinker who graced the cover of a book on Osaka dive bars that was published in 2003. We showed the book to a few of the regulars and a woman said “Oh, that is _______ san. He is usually here at this time but he doesn’t come when it’s raining hard outside.” We sat in the same seat as the legend and tried to recreate his awesomeness. Maybe next time we’ll get to drink with the man himself. The food here is excellent especially the sashimi moriawase. We also ordered karaage, iwashi fry (sardines), aji fry (deep fried horse mackerel) and tara shirako (Cod Fish Milt)

Sake no Daimaru 谷町線都島駅1番出口を出て、徒歩3分です。 3 minute walk from exit #1 Miyakojima Station on the Tanimachi Line. Make a right after three blocks住所 大阪府大阪市都島区都島本通3-25-7 Miyakojima Hondori 3-25-715:00~23:00 Open Sun

Tunnel Yokocho Nishi Kujo

by Matt Kaufman

Tunnel Yokocho トネル横丁(tunnel alley) is home to six bars and restaurants, three on each side of a narrow passageway that runs through a building across the street from Nishi Kujo Station on the Loop Line. Tunnel Yokocho was named after the nearby Ajigawa Ito (aka Ajigawa Tunnel) which was completed in 1944. Ajigawa Tunnel is the only tunnel in Japan that runs through a river bed. It connects Nishi Kujo to Konohana. Commuters take an elevator down to the bottom of the river and then walk 81 meters through the narrow tunnel to the elevator on the other side. Bicycles are permitted inside the elevator. (There is another elevator for cars, but it is no longer in operation.)

Sezon せぞん

大阪市此花区西九条4-1-23 トンネル横丁内 (Nishikujo 4-1-23 Tunnel Yokokicho). Open: 16:45~23:00 Closed Sundays and Holidays.

There’s a famous dive bar/izakaya inside called Sezon with an extensive menu (cheap!). Delicious food. We ordered the potato pizza, buta kimchi, smoked chicken and tako tempura. Get there early because Sezon fills up with regulars. 

My dining companions (The DJ known as Analog Attack and Dr Pete Larson) and I decided to order a dish called shiozaki, salted salmon. The Fish arrived. It was a beautiful fish garnished with a bright yellow lemon slice and deep green spinach. Three foreigners sitting at the bar put down their beers, pulled out their cameras and jumped out of their chairs at the same time to take a photo of The Fish.

We are proud to present three photos of The Fish taken at different angles for your perusal and enjoyment. The third photo of The Fish has not been released to the public yet. It was taken by Dr. Pete Larson, a photographer and scholar based in Kenya. I am confident that his photo will reinterpret the way we look at The Fish. Not just this fish, but all fish in general.

The Fish. Photo by Matthew Kaufman Sezon.
©2015 Matthew Kaufman Studios.
Signed copies of The Fish are available for ¥10,000.
The Fish. Photo by The DJ Known as Analog Attack. ©2015 Analog Attack, LLC Photography. Signed copies of The Fish are available for ¥30,000.
The Fish. By Dr Pete Larson.
Signed copies are available for ¥100,000. 

Ajimuso 味むそ

Address: Nishi Kujo 4-1-23-19 Tunnel Yokocho 〒〒大阪 府大阪市此花区西九条4-1-23  19番飲食街 トンネル横丁

After Sezon we went  to Ajimuso and sat down at a table near the door. We ordered beef tataki ham katsu and a plate of french fries  Nice sized portions. The beef tataki doesn’t look very appetizing on my iPod Touch photo, but trust me it was delicious.

A young guy walked by in a t-shirt that said Fuck You Bad Girls Drink Milk. The Wisconsin Dairy Association has really upped its game in promoting milk in the Far East. Actually, I have wondered about who designs these English t-shirts and how many are manufactured. They definitely don’t sell them at Uniqlo.

A nice lady sitting with two gentlemen at the next table gave us homemade kimichi. Bringing in  food to a restaurant and giving it out to other customers not something that is tolerated in most places, but it happens frequently at many of the places I go to in Osaka, usually with regulars who have a good relationship with the owners.

The next day I was browsing through Netflix Japan and came across a series called Osaka Loop Line: A Love Story at Every Station. The Nishi Kujo episode filmed inside Tunnel Yokocho about a man from Tokyo who encounters the mysterious Tunnel Yokocho Devil. After failing to lure the man to a love hotel, the devil (who looks like a hipster) tries to lead him to hell through the Ajigawa Tunnel.  Unfortunately it was the worst episode in the entire series.

