For so long the area of Osu has been considered Nagoya’s district of cool, but for those in the know, it is Endoji, a stone’s throw from Meieki, that is becoming the place where all the good stuff is going on.
On the face of it, Endoji looks like any old run down shopping arcade area, but scrape below the surface and you will find an abundance of interesting happenings. From upscale Italian restaurants to Japanese cuisine in traditional old buildings to handicrafts and hipster stores, Endoji really is where it is at… And ask anyone in the area, there is more to come.
Though Kabuki has something of a conservative image, the idea behind the Kabuki Cafe was to bring it back to its traditional routes as entertainment for the masses. Much like the Edo period Kabuki theaters, Kabuki Cafe is a raw, raucous affair. It is, as they say, “a rock and roll kabuki experience!”
With almost two hours of performances there are various acts including ‘shamisen’ displays, the crashing of ‘taiko’ drums and great battle scenes that fly out over the audience’s heads. There are even question and answer sessions where the stars explain their show and even perform off-the-cuff skits. Expect long queues on weekends.
There are a number of events throughout the year in Endoji, from the Festival de Paris to hip-hop music festivals with huge glittering mirror balls, to Bon Odori. But it’s the tanabata festival that really brings the community together.
At the end of July, the area’s shops, restaurants and community groups build huge papier-mache figures that hang from the arcade, and over five days thousands of people line the streets to get together to eat, drink and party below them. At the end of the festival winners are chosen and, while some are a little bit on the naff side, for the most part they are pretty striking. It’s not the biggest tanabata festival in town, but it’s perhaps the most interesting
There is not a lot that can be said about The Corner that has not been said a million times before, so forgive me if you’ve already heard it.
Just to the south of the Endoji Arcade, The Corner is a New York-style saloon and is perhaps Nagoya’s best known – and also just plain ‘the best’ – burger joint. With 100 per cent beef patties made to their own personal recipe, great international beers and an English menu, the The Corner has been a staple of the expat experience since god knows when, but you will find that it is the locals that line the street, sometimes queuing for hours at a time to get a table. But it’s worth it.
With a name like ‘The God of Sake’, you know it’s going to be good. Osake No Kami Sama is a standing bar with a majorly relaxed atmosphere, a knowledgeable master and a foreigner-friendly clientele of salarymen, local folks and nihonshu aficionados. It is a must-visit bar, just as long as you have the legs to stand while drinking.
They also have a great menu of Nagoya foods at unbeatable prices.
Knot kind of stands out amongst the bistro cafes and upmarket restaurants and hand-crafted leather shops which surround it, and it is the newest climbing gym on the Nagoya scene.
It’s a pretty small gym, but it has a nice variety of climbs, from very simple to some pretty dramatic overhangs, meaning it’s good for all ability levels. They are also foreigner friendly, with admission forms in English as well as Japanese, and everyone there is really supportive. They also have showers, meaning that you can scrub up before hitting a nearby restaurant or bar.
There are of course loads of ‘British’ bars around Nagoya of varying authenticity and charm. Now, as a Brit myself, 80’s Kitchen doesn’t necessarily get many points for authenticity in the way the bar is laid out, but the master is an unashamed Anglophile, and more than makes up with it in gusto.
Having spent years as a chef in both London and Scotland, the master makes some pretty cracking British food – I’m pretty sure it’s the only place in town that you can get haggis – and the tunes are always spot-on. Dire Straits, Queen, The Clash, The Beatles or anything you care to request, and the master will put it on, and no doubt sing along. There are only four seats inside and room for four more standing, plus a couple more outside, so it’s not somewhere to bring a big group, but for an intimate night with great British food (and that does exist) and great British banter (see the sign above for evidence of that) it can’t be beaten.
Okay, not many of you will think of a butcher as ‘street eats’, but bear with me. Maruko serves up some of the best kushi katsu, tonkatsu and croquettes you are likely to find in the city. They prepare and fry them in front of your eyes, so you know that they are fresh, and what’s more, they are staggeringly cheap comnsidering the quality of the meat.
Again, expect queues, but once you’ve got your order, peeled back the greasy paper and wandered down the street munching on it, you’ll understand why.
By Mark Guthrie
Images: by Mark Guthrie (Own Work)