Only in Amerikamura

If part of the charm of exploring Japan is seeing familiar things filtered through a foreign lens, then the small corner of Osaka sandwiched between Shinsaibashi, Yotsubashi and the Dotonbori river is a pretty good place to start. Known as Amerikamura, Ame-mura or the American Village, after the warehouses here that were renovated in the 70s and began selling imported goods from the US, it’s today home to a treasure trove of vintage stores, cutesy cafes, endearingly trashy takes on Americana and the sort of dive bar dreams are made of. Oh, and the remarkably peaceful Mitsuhachimangu Shinto shrine (2-10-7 Nishishinsaibashi), which dates back to 749 AD. Ame-mura is that kind of place.

, Only in Amerikamura
Riderz Café


Walking around the district takes less than an hour and, wherever you go, you’ll likely loop back around to the unofficial center point, Sankaku Koen or Triangle Park, a busy street corner and concrete recreational area popular with skate kids and Japanese hip hop fans. There’s a hidden stage here too, which occasionally hosts live performances. If you want to blend in, there’s a busy Stussy store just across the road (1-7-9 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6282-1517;

Nearby is Big Step (1-6-14 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6258-5000;, a retail and entertainment complex housing a cinema, pinball arcade, and dozens of lifestyle stores, including one of the area’s better used clothing outlets, Kinji (+86 6 6281-1515;, on the second floor. And then there’s Click Brick (1-6-27 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 7505-5466;, an official LEGO outlet proffering a frankly insane array of bricks, kits, accessories and apparel—fans even bring in their own creations for display and public voting.

You’ll have most fun in Ame-mura just wandering in and out of the multitude of clothes stores, vintage watch retailers and vinyl hoarders. Time Bomb (2-9-28 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6213-0579; www. has a fantastic selection of ’60s and ’70s soul and funk records, while Vinyl Chamber (1-9-28 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6226-7860; is more comprehensive. And Riderz Café (2F, 1-16-10 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6226-8444; is custom bicycle heaven—wall to wall (and ceiling) with a rainbow of frames and wheels. Fittingly, Ame mura is also now home to

a huge American Apparel store (1-16-5 Nishishinsaibashi; +81 6 6241-0450;

, Only in AmerikamuraLilo Coffee Roasters

Food & Drink

Osaka is known as the kitchen of Japan, and there’s a dizzying number of restaurants and food stalls on almost every street. Takoyaki (balls of octopus, cooked in batter and sprinkled with bonito flakes) are a local specialty and there’s nowhere better to sample them than at celebrity favorite Kougaryu (2−18−4 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6211-0519;, who have an outlet right by Triangle Park. (This is street food after all: eating out of a paper box on a park bench is the only way to go.)
Another awesome spot we stumbled across, Lilo Coffee Roasters (1-10-28 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6227-8666; www., a new artisan coffee shop, open since August, that shares the sidewalk with a Lawson’s. People-watching is one of the great pleasures of this part of town, and this is one of the most enjoyable places to do it. Three doors down, and with long queues out the door at weekends for their quirky selection of pancakes (including a pancake-burger hybrid), is the Osaka outlet of Elk (1-10-28 Nishishinsaibashi; +86 6 6245-3773;


If it’s craft beers and sedate lounges you’re after, you’ll want the more genteel, hipster ’hood of Kitahorie immediately to the west. Ame-mura is all about live music: scuzzier, less pretentious and a whole lot more fun. Figuring out where the party’s at is tough in an area where every building seemingly has a bar or lounge on each of its six or more floors: there are dozens of live music spots in this small corner of the city alone. But chances are there’s a crowd in at least one of three prominent venues.
Approaching its twentieth year, Rock Rock (3F, 1−8−1 Nishishinsaibashi; is something of an institution among visiting musicians, and is jammed full every night of the annual Summersonic festival in August ( —they even run the official artists’ bar backstage. With walls plastered with signed photos of inebriatedbands, Ace of Spades on heavy rotation and grimy bathrooms, it’s pretty much the perfect dive bar. Not far away, Big Cat Live House, on the fourth floor of the Big Step complex (4F, 1-6-1 Nishishinsaibashi; +81 6 6258-5008;, books an impressive line-up of international names: The Ting Tings are up on December 3 and Mogwai and Owl City are pencilled in for March and May next year. And Bar Bonanza (2-9-3 Nishishinsaibashi, +81 6 4708-7575;, with its live blues and jazz performances, cramped space and 4am closing is the kind of spot you want to tell everyone and no one about. It’s a favorite of Cacharel designer Wakako Kishimoto, and it’s easy to see why.
, Only in AmerikamuraEndo
To Market
A visit to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Tsujiki fish market and while Osaka’s Central Wholesale Market ( isn’t nearly as well known, unlike Tsujiki there are no restrictions on public access. Tuna auctions start around 4am, but if you can’t face the early start (and can make it before they close at 2pm) you’ll still get some of the best sushi of your life at Endo (1-1-86 Noda Fukushima-ku; +86 6 6469-7108;, where an omakase sampler of five pieces costs JPY1,050 ($12.50). The market and the restaurant are a 15-minute walk from the JR Noda station on the Endo Osaka loop line.

Getting there
Jetstar ( flies between Singapore and Osaka, routing through Manila (outbound) and Taipei (return)—it’s about 8 hours each way and fares start from around $600 return. We took an overnight flight, departing at 2.15am and arriving at 11am, but the meals and amenity kit onboard certainly helped. (Depending on the day of the week there are also flights departing Singapore at 7.10am.) From Osaka you can travel onward with Jetstar Japan to Fukuoka, Okinawa, Tokyo and Sapporo. There’s also a Singapore-Fukuoka route through Bangkok.

You can also get to Osaka with Singapore Airlines (from around $1650 return). The Nankai Railways Rap:t limited express train into town (Namba station) from the airport costs JPY1,430 ($17) and takes 35 minutes. There’s also a regular express, which takes 45 minutes, for JPY920 ($11).
Where to stay
A world away (though in fact only four subway stations) from the alt vibe of Amerikamura, new arrival Osaka Marriott Miyako (1-1-43 Abeno-suji, Abeno-ku, +81 6 6628-6111; occupies floors 38-57 of the Abeno Hurakas building, which became Japan’s tallest at 300m when it opened in March of this year. Views are, unsurprisingly, spectacular. Floor 58 is an open-air outdoor plaza atrium and there’s a 360-degree, glassed-in observation deck on the 60th. Rates start from JPY24,900 ($298)/night.
Most nationalities do not require a visa for stays in Japan of 90 days or less.
Exchange Rate
$1 = JPY83