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May 2004
Issue 048

KS Classifieds

Classifieds now combined with Kansai Scene.

Out of Africa

Osaka’s African community, although strong, is often overlooked. This month, Kansai Scene takes a look at three Shinsaibashi bars that embody the African spirit.

Free Your Mind

Freetown recently celebrated their two year anniversary. Owner Med Lomaci has been in Japan for fourteen years, teaching, DJing and bartending, but it is this, his latest venture that has brought him the most satisfaction. Freetown is an atmospheric space – the lighting is dim, and the interior was designed and built by Med himself. The intricate mural, spanning the four walls, was done by a friend of his, and the effect is impressive.
There is a wide variety of drink at the bar, including some imported from Africa. Most notable is the cane spirit, brought over from Kenya and Uganda, a powerful drink that you should only order if you’re sure you can handle it, Med assures me. It goes for ¥800 a shot. There is also African wine and beers. The menu is exclusively African, with curries going for around ¥1000, and a hot pepper soup, which is apparently a good hangover cure, also ¥1000.
Med aims to educate Japanese people about Africa, the diversity of culture, music and food that is represented. He himself is from Sierra Leone, but says that first and foremost he feels African. Eighty percent of his clientele are Japanese, but are usually adventurous enough to get into things. He has occasional African bands play at the bar, such as the Kenyan “Ngoma za Kikuetu” drums and dance show on the 22nd. Contact him for details.

4/F, New Grand Bld, 2-8-5 Higashi-shinsaibashi.
Tel: 06-6213-4112
Open every day, Mon-Sat 18:00 – 05:00, Sun 19:00 – 05:00
Closest station: Shinsaibashi

Welcome to the Jungle

Jungle Africa offers a different take on African life. More of a restaurant than a bar, owner Maron is also a long-term resident, and says he opened his restaurant to dispel stereotypes about Africa, to educate about the different types of lifestyles, music, food, and language that he has encountered. Originally from Ghana, he serves up cuisine from all over the continent, and will unveil a new menu in the near future. Right now, however, there is something for everyone’s taste, from soup and stew courses and small dishes starting from ¥200 for a kebab to fried plantain. There is a standard drink menu, with cocktails and bottled beer for ¥800. There is also the intriguingly-named Ghana Power, for ¥400.
The atmosphere is bright and upbeat, and he keeps a loop of African TV on. The music mirrors the interior, reflecting the diversity of the African sound.
For a bit of a wake up (or knock-out, depending on when in the evening you try it) a shot of his special African Power spirit is a must. It is made form a variety of jungle roots and herbs, and Maron assured me it has viagra-like powers. Although I am not at liberty to say if it works, it will knock your socks off. Jungle Africa puts on reggae nights every weekend, and African drum and dance events periodically.

Jungle Africa
B1 Riveru Bld, 2-13-5 Nishi-Shinsaibashi
Tel: 06-6212-5430
Open every night except Mondays 17:00 – 05:00
Nearest station: Shinsaibashi

Like a Lion

The most club-oriented of the three, Zion is a new addition to the Shinsaibashi scene. It opened its doors last month, and owner Gabriel Dongo knows his business. He used to run Culture 1 & 2, and with his events director Koji Kashihara, he decided to open a unified space. He loves people, he says, and he wants to give people a place where they can get together, which is why he is in the bar business. Zion aims to meld African and African-American culture, with a slant towards hip-hop in terms of the musical direction, although there is a special reggae event on the 21st, to follow up a Bob Marley tribute on the 14th. Events take place on the weekend, with a door charge of ¥1500 for men and ¥1000 for women. Both include a drink. There are DJ events every day over Golden Week.
Zion seems to have taken over from Sunsplash, where Kashihara used to work, as a meeting point for much of the African community. Gabriel, himself is Senegalese, apparently the only one in Osaka, and is friendly, going around, making sure his customers feel comfortable and welcome.
Although the emphasis is on drinking and dancing, there is a fairly extensive, and international menu, with an African theme. Dishes like chicken yassa and couscous with chicken or lamb go for around ¥1200, and bar food such as pizza and chicken can be had for around ¥600.

4/F 2-8-33, Nishi-shinsaibashi
Tel: 06-6484-3511
Open: 19:00 – 05:00 every day
Nearest station: Shinsaibashi


Text & Photos: Euan Mckirdy


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