3 Sake Bars with a Unique Atmosphere in Osaka



3 Sake Bars with a Unique Atmosphere in Osaka


Sake, or as it's called in Japan, nihonshu has become something of a world phenomenon in the last decade. Maniacally sought after by western chefs and sommeliers, its popularity in the west keeps growing. Meanwhile in Japan, the situation is entirely different with domestic sake sales in constant decline since their peak in the 70s. However, things keep evolving and lately, the drink's popularity overseas has created a curious reverse effect that made Japanese people start to appreciate it more. This effect is especially evident in big cities among the young crowds.

Following this trend, sake shops have gained popularity, with new establishments opening in recent years. The sake shop and bar combo, where visitors can taste and compare brands before buying, is especially popular. Osaka is no exception to this and it offers a variety of experiences to the sake lover. From trendy sake bars to long-established shops, I scouted Japan's food city looking for establishments with very distinct themes and atmospheres. Here's my top 3 list. Find the style that suits you best and give it a go, or why not try them all!

Asano Nihonshuten Umeda: Young and Modern

Asano Nihonshuten Umeda

Opened in 2014, this shop welcomes visitors with a bright interior and light wood. The young staff and modern atmosphere makes the place feel very easygoing, and as soon as I went in I immediately felt at ease. Asano Nihonshuten specializes in junmai (sake made without added alcohol or sugar). Half of the space is covered in shelves showcasing the bottles and the other half features spacious standing counters where visitors can try sake and snacks. One drink of sake starts at 300 yen. There is also a corner selling souvenirs, glasses and sake snacks. The menu is in Japanese, but the staff is used to getting foreign visitors as they are very welcoming and willing to communicate.

Sake bottles at Asano Nihonshuten, Osaka

Asano Nihonshuten stores over 150 brands of sake from all over Japan, with their main focus being Osaka breweries. Here you'll find little known brands and even local craft beer.

Sake menu at Asano Nihonshuten, Osaka

They have a regular drink and food menu as well as a daily "secret sake menu" with brands only available in a limited quantity. They also have a weekly menu where they feature one particular brewery.

Sake tasting set at Asano Nihonshuten, Osaka

The kikizake (sake tasting) set is a great way to try and compare different kinds of sake. For 800 yen (600 yen during lunch time) you can try three cups of sake of your choice.

Smocked mackerel at Asano Nihonshuten, Osaka

A great variety of small dishes to accompany the drinks is also available. I tried their recommendation, the smocked mackerel (450 yen) from a famous mackerel shop in Osaka. Delicious!
Asano Nihonshuten


Asano Nihonshuten Umeda | 浅野日本酒店UMEDA
Address: 1F Taiyuji Bldg. 2-17, Taiyuji-cho, Kita-ku, Osaka (MAP)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. (last order 10:40 p.m.)
Access: 10 min. walk from JR Osaka Station / 10 min. walk from Hankyu Umeda Station / 8 min. walk from Umeda Station on the Midosuji Line
Website (Japanese-only):

Yamacho Umeda: Drink with the Locals

Yamacho Umeda

Once you've warmed up to sake tasting, I recommend going for a more immersive experience and try mingling with the lively people of Osaka. Founded in 1977, Yamacho is a modest-looking liquor store located in the basement of a big building. This shop might have a little less variety compared to other shops, but the real draw is next door where they run a small standing bar. Here you can sample the sake sold at the store, along with a selection of bar food. The bar also serves beer and regular drinks, drawing a steady local clientele. The owner was extremely nice and keen to answer my questions about sake. He made a point to learn some English and he's happy to exchange conversations with foreign visitors. 

Sake bottles at Yamacho Umeda, Osaka

This long-established shop selects and specializes in local sake "regardless of its popularity", so you might find some rare bottles here. They also stock shochu (a distilled Japanese liquor) and umeshu (plum liquor).

Standing bar at Yamacho Umeda, Osaka

Duck under the faded noren curtain and you'll find yourself in a small standing bar, surrounded by people chatting in thick Kansai dialect. I found this a great experience and loved the authentic local vibe.

