Coffee and culture on both on the order at unorthodox coffee house Kagari.

Japan is fully committed to the idea that a cafe isn’t just somewhere you go to have something to drink, but a place where you go to soak up the atmosphere. Of course, different people enjoy different ambiances, which is why Japan has an entire range of themed cafes, which allow you to spend time with adorable animals and famous anime characters.

At first glance, though, Kagari, a cafe in Osaka, looks like it eschews any sort of gimmicks in favor of an unfettered, old-school approach. In business since 1970, it seems like the kind of place where locals stop in for a break while running errands on the covered Shinbashisuji shopping street where Kagari is located.

The first thing that catches your eye is the oversize decorative coffee mill out front, but what’s really noteworthy is what’s next to the door…

…an exquisitely carved Buddhist statue.

Now, we should point out that statues in front of restaurants in Japan aren’t entirely unheard of. A lot of businesses will place a beckoning cat statue near their entrance as a good luck charm to draw in visitors, and you can often spot tanuki figurines standing in attendance outside soba restaurants A Buddhist statue, though, is something we’d never encountered on our way into a cafe for a cup of java.

But in Japan, oftentimes the owners of independent restaurants live on the floors above their establishments, which sometimes means their personal possessions spill over into the customer area. Maybe Kagari’s owner somehow ended up the statue, perhaps inheriting it, and has nowhere else to put it? Anyway, we opened the door and stepped inside, where we were greeted by…

even more Buddhist statues, this time of Fudo Sanson (Acala) and the intimidating Kongorikishi.

“Sit anywhere you like,” an employee called out to us, reminding us that despite the surreal surroundings, we were still in a cafe. We selected a seat and ordered a 350-yen (US$3.25) cup of Kagari’s in-house-roasted coffee, and as we waited, we started counting the number of statues. We stopped when we got to 20, which was far more than the number of customers inside the cafe.

▼ No matter which direction you look, there’s beautiful Buddhist statuary to be seen/be seen by.

Unable to suppress our curiosity any longer, when the server came back we asked about the statues. Was the owner a retired sculptor? A practicing Buddhist priest? A gentleman thief who specializes in religious artifacts?

As it turns out, though, the reason for the startlingly unique decor is incredibly simple: The owner simply says “Having all these statues here puts my heart at ease.”

We’re not going to reject anyone’s personal interpretation of art, nor the potential pleasure of dining with a side of divinity. However, if you’ve got any sort of a guilty conscience, you might find your coffee cup shaking in your hand when you lift it to take a sip, seeing as how holy entities are watching you.

But at the same time, we also can’t deny that the statues really are impressive works of art, and a visit to the cafe also feels like a visit to a museum.

Plus, even if you come to Kagari by yourself, it definitely won’t feel like you’re there alone.

Cafe information
Kagari / 篝
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Fukushima-ku, Yoshino 2-8-35
Open 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where melon soda is his beverage of choice at old-school Japanese cafes.

[ Read in Japanese ]