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Mittera Kaikan: Deep Japanese Underground Culture and Cool Osaka Bars in Shinsaibashi

Mittera Kaikan: Deep Japanese Underground Culture and Cool Osaka Bars in Shinsaibashi

Date published: 10 January 2020
Last updated: 21 May 2020

Inside a multi-tenant building called Mittera Kaikan that's located in one of Osaka's trendsetting areas, Shinsaibashi's American Village is where you can find interesting Osaka bars of all sorts and sizes.

Don't be put off by the occasionally eccentric decor of its shops! This is actually a well-known building housing one of the foremost underground, or alternate culture hubs of Osaka.

Most of the shops facing the main road on the first floor of this building look welcoming enough, but entering the dimly lit basement floor or second floor may require quite a bit more courage than usual. While it may seem a bit dicey, can you really bear to say no to your tingling sense of adventure? Put that hesitation aside and join us as we explore this quirky building together!

What kind of place is Mittera Kaikan, anyway?

What kind of place is Mittera Kaikan, anyway?

As already mentioned, Mittera Kaikan (AKA Mittera) is a multi-tenant building on the west of the Midosuji Mitsutera-cho intersection located along Midosuji Avenue, a pathway that connects Osaka's northern and southern areas together.

From here, only the shops facing the road can be seen, but there's actually a total of around 60 Osaka bars and eateries in the building from the basement floor all the way to the fourth floor.

The thing is, even when the shops in the building are open for business, their doors are firmly shut, leaving you unable to see what's going on inside. This difficult-to-approach facility is nevertheless renowned as the largest alternate drinking spot of Osaka!

Many of the shops here only open for business after the sun goes down, and the neon lights that come on at night gives the building a rather dubious vibe – like something straight out of Hollywood. But let’s make the dive without further ado!

We begin our plans of building domination from the first floor

We begin our plans of building domination from the first floor

Since the interior of the shops on the first floor can be seen even from outside, these shops feel welcoming and inviting. Shop staff cry out the usual spirited "Irasshaimase (welcome)!" when customers enter, making you feel immediately at home. Beginners to Mittera should therefore start building up their momentum by filling up their stomachs first with these food stores on the first floor.

1. Grill Kitchen Chanpon: Yakitori cuisine for days

1. Grill Kitchen Chanpon: Yakitori cuisine for days

Our first shop visit to this building, therefore, is Grill Kitchen Chanpon, a charcoal-grilled yakitori (skewered chicken meat) place which also serves alcohol. Since the chicken meat is cooked on a charcoal grill, it compresses the savory taste of the meat and keeps it locked within while removing a moderate amount of oil. The fragrance of the grill also transfers over to the meat, stimulating your appetite.

The shop area itself is long in shape. Right in front is the counter, and farther inside are table seats. Designed to look and feel like a stylish western food place, it's perfectly suited for small groups to have a drink party in. The inner area with the table seats come equipped with television sets that broadcast the latest sporting events from around the world for customers to enjoy. Even better: The food menu is available in English with illustrative photos for reference! This allows international visitors to order their food like a champ.

Grilled Nagoya Cochin Chicken Regular Size for 1 to 2 persons

Absolutely try "Grilled Nagoya Cochin Chicken (1,100 yen, tax included)", the most famous dish here. Cochin chicken is a breed of chicken from Nagoya that's widely recognized in Japan for the delectable meat and eggs they produce, and they taste even better clothed in the superb aroma of grilled fire. The chewy texture of the meat overflows with savory juices and goes very well with a mug of beer or two.

To finish off your meal, throw some garlic or butter rice onto the grill plate to soak up all the meat juices, and then chomp down! Few things can beat the exquisite taste of plain food ingredients that have absorbed the great flavors of grilled meat!

"Everyone is welcome! Come anytime you like!"

Yonemura is the bright and cheerful owner of the shop. "I love to talk!" he exclaims with a hearty laugh. "I really hope our international friends can enjoy their time in my shop as well. Though my English really isn't up to scratch, I still approach them to try to communicate via gestures!"

So friendly was the shop owner that we almost forgot we were on a mission to scout out the deepest underground spots of Osaka!