Sake tasting at Yamacho Umeda, Osaka

If you see an interesting bottle in the store just let the staff know and they will serve it to you in the bar. If you're not sure about what to order just say the magic word, "osusume" (recommendation) and a glass will appear in front of you!

Menu prices at Yamacho Umeda, Osaka

Drinks are around 500 yen, while food starts from 250 yen. The menu is in Japanese, but ask the staff and they will help you out.
Yamacho Umeda


Yamacho Umeda | 山長梅田店
Address: Osaka Ekimae Daini Building B1F, 1-2-2 Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka (MAP)
Hours: Weekdays 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. / Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Closed on Sundays and public holidays
Access: 7 min. walk from JR Osaka Station / 2 min. walk from Kita-Shinchi Station on the Tozai Line / 4 min. walk from Nishi-Umeda subway Station
Website (Japanese-only):

Shimada Shoten: Taste the Tradition

Aged sake at Shimada Shoten

Looking like an unassuming liquor store to passersby, Shimada Shoten was founded in 1954 and it holds a real gem in the depths of its store. Upon asking for a sake tasting, I was led through a hole in the floor into a cave-like basement, a dimly lit space with dark wood. Here visitors can enjoy the most refined brands of sake, completely separated from the hustle and bustle of the world outside. The owner is a sake traditionalist. He is really passionate about it and wants to share his knowledge with people. He created his own little world where everyday problems stay outside. For this reason he asks guests to refrain from using their phone (taking pictures is ok) and to stick to sake-related topics, which I found really neat.
Shimada Shoten offers a hand-picked selection of the best sake Japan has to offer, put together by personally visiting more than 200 sake breweries around the country. In particular I noticed an impressive selection of aged sake. The menu and sake tasting instructions are available in English. Three excellent small dishes made to complement sake are also available. I tried the chunky miso and the cream cheese flavored with sake lees.

Stairs to the cellar of Shimada Shoten, Osaka

The steep wooden ladder will take you down where the magic happens. It's like stepping into another world.

Sake cellar at Shimada Shoten, Osaka

I loved the attention to detail. The tables are made from bottoms of old sake barrels, while cushions and coasters are crafted from the canvas bags once used for the mash pressing process of sake.

Sake tasting and food at  Shimada Shoten, Osaka

The system is simple. You pour each sake that you want to taste into a different glass, and when you're done you go upstairs and tell the staff how many glasses you drank. One glass is 220 yen. Same goes for the food, each item is 220 yen.

Sake cups at  Shimada Shoten, Osaka

One thing that I had never experienced in other shops is the importance given to the sake cups. The owner taught me that the shape, material and even maker of a cup can change the taste of the sake. He had me try drinking sake from different cups and I was surprised by how much the taste changes.
Shimada Shoten


Shimada Shoten | 島田商店
Address: 3-5-1, Itachobori, Nishi-ku Osaka, Horie, Japan (MAP)
Hours: Weekdays 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. / Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Closed on Sundays and national holidays
Access: 4 min. walk from Awaza Station on the Osaka Metro (Exit 2) / 8 min. walk from Nishiohashi Station on the Osaka Metro (Exit 1) / 10 min. walk from Honmachi Station on the Osaka Metro (Exit 23)
Website (Japanese. Sake tasting and shop information available in English):

Picking just three places was hard, as there are many more interesting sake bars in Osaka. I felt that these three were the most diverse and I had a lot of fun experiencing all the different faces of sake.
Whether you are new to sake or an expert nihonshu connoisseur, these shops will satisfy your thirst and your taste buds, each with a unique experience. Dive into Osaka's sake bar scene and discover this amazing drink while finding new encounters!
3 Sake Bars with a Unique Atmosphere in Osaka

About the Author
Laura is an Italian living and working in Tokyo. She loves exploring hidden and unknown places, taking pictures and listening to Punk Rock music. When she’s not busy doing the above, she might enjoy a craft beer or play the sanshin (an Okinawan instrument similar to a shamisen).


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