Drinking and nightlife in Kansai

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Osaka

    Brooklyn Roasting Company

    With its worn leather couches, big wooden communal table and industrial fittings, this is a little slice of Brooklyn in Osaka and the perfect pit stop while exploring Naka-no-shima. Sip well-crafted coffee (almond and soy milk available, too) on the wide riverside terrace and watch the boats go by. If hunger strikes, there's a small selection of donuts and pastries.

  • Nightlife in Nara

    Mizuya-chaya

    In a small, wooded, brookside clearing between Nigatsu-dō and Kasuga Taisha, this quaint thatched-roof teahouse is one of Nara's most atmospheric spots. Stop by for a cup of matcha (¥700 including a sweet), onigiri (rice balls; ¥350 to ¥400) or a bowl of udon (¥580 to ¥850).

  • Nightlife in Himeji

    Kokoromi

    It's all about local sake at this modern, sophisticated standing bar, which stocks 270 varieties from Hyōgo, Himeji's prefecture. Touch screens let you search and order in English by taste, price and grade (search West Harima for Himeji), and your 65mL pour comes with an English explanation card and a picture of the bottle for future reference.

  • Nightlife in Himeji

    Hanamoto Coffee

    Both locals and out-of-towners agree that this cafe (running since 1975) is the place for coffee (freshly ground and siphon brewed, from ¥430) in Himeji. Come before 11am and your drink order will arrive with a hard-boiled egg and toast at no extra charge. But most customers order extra 'almond-butter' toast (¥450) anyway.

  • Nightlife in Hongū

    Fushiogami-chaya

    Along the Nakahechi trail halfway between Hosshinmon-ōji and Kumano Hongū Taisha – about an hour's walk from each – is this inviting pit stop run by a gang of local ladies. It serves homemade shiso (perilla-leaf) juice, which comes out a shocking-pink colour, and coffee brewed with water from the sulphur-rich springs of Yunomine. Seating is on benches out the front.

  • Nightlife in Kōbe

    Sake Yashiro

    This standing bar has a daunting selection of 90 kinds of sake, including about 50 from local brewers, on its (Japanese-only) menu. Anticipating your needs, staff have made a cheat sheet in English of their top five local picks, all priced ¥880 by the glass. Look for the denim door curtains.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Frenz Frenzy

    Frenz Frenzy calls itself a 'rainbow haven' and it means that literally: the whole place is awash in colour (including the front door, thankfully, because otherwise it would be impossible to find). Run by long-time expat Sari-chan, this is a welcoming first port of call for gay and lesbian travellers. There's no cover and drinks start at ¥500.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Osaka

    Beer Belly

    Beer Belly is run by Osaka's best microbrewery, Minoh Beer, and features Minoh's award-winning classics and seasonal offerings (pints from ¥930). Pick up a copy of Osaka's Craft Beer Map here to further your local beer adventures. From the subway exit, double back and take the road that curves behind the APA Hotel.

  • Nightlife in Kōbe

    Starbucks Ijinkan

    A big chain wouldn't normally be worth listing, but this Starbucks is different: it's housed in a beautifully preserved former ijinkan (foreigners' house), c 1907, in the Kitano-chō neighbourhood. Buy a cuppa and ensconce yourself in period antiques and furniture (albeit amid some of the standard Starbucks decor). It can be crowded.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Jun-kissa American

    With its 1940s interior intact and waitresses in long skirts, American is a classic jun-kissa – a shop from the first wave of cafes to open in Japan during the post-WWII American occupation. Come before 11am for a 'morning set' (¥620) of pillowy buttered toast, a hard-boiled egg and coffee. Look for the chrome sign out front.

  • Nightlife in Ise-Shima

    Isuzu-gawa Cafe

    This cafe is in one of Oharai-machi's beautifully maintained wooden buildings, but set back from the street, with window- and terrace-front views over the clear waters of the Isuzu-gawa. Come before 11am to get the 'morning set' (¥550), which includes coffee, toast, a hard-boiled egg and yoghurt.

  • Nightlife in Ise-Shima

    Dandelion Chocolate

    Small-batch-chocolate speciality shop Dandelion serves decadent hot chocolates (¥580 to ¥630), along with cookies and brownies (¥330 to ¥450); the stylish cafe has several books on Ise-jingū to peruse, including a few in English.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Salon de Amanto Tenjin

    This cafe in a restored wooden building was the first of its kind in Nakazaki-chō – and it set off a wave of followers. Run by local performing artist Amanto Jun, it's a hub for the area's creative community. Expect tea and coffee on the menu as well as cocktails. The entrance is covered by thick foliage.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Osaka

    Misono Building

    With a waterfall and a grand, spiralling staircase out front, the Misono Building (built c 1956) was once a symbol of the high life. It's now fallen into a kind of decadent decay, making the building a lure for underground culture types, who have turned the 2nd floor into a strip of tiny, eccentric bars.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Rock Rock

    Serving the music-loving community since 1995, Rock Rock has a history of hosting after-parties for international acts and attracting celeb visitors. Regular events with a modest cover charge (usually ¥1500, including one drink ticket) showcase some of Osaka's finest rock DJs (and famous guests).

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Folk Rock Bar Phoebe

    Crammed with vinyl and knick-knacks, Phoebe looks like a drinks counter operated out of an old hippie's storage closet (we mean that in a good way). The friendly owner spins folk-rock tunes on the record player, mixes good cocktails and serves tasty food. There's an English sign out front.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Beer Belly Tenma

    In the bustling maze of restaurants and bars in the ultra-local area of Ura-Tenma (behind Temma station) is this branch of Beer Belly from the Minoh brewery. The long counter bar and tables are generally packed and it has a convivial atmosphere. Classic pub grub is served too.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    Mel Coffee Roasters

    This tiny takeaway stand – the vintage Probat roaster takes up half of it – raised the bar for coffee in Osaka when it opened in 2016. The owner speaks good English and will happily discuss the taste profiles of the various single-origin hand-pours on offer.

  • Nightlife in Osaka

    40 Sky Bar & Lounge

    If heights aren't your thing, you'll need a stiff drink once you've peered down over the city from the 40th floor at this ultrasuave hotel bar. Service is impeccable and there's a good range of food and bar snacks to go with well-made cocktails.

  • Nightlife in Miyama

    Saika

    Inside one of the farmhouses in Kayabuki-no-sato, this cafe serves handmade local specialities like dango (soft rice-flour balls; ¥520 for a set with tea), made with millet and mugwort.