  • Grill Kitchen Chanpon
    グリルキッチン チャンポン
    • Address 1F NIPPO Mitterakaikan 2 Chome-9-5 Nishishinnsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0086
    • Phone Number 06-6211-3382
    • Hours: 6:00 p.m. -- 5:00 a.m. next morning (last order 4:00 a.m.)
      Closed: Open daily

Not exactly the safest place around?! It's time to infiltrate the second floor...

Not exactly the safest place around?! It's time to infiltrate the second floor...

The glittery atmosphere of the front-facing shops on the first floor is nowhere to be seen once you peek into the stairwell leading to the second floor, where dim lights, graffiti, and other unconventional sights greet you. You could not say this place looks safe by any standard, but that's exactly what we're here to find out. Let's go upstairs...

The second floor is not entirely dark, but not completely bright either, being flush with distinctly featureless illuminations from fluorescent bulbs, which somehow adds an air of intensity to the place.

With great fear and trepidation, we arrive at our planned destination.

2. Showa Tokimeki Salon Momoiro Uchu: A perfect blend of cute and mysterious

2. Showa Tokimeki Salon Momoiro Uchu: A perfect blend of cute and mysterious

Here lies Showa Tokimeki Salon Momoiro Uchu, a well-known bar in Mittera that's adorned with soft toys, masks, and polka dots motifs.

"Good evening..." we say as we open the door and step inside, only to be jolted to a stop by the sight that greets us. Hanging from the ceiling of this tiny counter-only bar are numerous colorful balls, with a few puppets and soft toys peeking out occasionally from in between. The illumination here has a pastel theme, which matches with the lace design on the ceiling. You almost feel as if you've stepped into a completely different and enigmatic world.

A pair of sexy-looking legs pokes out from the center of the counter!
And a sexy bum, too!

The novel mix of high contrast colors is stimulating to the senses and very photogenic to boot. If you're thinking the bar's extravagant decor may well distract you from enjoying your time here, it's quite rather the opposite! Being surrounded by fun and colorful items in a generally dimly lit room feels strangely cozy, for some reason.

Junko is the owner of this shop, a former regular patron of Mittera who wanted to create a space where all sorts of people could meet. That was how the shop came to be.

"Today's a bad face day," Junko says as she hides behind a few mannequin hands.

"Most of my customers come alone," Junko explains, "and I'm usually the one to start conversations with them, so I tend to get close to many of my customers before I even realize it! That's why I try to make this space as accommodating as possible, so that everyone can have a good time. And since you can't cultivate good relationships with someone who's completely drunk, when people like that show up at the door, I turn them away."

Attracted by Junko's approach to alternate Osaka bar culture, plenty of men and women in their 20s to 30s show up every night to enjoy relaxed conversations with each other. The bar has a rule that visitors have to come before 12 midnight for their first visit. The aim is to fill up seats during early hours on weekdays.

The shop will be undergoing renovations in February 2020, which means the current decor is changing as well. If you're keen on visiting this place to see the interesting interior, do it quickly before everything changes!

  • Showa Tokimeki Salon Momoirouchu
    昭和ときめきサロン 桃色宇宙
    • Address 2F NIPPO Mitterakaikan 2 Chome-9-5 Nishishinnsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0086
    • Hours: 6:00 p.m. -- 3:00 a.m. the next day
      Fee: Charges and a drink (700 yen onwards, tax included)
      Closed: Mondays

Shady doesn't even begin to describe the building's basement!

Shady doesn't even begin to describe the building's basement!

After talking with Junko and soothing our frayed nerves, we're finally ready for the deepest zone of the building - the basement level. Shops are still relatively open on the second floor, since their exteriors can be seen from the corridors. In the basement floor, however, you'll find rows of shops that are tightly shut up, making the entire place seem shadier than you might have expected.

Our chosen destination for this floor is a rock bar right at the end of the corridor.

3. Bar Pukapuka: A sanctuary for fans of rock and manga

3. Bar Pukapuka: A sanctuary for fans of rock and manga

This bar, sporting an acoustic guitar as its signboard was established in the year 1995, making it one of the older Osaka bars among the tenants in Mittera. Despite being a rock bar, the shop is completely casual about it and plays all sorts of music genres in the background. The usual fare is Western or Japanese music from the 90s, but requests are welcome, so you can enjoy a drink while waiting for the next number to surprise and entertain you.