Haginochaya Triple Crown Part 2: Taishu Sakaba R&R

by Matt Kaufman

Three excellent restaurants, located side by side to one another make barhopping a breeze in downtown Osaka.

(OSAKA) I was drinking at Mabuhai with The British Record Collector Analog Attack. We were having a good time chatting with a few of the regulars, one of whom was Mr Yukio Patario, a prolific explorer of Nishinari and beyond who has introduced hundreds of bars and restaurants on social media as a public service. I had often seen him on my feed wearing a yellow bicycle cap, but this was the first time meeting him in person.

Mr Patario told us about R&R and kindly offered to take us there. It was about a ten minute walk from Mabuhai. I loved it from the minute I walked in. Laid back cozy atmosphere with fliers for concerts on the walls and lots of photos of regulars having a good time. One of the women cooking food behind the counter was rocking green hair. I assumed that R&R stood for “rock and roll,” but they actually stand for the initials of the owners, Reiko and Rie. The two friends told me that they started the izakaya a little over three years ago.

Mr Patario ordered a dish for us. I wasn’t paying attention the order was placed so I had no idea what I was eating when I tried it, but I knew it was a winner from the very first bite. So I asked The British Record Collector Analog Attack what he thought it was.He said something like, “I believe it is an aubergine.”“Oh, it’s a zucchini?”“No, that would be a courgette. Aubergine is nasubi.”“Well, this is the best goddamn eggplant I ever had in my life!”*(*This conversation might be slightly embellished, but I can assure you that the aubergine/courgette confusion was very real.)

I had told a couple of friends about R&R and both sent back testimonials raving about the garlic eggplant tempura. “Godlike eggplant,” wrote Shorinji Wes, a carpenter and long time resident of Osaka. “So end of July I got caught in a torrential downpour in Haginochaya. I made the dash into R&R and Reiko served me up a beer. I told her that I had tried to make her garlic eggplant tempura recipe once but didn’t have tempura batter or the proper sauce. She sent me home with a small glass jar of her special sauce. Dreamlike!”

“The eggplant was as good as it looked,”stated Steve Richter, a university professor from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I also tried the chicken cabbage garlic plate. It was great!”Before my next visit to R&R, I took some time to translate the main into English for my own personal use. Sometimes I miss certain menu items because I can’t read the kanji. The 茄子天 ガーリク(Nasubi Ten Garlic) for example. I didn’t know the kanji for nasubi so I would have never had known it was on the menu.

I visited R&R again in September. This time Rie was working along side Reiko. She had dyed her hair blonde. Rie’s husband is a musician who preforms in a duo. They recently played a guerilla-style outdoor show at Awajiya, which is next to the Nishinari Police Station. I told Rie that I was surprised that the police let it go on.”Actually the police weren’t too happy about it,” Rie replies with a laugh.. “They surrounded my husband and made them stop playing.”

I gave Rie and Reiko the English menu and they were happy to receive it. I wasn’t exactly sure about “Mino Ponzu,”which I had translated it as “beef rumen ponzu sauce” so I decided to order it. Delicious. It comes with seaweed and green onions. I also had to try the tonpeiyaki, which I consider the quintessential downtown “shitamachi” Osaka dish. It’s often translated as “rolled pork omelette with sauce and mayonnaise.” Another winner.

As I was enjoying my meal, I noticed a poster for a missing 1 year old cat named Fuku-chan who ran away in June. That just broke my heart. I have a cat and would be devastated if he ran away (See photo of poster).R&R also has a nice selection of daily specials. Whenever I am there, Rie and Reiko are cooking up some new pasta dish that smells delicious. Taishu Sakaba R&R even has a special “Shower and Beer Set”(800 yen). Refresh yourself with a shower in the back room and then enjoy a nice cold beer. Perfect for a hot summer day.

大衆酒場 あーる&あーる 府大阪市西成区花園北2-13-3 Osaka-shi Nishinari-Ku, Hanazonokita 2-13-3Closed:Wednesday. Hours:8:00 am~20:00.Closest Station: Haginochaya and Hanazono Yottsubashi Line.LINKSJapanese blogs and video.Kaai Tomi Kyoto Akkie Navi (Shower and Draft Beer coverage)

Taishu Sakaba R&R Menu

Ippin Mono (appetizers)

