Osaka, Japan Gothic stores! Satanic Territory occult & witchcraft shop, Japanese tattoos, pentagram fashion.
“Today is enjoy!” Since it’s still spooky season, I thought I’d release an updated guide to the Gothic and underground shops of Osaka, Japan.
The red pentagram hints at the theme of today’s post. We’ll delve into the Kansai Goth, occult and Satanic scene…
… including exclusive photos of Territory, the devilish lair of Taiki-san. Read on for Osaka tattoos, taxidermy and absinthe as well!
I thought I’d include these purikura (sticker machine) photos from Tokyo as well, since there are quite a few devil horns and pentagrams. Doing purikura with friends is a must when you’re in Japan. You’ll wind up with ridiculous sticker images (often with bizarre English) that you can decorate before printing out.
Outfit details: I’m wearing Killstar leggings and a top from Dead Gallery Iceland, by artist Jon Saemunder Audarson.
There are “sticker picture” photobooths around the world, but the most high-tech and bizarre ones are only in Japan. Go to any game center, such as Taito in Shinjuku, and you’ll find a handful or more “purikura” machines to pick from (as well as games galore).
Japanese purikura (short for “print club”) turns you into a big-eyed, stretch-limbed being. You can choose from all sorts of frames and effects, and digitally decorate the photos.
I especially love to do purikura around Halloween, since they release seasonal stickers (like the ghosts and pentagram stars above).
After posing for about six photos, you can choose your favorites and decorate them side-by-side with your friend. There’s a digital pen that you can use to select various borders, stickers, text and effects (such as changing your hair color).
Purikura decorating is an art form — you want to achieve the perfect balance of ridiculous-ness in the image, without cluttering it up! I think Kanae and I did a pretty good job with these ones.
In the old days, you had to use scissors to carefully cut up and divide the purikura prints. Now, you can choose to print out two copies, as well as send the images to your phone or email. What a world we live in!
And now, let’s dive into the Osaka underworld. Most of the alternative / Gothic / underground shops are in the America Mura district — including this self-described lair of Satanism and Witchcraft, Territory.
The entrance cautions you to Beware. Only those with dark souls dare to cross this gate, guarded by skulls and other deathly figures.
On the Territory signboard, you’ll notice the Latin words “Non Serviam,” or “I will not serve”. The phrase is generally attributed to Lucifer, and sums up the powerful spirit of this establishment.
Since 1996, Taiki’s Territory has garnered a devout underground following. Territory is well hidden, and not even many locals know about its existence. Go down to the basement level, and wander around until you find these skeletons and demons.
Address: 2 Chome-8-33 Nishishinsaibashi, Osaka Center Building B1, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan.
I visited Territory’s mastermind, Taiki-san, with Dr. John M. Skutlin (cultural anthropologist and Japan specialist, who writes about subculture and tattoos in Japan). He shares Taiki’s story in this special report.
“The founder of Osaka’s Gothic underground event scene, it is said that Taiki gained his Satanic pedigree in 1996 when he visited New York City and studied the dark arts at a certain occult shop. He returned to Japan in the same year and opened his own shop of occult and Satanic antiques and merchandise – Territory.”
“Meeting with Goth and occult luminaries on the scene like Voltaire and Paul Booth, he eventually became something of a regular in the New York’s Goth music scene during his frequent trips from Japan. This experienced helped inspire him to open his own Gothic music bar – the first of its kind in Japan – called Sabbat on Friday the 13th of October 1999.”
“Taiki began organizing Gothic events for the dark underground of Osaka around the turn of the millennium, including parties like Devil’s Christmas and later the long running Black Veil. His gatherings became yearly highlights that drew guests not only from Tokyo and other cities in Japan, but also from abroad. His events have featured major acts in the EBM and dark electro scenes such as Hocico and Combichrist’s Andy LePlegua.”
“While Bar Sabbat is no longer serving alcohol, his Satanic shop Territory is open for business in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district, and Black Veil draws Goths from the dark corners of Japan three times a year around Walpurgis Eve, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve.”
Taiki-san usually does not permit photography inside his spiritual shop, but made an exception for us. Taiki has a powerful presence, and surrounds himself with dark talismans. When you speak with him, you feel as if you’re in the presence of a wizard.
