OSAKA – You could argue that the busy, crowded city of Osaka, with its glaring neon lights, is one of the least suitable locations for observing stars.
But one cafe owner would disagree. Thirty-year-old Keisuke Yamaguchi says it is possible to see a wide range of stars right in the city center.
The Osaka native runs hoshicafe SPICA, a cosmos-themed cafe-cum-bar, where stargazers gather every night. He is also an accomplished astronomy guide able to teach customers about stars and how to enjoy them in the night sky.
The first thing you see on entering the cafe on the fifth floor of a building in Chuo Ward is a ceiling covered with stars. At 8 p.m. or so, Yamaguchi begins explaining to customers the star signs and what they mean, drawing on Greek mythology.
Customers then go up to the building’s rooftop deck to gaze at the night sky through an astronomical telescope.
“I can really see it!” exclaimed one female customer.
“It’s so beautiful!” said another, spotting Vega, one of the stars in the Lyra constellation, during one rooftop stargazing session in late November.
“I could feel closer to stars. I wish I could have watched them forever,” said Megumi Murase, a 19-year-old university freshman.
Many items on the menu at Yamaguchi’s place have unique names related to stars. Customers can enjoy original cocktails including concoctions named Andromeda and Hayabusa. Stardust gateau chocolat is an option for dessert.
Yamaguchi said he became a space enthusiast in his 20s when he first paid attention to the stars of the Milky Way. He was up in the mountains of neighboring Nara Prefecture at the time.
While it is not easy to spot many stars in the sky above bright Osaka, he realized constellations such as Cygnus are perfectly visible. This prompted him to open the cafe in 2011 as a way of sharing his enthusiasm with others.
Yamaguchi named his cafe after the brightest star in the constellation, Virgo. The vision he had for it was making entertainment out of observing the starry sky.
“I hope that looking at stars will become part of people’s everyday lives,” Yamaguchi said.