1. Hiyakko (cold tofu) ¥150

2, Ika shio (salted squid) ¥250

3. Mentaiko (seasoned cod roe) ¥300

4. Jako Oroshi (cold tofu with young sardines and grated radish on top) ¥250

5. Nametake Oroshi (mushrooms with grated daikon) 

6. Morokyu (Cucumber with miso paste) ¥250

7. Pirikarashi Kyuuri (spicy cucumber) ¥350

8. Sliced Tomato ¥300

9. Buttered corn ¥350

10. Mino ponzu (beef rumen in ponsu sauce) ¥400

11. Doteyaki 1 skewer (beef sinew stewed in miso and mirin) ¥220.

12. Dashimaki (rolled style Japanese omelet ¥400

13. Cheese ¥400

14. Kimchee ¥350

Yakimono (grilled or pan fried items)

1. Dote Omuretsu (beef sinew stewed in miso and mirin omelet) ¥480 

2. Yaki jakoten ¥220

3. Medamayaki (sunny side up fried egg) ¥250.

4. Ham and eggs ¥350

5. Niratama (scrambled eggs with garlic chives) ¥380

6. Nira moyashi itame (stir fried garlic chives and bean sprouts) ¥400

7. Yasai Itame (stir fried vegetables) ¥450

8. Tonpeiyaki (rolled pork omelette with sauce and mayonnaise) ¥450

9. Aka Wiener (Red Wiener sausages) ¥350

10. Horumon Tare Yaki (offal grilled in sauce) ¥480

11. Tori Shioyake (Grilled Salted Chicken) ¥450

12. Tori Teriyaki (Chicken teriyaki) ¥450

13. Tebasaki Shioyaki (Grilled Salted Chicken Wings) ¥450

14. Buta Kimchi Itame (Pork and Kimchee Stir Fry) ¥550

15. Chicken, Cabbage and Garlic Stirfry ¥550

Agemono (Deep Fried items)

1. Torikaraage (Fried Chicken)¥480

2. Tebasaki Karaage (Fried Chicken Wings) ¥480

3. Nankotsu Karaage (Deep Fried Chicken Cartilage) ¥430

4. Fried Potato (French Fries) ¥350

5. Chikuwa Isobe-age (Google it!) ¥350

6. Nasubi-Ten Garlic ( Garlic Eggplant Tempura) ¥480

7. Age-shumai (Deep fried pork & shrimp dumplings) ¥380

8. Agedashidofu (fried tofu in dashi sauce) ¥450

9. Kushikatsu moriawase (Assorted deep fried skewers set) ¥530

10. Ninikumaruage (Fried garlic cloves) ¥350

Additional menu items:

Fried rice ¥680; Omuraisu ¥680; Yakisoba (¥450) 

Homemade Curry and Rice (Only available on the 25th to 27th of the month) ¥700 yen.  

Haginochaya Triple Crown. Part 1: Kokoya Sushi.

Haginochaya Triple Crown.Part 1: Kokoya Sushi.

By Matt Kaufman.

Three excellent restaurants, located side by side to one another make barhopping a breeze in downtown Osaka.(OSAKA) Haginochaya Station is not a place many people think of when it comes to fine dining but the area is home to several new restaurants that can compete with the best uptown fare. Fears of gentrification and older restaurants being pushed out to rising rents does not apply here. The newer restaurants have the look and feel of old neighborhood favorites, most of the customers are locals and the prices are extremely reasonable for such high quality food. Kokoya Sushi opened in October of 2019 and word of mouth spread quickly.

When it comes to Nishinari, the mass media is always five steps behind groups on social media whose passionate members search out every inch of the city and generously share information about old and new restaurants and bars.I arrive at Kokoya at around 2PM. It’s a nice cozy place with a long counter that sits about 12 people. The Hanshin Tigers are playing The Hiroshima Carp on TV and both teams are known for their passionate fans (I’m glad I wore my vintage Tigers cap today). It’s hot outside so I order a cold beer (¥300).I am not a sushi expert by any means; I usually order it at kaitenzushi (conveyor belt) places such as Kura. I do like sashimi but I usually have it at school end of the year parties or visits to ryokans (Japanese inns) on trips with my family. So ordering off the menu is a fairly new experience for me.I decide on the “otsukuri moriawase set” for 1,000 yen. Otsukuri (お造り) is the Kansai term for sashimi, but an otsukuri plate is usually decorated with colorful things such as flowers and edible leaves. “Moriawase” is a combination platter so its an easy way sample the menu without ordering multiple dishes.

Otsukuri Sashimi Set

A few minutes after ordering, Chef Ito, who has a very friendly smile, places a humongous plate of sushi on the glass counter directly above my seat. “Is-is-that MY order?,” I query incredulously. The other customers laugh. Chef Ito explains it is a delivery order for a party of 10 people.I ask if I can take a photo of the sushi platter and soon after all of the other customers pull out their phones and start clicking away. I have never seen such, um, photogenic sushi before, and it was a nice way to break the ice and I have a nice chat with three regulars who chat with several other customers about local restaurants.

