In a hidden alleyway 10 minutes from Osaka’s famous Dotonbori, lies a nondescript entrance. Above it, a sign in wrought iron metal. Four floors up, one would find The Hearth Board Game Bar and Cafe.
I first came across this whilst searching for places to buy board games for a friend. On a recommendation by a mutual friend of ours, I narrowed it down to Osaka and found The Hearth through a quick Google search.
My parents were with me and we gingerly ascended the stairs together to be greeted by a homely looking bar. I was greeted by Kevin, an American working there. Expecting to find a mostly Japanese speaking crowd, I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to find out that there was a good balance of English speaking fellows too. My parents then left me to my own devices as they left to go and sightsee at the nearby Dotonbori.
I was then introduced to Graham and Jake, the odd-couple duo who run the place. I felt right at home here, not because of the common language, but the inclusivity I felt when I was there, despite it being my first time. Graham hails from the United Kingdom, bearing a heavy Irish accent and Jake’s hometown was the city of Melbourne, Australia.
There was also Alberto, the Brazilian-Japanese cook. As the place was pretty packed the day I went, I sat by the bar counter, closer to the kitchen where I could see, and more importantly, smell the delicious cooking that he was whipping up. I kid you not that I was literally salivating at my table and even more so when Kevin presented me my vanilla milkshake.
I noticed the wide variety of games that were available for play. There was a good mix of both light party games and more weighty games in English and Japanese. As all of the tables were occupied, I sat myself down to chit chat with the nearby patrons as well as the aforementioned duo.
Much later in the evening, a couple more of their buddies came, notably Ani and Lewis, both working in Japan and being able to speak both fluent English and Japanese. We sat down for some munchies made by Alberto and played Coup, a tactical bluffing card game.
Before I knew it, my parents were back at The Hearth at the earlier agreed upon time. I bid goodbye to my newfound friends and promised to return one day.
Until then, sayonara.