The inside of the bar is packed with acoustic guitars, manga (Japanese comics), books, and posters of all genres, making it look almost like an adult's toy box. When asked why there's a relatively large amount of manga in the shop, owner Daigoro frankly replies, "Because it's my hobby!" Perhaps that's why a few notable manga artists sometimes wander in for a visit as well!

Daigoro draws his own manga too!

Speaking of famous customers, did you know that French rock band Phoenix has visited the shop before too? When they were invited to Japan for the rock festival Summer Sonic as star performers, they sneaked out after the performance and appeared in the bar without fanfare.

"Imagine my shock when a large group of foreigners - band members of Phoenix at that! - suddenly showed up at my bar! We had a great time together as I put on tracks that they had requested and played a few songs of my own selection as well, much to their enthusiastic delight. The next day, one of the members dropped by and commended me for being a great DJ before leaving. That really made me feel good."

Looks like Bar Pukapuka is charming enough to hold even international music stars under its spell. The casual atmosphere of the bar doubtlessly makes it a comfortable and enjoyable spot for all.

  • Bar PukaPuka
    Barプカプカ
    • Address B1F NIPPO Mitterakaikan 2 Chome-9-5 Nishishinnsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0086
    • Phone Number 06-6212-3443
    • Hours: 6:00 p.m. -- 5:00 a.m. the next day
      Fee: Charges (400 yen) and a drink (from 500 yen), all prices including tax
      Closed: Open daily

4. Unotake: You've not finished visiting Mittera until you've visited this spot

4. Unotake: You've not finished visiting Mittera until you've visited this spot

After drinking to our fill, we return to the second floor and slip into Kasuudon Unotake, a kasu udon (wheat noodles) restaurant that stays open until 6:00 a.m., to treat ourselves to a bowl of soft and tasty Osaka noodles.

Uno, the shop owner, has a warm and charming smile

Shop owner Uno has gone backpacking in plenty of Asian countries before, and as he tried out different kinds of cuisine, he came to the conclusion that food with a uniquely local taste is always the best-tasting of them all. After returning to Japan, he decided to open a shop in Mittera, a place he frequented for drinks, and start selling Osaka soul food. But Osaka is a gourmet paradise, so which soul food in particular? Uno eventually settled on the simple but very local fare of kasu udon.

"Kasu refers to the small intestines of cows that’s slowly roasted until all the fat falls off. I often ate this familiar local dish as well, so I thought this would be the best choice."

Kasu Udon (700 yen, tax included)

The restaurant prepares the udon soup stock using carefully selected bonito slices and Hokkaido kelp for the full umami taste. Soft udon, an Osaka specialty, is then added to the soup, and when eaten hot, the noodles go down smoothly along with alcohol to warm up the stomach and enliven it after a tiring day. The beef offal is thick, rich, and exquisite all around. This solid bowl of noodles is the epilogue of many a visitor's adventure into Mittera, and around 2:00 a.m. is when the restaurant is usually at its busiest.

Even as we are rejuvenated by kasu udon and Uno's friendly personality, the night goes on at Mittera.

  • Kasu Udon Unotake
    かすうどん うのたけ
    • Address 2F NIPPO Mitterakaikan 2 Chome-9-5 Nishishinnsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0086
    • Phone Number 06-6212-9011
    • Hours: 8:00 p.m. -- 6:00 a.m. the next day (or while stocks last)
      Closed: Wednesdays

Diving deep into the unknown at Mittera Kaikan and reaping plenty of fun

Plenty of other appealing restaurants can be found in Mittera, such as a popular omelet rice place, an Okinawa cuisine bar, a tasteful shot bar, and others.

This building may seem much too underground for newcomers, but each shop is so fun once you step inside that you may never want to come back out again! One interesting way to extend your visit to this quirky but immensely interesting place is to chat up a storm with the person drinking beside you, then head to another bar to do it all over again. If you're even the slightest bit curious about Japan's underground and alternative cultures, what better place to start than here? Make the dive now and reap the rewards!

English translation by: Huimin Pan

Text by:WESTPLAN

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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