Party Set

My order arrives. It consists of of two pieces each of: maguro (tuna), salmon, tako (octopus), hamachi (yellow tail), tai (sea bream), ika (squid) kanpachi (amberjack) and suzuki (deep sea bass). It’s delicious and I savor every bite. We are talking about 20 piece of high quality sushi prepared by a master chef for $10 ($13 including the beer). That wouldn’t even cover the tip at most quality sushi restaurants in New York City.Kokoya Sushi. Absolutely blown away by my meal. Wow! Seriously, this might be the biggest “find” of the year. I’ll be dreaming of sushi all week.

Tempura Set

Other recommended menu items: Tempura, Kaisen and Sushi sets. ¥1,000.

Kaisen Set
Sushi Moriawase

:西成海鮮市場 ここ屋住 所:大阪府大阪市西成区花園北2-13-3Nishinari-Ku Haginochaya Hanazono-kita 2-13-3Closest Station: Haginochaya (Nankai Line)定休日:木曜日営業時間:12時~26時Eat In/Take OutCost: ¥1000-¥2,000Nishinari Kaisen Ichiba (Nishinari Seafood Market) Facebook page.

Links (for language study).Yamadera

Watabe Saketen 渡部酒店@Ashiharabashi

Watabe Saketen. I accidentally found this place after my wife made a wrong turn. Made a mental not of the name and looked it up when I got home. We got a very nice welcome. The owners and customers are Hanshin Tigers fans and they were playing rivals the Tokyo Giants with the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth….and the game cuts off because it was time for the news. 大阪府大阪市浪速区芦原2-6-15 Nishinariku Ashihara 2-6-15. Open 17:30-10:00. Closed Sunday.

Sankaku Shokudo 三角食堂@Kishinosato Tamade

by Matt Kaufman

A short walk from Tamade Kishinosato Station on the Nankai Line, Sankaku Shokudo is a cozy little dive located in a triangle shaped building that has been serving locals for over 30 years. We got the oyakko domburi (¥550) and the niku itami (¥450). Definitely off the beaten path. Has yet to be discovered by bloggers and YouTubers. The Tamade Shotengai is nearby and you can visit the first Tamade Super. 大阪府大阪市西成区玉出中1-12-22 Osaka shi Nishinari ku Tamade Naka 1-12-22Open Mon-Sat 10-15:00 19:00-21:00.

Itami Adventure

by Matt Kaufman

Shirotamaya in Itami

The area between JR Itami and Hankyu Itami Stations. in Hyogo is a fantastic place to go barhopping. A nice combination of old and new places that cater to mostly locals. The owner of the Crossroads Cafe took me to this 80 year old standing bar called Shirotamaya.

Itami #2: Tachinomi Shibasen. Their motto is No Fish, No Life. I ordered the cheese and salmon, which was delicious. Also had MOROKO (willow gudgeon) for the first time. Great laid back vibe here that attracts a younger crowd.

Sashimi at 80 year old izakaya Shiroytamaya.
No Fish, No Life at Shibasen in Itami.

Shibasen in Itami

On my second visit to Itami, Tsuyoshi Tagawa and I were taken to a new. inexpensive standing bar called Choberigu that serves vegan and vegetarian food. I had vegan gyoza for the first time and it was excellent. I tried a baisu sour for the first time, a chu-hi drink made with sour plum and shiso (perilla) syrup. In Itami I tried a Baisu Sour for the first time. I read that there is a common assumption that baisu means 梅酢 plum vinegar but the actual ingredient is sour ume (plum) and shiso (perilla) extract. I really enjoyed it and would definitely order one again.

Owner Saori Fukuyama served up an original creation of Korean nori, green onions, kimchi and cream cheese. Believe me, it was addicting when eaten together. (They also serve sashimi and other non-vegan dishes. The pumpkin in hardboiled eggs was also very good. Most of the menu was 100-350 yen.

Choberigu in Itami

Itami #2: Tachinomi Shibasen. Their motto is No Fish, No Life. I ordered the cheese and salmon, which was delicious. Also had MOROKO (willow gudgeon) for the first time. Great laid back vibe here that attracts a younger crowd.
Baisu Sour at Choberigu in Itami
Matsu in Itami. To be visited.
Old Shop in Itami
Ramen House Ikoi .in Itami To be visited.