Territory is not a Halloween kitsch shop. Everything here is of exquisite quality: dark art sourced from around the world, many with frightening backgrounds attached to them.
You can spend hours looking at all the small details within this museum collection (as not all items are for sale).
Taiki has a knack for finding works that seem to possess a malevolent spirit. Whether antique or new, these collections convey a sense of death and unease — which Goths like us find fascinating.
Of course, there is plenty of Satanic iconography. The horned one sits next to a Iron Maiden torture device, while a witch baby doll looms in the shadows.
Many items pay homage to Japanese “yōkai,” or monsters and demons in Japanese folklore. However, Taiki has items from around the world, especially relics from Germany and Europe.
In addition to taxidermy and human skulls, Territory carries clothing and home items with the mark of the devil. I picked up a tote bag with the Church of Satan symbol.
You’ll either feel appalled by Taiki’s Territory, or eager to visit (and I hope you’re in the second category!) If you aren’t going to be in Osaka any time soon, you can also order items from his shop online.
In the same building is Fog, an absinthe bar that Taiki-san frequents. My friends and I adore drinking absinthe, and Fog has some of the finest bottles of “green fairy” from around the world.
Fog even carries several of the HR Giger absinthes, named after the Alien art designer (I’m so excited to visit the Giger bar in Gruyeres, Switzerland). We tried the H. R. Giger Wolfsmilch and Absinthe Brevans; the latter is named for Jacques de Brevans, author of a classic French liquor-maker’s manual.
The bartender can help you choose from over 20 kinds of absinthe. He can suggest the best way to drink it (straight, on the rocks, or using the classic water drip over a flaming sugar cube). The bar carries other types of alcohol as well, and does cocktails.
Fog is dimly lit, and until my eyes adjusted, I didn’t realize it was filled with watchful creatures. There was a real owl in one corner, which I thought was stuffed at first.
The walls are mounted with butterflies and insect specimens, as well as creepy deer heads in serial killer masks.
Fog Absinthe Bar’s address is the same as Territory’s; both are in the maze-like lower level of Osaka Center Building.
Address: 2 Chome-8-33 Nishishinsaibashi, basement level, Chuo Ward, Osaka
We also stopped by Bleeding Maria, a special place protected by witches. (Address: 2-18-6 Shinsaibashi, 5th floor – it’s in a Americamura building with an elevator, filled with small shops).
Yukiro and I visited Bleeding Maria many years ago. This time, the witches had flown and we weren’t able to go inside.
I encourage you to drop by this unusual establishment of witchcraft, runes and fortune-telling. The owner, Kaori, speaks English and German very well — so you can visit even if you don’t know Japanese. Perhaps you’ll have a chance to hang out in this spiritual haven, and meet her pet tarantula.
If the words “Painful Pleasures” appeal to you, then you’ve got to visit Babylon. The name hints that this is not just a piercing / body art studio. There are twisted cultural and anthropological treasures to be found within.
Address: 1-16-7 Nishi Shinsaibashi, Osaka
John sets the scene in this report: “Stepping into Babylon Body Art’s Osaka, which started off more than a decade ago as a bar in a different location, one is surrounded by stuffed and mounted animals and various taxidermic specimens. Shelves are filled to capacity with rare and unusual books in both Japanese and English, on subjects ranging from anatomy and zoology to bestiality and methods of execution.”
“The glass cases are full of piercings from brands like Anatometal and Maya Jewelry. On the television, one can expect to find any number of macabre and unusual videos, such as the gruesome scenes of a VHS copy of the infamous Faces of Death shockumentary (directed by Conan LeCilaire, 1978).”
“The owner, Bonzin, admittedly revels in his own self-professed “bad taste.” Covered in tattoos (including a full back piece of the Senju Kannon bodhisattva) and sporting multiple implants (both subdermal and transdermal), he is not only a piercer but also a popular artist and DJ at Goth events, and has organized all of the major suspension performances in Kansai.”
“Bonzin sees his own body as a work of art, explaining he was initially inspired to modify his body in more extreme ways after seeing the decidedly Cronenbergian cyberpunk film Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tsukamoto Shinya, 1989). He claims to have transformed into the “Iron Man” that he set out to become.”
