Bach and Beethoven with beer? This Osaka bar thrives on playing classical music


  • Asia & Oceania
  • Monday, 11 Nov 2019

Cocoroom is filled with classical records and CDs, mostly of orchestral music. — The Japan News/ANN

One might expect to hear loud music coming from a drinking establishment in Nishinari Ward, Osaka, but not for that music to be big waves of sound from brass and stringed instruments in works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.

Classical music bar Cocoroom has attracted a fervent fan base for its dedication to top-quality classical music.

The Airin district is known as a day labourer’s neighbourhood. The disconnect people experience when they encounter elegant classical music in this kind of place has created a buzz as news of the establishment spread by word of mouth, bringing fans and even professional performers to the bar.

Cocoroom has a collection of about 3,500 CDs, vinyl records and other recordings, and is equipped with a topflight audio system that includes high-end speakers and players.

“I was looking for a cheap property, and just happened upon the perfect place. It feels like fate, ” Cocoroom manager Akihiko Satake, 37, said over the top of a Beethoven masterpiece.

Satake was working as a dispatch worker, dreaming of a place where he could play his beloved classical music and have a drink, when an acquaintance decided to relocate his coffee shop and offered him the building. Satake kept the shop’s name and opened his business in April 2016.

Bars and cafes specialising in classical music have been disappearing from Osaka Prefecture recently mainly due to noise complaints and less demand for such shops. Therefore, many fans listen at home with headphones on.

Yet Satake has had no problems with the noise. “This is a lively area and there are many karaoke izakaya pubs here, ” he said. At times, one can hear people singing or being noisy, staggering drunk outside the shop. “We’ve had zero complaints since we opened, even when we turn up the volume. This place is the best, ” he laughed.

Satake’s classical music obsession began when he was in second year in junior high school. By chance he heard Morning Mood from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt and it swept him away to another world.

As a student, he would scrimp on food to buy recordings for a collection that is now kept at the shop and available for customers to make requests from.

The shop’s customers are also unique. Hayato Nishino, 56, a company employee from Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka, is a regular customer and a fan of

Takashi Asahina, founder of the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra. Nishino is such an enthusiast that he visited the grave of Anton Bruckner, whom Asahina loved, on his honeymoon.

“Satake’s knowledge is amazing. He introduces me to new sounds. It’s so much fun, ” he said.

Professional pianists and conductors are also frequent customers, including members of a prestigious German orchestra that was performing in Japan. They were so impressed with the shop that they sent Satake tickets. Posters for performances just keep appearing in the store.

Due to its location, drunks who are lost sometimes wander in. Some of them who normally only listen to enka ballads remark on the way out that classical music is not so bad. The shop seems to have taken on a role of developing new fans.

Outside the shop is a humorous handwritten phrase: “That shop that Mozart recommended!” Mozart and other great composers were known to drink in lower-class neighbourhoods, where they would play their own compositions and get new ideas.

This neighbourhood might actually be just the right place for classical music.

How to get there

Cocoroom is located about 500m southeast of JR Shin-Imamiya Station and about 100m southeast of Osaka Metro Dobutsuen-mae Station.

It is on the Dobutsuen-mae Ichibangai shopping street. Customers are welcome to bring in their favourite CDs and records.

Also visit: Osaka Philharmony Hall

Takashi Asahina was the first conductor to be awarded Japan’s Order of Cultural Merit. The orchestra he founded in 1947 plays at this hall in the Kishinosato district of Nishinari Ward.

The 310-seat hall is used for orchestral performances and as a practice venue. It has three studios with grand pianos that are rented out to the general public. It is an oasis for people who love classical music. – The Japan News/Asia News Network

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