酒の穴 Sake no Ana (booze hole) in Shinsekai

I went to 酒の穴 Sake no Ana (booze hole) in Shinsekai. It’s located in a narrow street to the right of JUMBO pachinko. (You’ll see tourists lining up to go to the smaller Daruma). I thought the kushi katsu at Sake no Ana was much better than more famous places like Tengu and Daruma.

Unlike the touristy places , there’s no line to get in. The kushi katsu is 80-100 yen and yakitori is 100 yen. They also serve okonomiyaki, oden and many other dishes. I had a daibin, 4 kushikatsu and 2 yakitori and the bill was less than 1,000 yen

Great dive bar atmosphere with a lot of regular customers. There are two locations side by side. The other location specializes in okonomiyaki (closed Thurs). Open 10:00 to 9:00 PM (closed Tues). 大阪市浪速区恵美須東2-4-21 Ebisucho Higashi 2-4-21.

Imanaka Saketen @ Juso

by ˜Matt Kaufman

Photo by Ross Randles

Juso is located one stop from Umeda on the Hankyu line. All trains heading to Kobe, Himeji, Kyoto and Wakayama stop at Juso so it is a major entertainment hub for commuters on their way home. The area hasn’t change dramatically since director Ridley Scott filmed scenes in the red light district  for the 1989 film Black Rain

If you exit the West side of Juso Station you will see a bustling maze of bars and restaurants in area that affectionately known as Shonben Yokocho (Piss Alley) since it’s days as a notorious black market that sprung up after the war. Much of Shonben Yokocho burned down in 2014, but residents and local businesses bonded together to organize to rebuild, and it is as vibrant as ever.

The East exit leads into a shotengai. Walk down and you will come across  old liquor shop named Imanaka Saketen on the left that has been serving the neighborhood since 1928. There is a row of vending machines outside selling cigarettes, soft drinks and beer. An old man is a drinking a can of Asahi Super Dry by a stack of empty Kirin Lager beer cases. 

Photo by Ross Randles

I walk through the door. I have been here many times and it always feels like I have stumbled onto the set of the 1955 movie House of Bamboo, but no Hollywood set designer could ever fully create the sepia haze that permeates Imanaka. Paper lanterns  hang from the ceiling near a vintage Nikka Whiskey sign. A white manneki neko covered with grease waves at me from a shelf of whiskey bottles. A large Seiko clock quietly ticks away on the wall above a horse racing calendar.

Imanaka. Customer
Photo by Ross Randles

The crowd is mixed. Younger men and woman, some born a full decade after the magical year of 1985 when The Hanshin Tigers won the Japan Series, drink at small tables alongside Showa royalty whose wonderful, loud, outrageous, fashion sense is on display tonight. I spot a man in his early sixties with a pencil-moustache like John Waters wearing red fedora, gold horned-rimmed glasses, and long sleeve blue Hawaiian shirt worn over a red t-shirt talking to a woman dressed in a leopard print blouse, purple tights, and a red sash belt. People are chatting and laughing, not a single person is staring at their phone.

I make my way to the counter and squeeze in between a septuagenarian wearing a freshly pressed black suit a slightly younger man with a slicked-back ducktail haircut who reminds me of tough-guy actor Bunta Sugawara.

After ordering a large bottle of Kirin Lager Beer (¥400) from the young woman behind the counter and explain that I am doing a senbero, a term coined by the late cult writer Nakajima Ramo fill up and on food and drink for 1,000 yen. She suggests I order the katsuo tataki (skipjack sashimi; ¥300) and aji fry (fried horse mackerel; ¥160) and a hardboiled egg (¥70).  The aforementioned septuagenarian tells me to cancel the order of Kirin Lager. He explains that I can save money by ordering a large bottle of Kirin Tanrei happoshu beer (¥330). I’ve never seen Kirin Tanrei in bottles before. 

Photo by Ross Randles

The young woman patiently taking my order tells me that I now have enough money to get a glass of shochu (¥210) or a Tokyo korokke (¥80), which turns out to be American-style tater tots. I decide to get both which brings the bill to ¥1,150. I slide the shochu to my new drinking companion. I have exceeded the senbero limit but I am sure that Nakajima Ramo would understand.

Photo by Ross Randles

Imanaka Saketen.

2-6-11 Juso Higashi,Yodogawa KuOsaka


Open 365 days a year.10:00-22:00 M-SA, 10:00-20:00 Sundays and holidays.

Photo by Ross Randles
Photo by Ross Randles
Photo by Ross Randles