I like how Babylon’s displays have a sense of absurd humor. The seal on a swing looks happy to be bopping noses with a piglet, while an armadillo crouches behind.
This skeleton models a cyber apocalyptic gasmask, wedged between two glass cases.
How kawaii are the stuffed mice, with gems for eyes and black ram horns coming out of their foreheads? Babylon is quite the kingdom of dark delights.
Next, we paid a visit to Horitsuna, the revered tattoo artist at Desperado studio. (Center Bldg 6F, 2-10-29, Nishi-
Horitsuna is self-taught, and specializes not only in Japanese wabori designs, but also tribal and other styles. Above are some design mock-ups featuring devils and daruma.
John has interviewed Horitsuna extensively for his scholarly work, and explains, “He uniquely incorporates Japanese tattoo design elements like gakubori (background designs, such as waves, clouds, or fire, connecting motifs into a larger piece) with more Western design elements, including grotesque and occult themes.”
In a country where tattooing is heavily regulated, Horitsuna is one of Japan’s most prominent tattoo artists and owns two studios. He regularly attends the Hong Kong International Tattoo Convention, and has won awards at conventions in Japan, Thailand, France, and Finland.
All of these underground stores are found in Amerikamura or Ame-Mura (America Village). This remains the best neighborhood in Osaka to see Gothic, Lolita, Punk and alternative street style, including indie boutiques — a sort of equivalent to Harajuku in Tokyo.
To get to this Osaka youth district, take the subway to Shinsaibashi station, and then wander around. The shops change around all the time, and the district is not large, so it’s best to simply spend time here and see what you find.
There’s a great mix of vintage and new street style in Amerika Mura. This time around, I spotted a whole lot of pentagrams / Satanic stars….
This top like Miffy the bunny, with a similar X mouth. How funny to see her with bat wings, inside the star of the devil, yet in soft pastel colors! (I always knew Miffy had an evil side.)
Goth pastel Lolita meets horror Japanese fashion? Osaka’s Big Step department store has all your favorite EGL brands (Alice and the Pirates, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Kera, Miho Matsuda).
The Magic Amulet collection from Angelic Pretty has several types of pointed stars on its JSK prints.
Funny to see the Jewish Star of David… all over Japanese Gothic accessories! Perhaps the designers merely like the look of the six-pointed star.
Spooky Goth meets Seinfeld… now that’s a Japanese street style I never thought I’d see!
The devil is everywhere in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. I passed by the 666 store, on the way to Closet Child (the secondhand chain also found in Tokyo).
Theme restaurants abound as well. Here’s the entrance to Alucard, a vampire themed restaurant that is now closed (I guess they were a bit too successful at banishing vampires with wooden stakes). However, you can still visit the Tokyo Vampire cafe.
John introduced me to Cafe Anamune, a medical themed cafe run by locals. I love the laid-back feeling of this little place, which has flasks and zombie nurses lurking around. Order the simple yet lovely Japanese curry, and enjoy the atmosphere.
Anamune Cafe address: 1-8-16 Nakanishi Building 501, Nishishinsaibashi, Osaka.
Osaka’s Americamura / Shinsaibashi area is a district filled with funky art, alt culture and inspiration. Such as the Alice on Wednesday shop, which is dedicated to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. If you figure out the correct door and hidden keyholes, you’ll enter a boutique with a Queen of Hearts throne room, Mad Hatter party and more — selling everything from Eat Me candies to clocks.
Alice on Wednesday is found at 2-12-25 Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi, Osaka
I leave you with this subway poster featuring Miffy the bunny, peeking out passengers! Huge thanks to JR Pass for making this Japan trip a reality.
I was able to travel seamlessly by train, from Tokyo to Osaka and other cities, using an unlimited Japan Rail Pass. Find out more about these rail passes on their site, and in my travel video.
I hope you enjoyed our funny purikura escapades as well! If you’re in Japan, taking “print club” sticker photos is an absolute must.
For more offbeat travel stories from Japan, come browse my Tokyo blog category. There are tips for theme restaurants, underground shops and more, from 2007 to today. Here’s to more Gothic Japanese adventures soon!