Between Osaka (Han) and Kobe (Shin) there is a 30 km stretch of south facing, gently sloping land in-between the Rokko Mountains and Osaka Bay.  From the late 1800s to the 1940s a regional culture known as Hanshinkan Modernism grew here. It developed with the building of planed cities.  An aspect of the zoning and planning was transportation, specifically rail, that connected the area with both Kobe and Osaka.

In the 1800s Kobe was a city of the world and Osaka had a merchant class who spent their money on refining Japan’s customary arts.

Hanshinkan Modernism is a blending of the western modern and the Japanese traditional.  Its most notable characteristic a discreet but daring charm.

The planning drew ideas from all over the world.  Mobility through public transport systems being a central component.  Hanshikan Modernism attracted people from all parts of Japan to live, making it, its most affluent place.

Hanshinkan Modernism remains a touchstone in the life of contemporary Japan.


Ashiya is a leafy city, with flowers, of around 100,000 people.  In the late 1800s it was a lively resort town for the merchants of Osaka.  This dynamic was made literary by the author Tanazaki Junichiro in his novel the ‘Makioka Sisters’.  The motif of the 'well-heeled woman of Ashiya' remains.

By 1900 the city had been zoned a ‘Residential Area’ and the first railway had connected it to Osaka and Kobe.  By the 1920s, at the height of Hanshinkan Modernism, two more railway lines were operating. In the mountain villages, the contoured streets became gentrified. On Osaka Bay there were two  public beaches, where swimming was enjoyed.

Over the following decades Ashiya’s beautiful beaches would go.  In the 1960s, pollution made the beaches less attractive.  In the 1970s they were reclaimed for wide residential streets, laid out in a grid.  Ashiya lost its connection with the sea, Hanshinkan Modernism had gone.

Ashiya, because of its proximity to Kobe, was amongst the first places in Japan to incorporate coffee into their lives.  The vitality of the local coffee scene continues.

In hospitality generally the places are small yet the variety is large. All are within walking distance of each other.

Overall hospitality in Ashiya is a cosmopolitan mix of food and drink.  There is a wide variation in pricing and some offerings exist no where else.

Ashiya River.  On the left is the Luna Hall and on the right the Buddhism Hall.

A band at the Oasis Square by the Ashiya Japan Railway (JR) station.  Every spring Ashiya holds a Jazz Festival with 150 groups and 700 musicians.  All concerts are free to attend.

‘ja ja’ plays ‘Japanese Jazz’ at the Buddhist Hall.

Big band sound from the students of Konan High School, at the Luna Hall.

Pianomura UTAko plays a intimate set at Rio Coffee.

The owner Toshimasa Yagi prepares for his day.

Rio Coffee, Ashiya,  roast their coffee in-house as well as supplying other local cafes.  Some green beans are directly sourced from plantations in Central America and Columbia.

Toshimasa checks the aroma.

Today’s first roast.

Espresso at Rio Coffee. Toshimasa’s philosophy - Life local, coffee global.

A morning-set breakfast from Euclay tearooms.  Eucaly Tearooms opened in Ashiya in 1947.  Since then Eucaly have continued with their original coffee blend and still use the same roaster from when they opened.

Cafe Rucette, part of the Ashiya street vibe.

White Cafe.  High end fit-out, well groomed clientele.

One cafe offered Nescafe espresso.

We sipped it so you don’t have to.

Evian Coffee Shop Ashiya, opened in 1967. It retains a 1960s Californian styling.

Refreshment room at Evian.

Sampling and small-run, roasting room.

Cafe i do, a garden style cafe, with the personal touch of the owners.

Interior of Cafe i do.

Comparing coffee beans at Cafe i do.  Pumpkin soup served in cups.

The Ashiya branch of Nishimura Coffee.

Nishimura Coffee began in Kobe in 1948.  They have 14 purpose built branches all close to Kobe. All have a similar style. They directly source their green beans and roast their own coffee.

Nishimura setting.  Jamaican Blue Mountain filter, with fresh strawberry tart.

A characteristic of  all Nishimura Coffee stores, is they have upstairs and downstairs refreshment rooms.  Among the seating are large, shared tables.  Like most coffee houses in Japan you wait or queue to be placed and in the case of Nishimura they may put you at one of the big tables amongst other customers.

Le Bonheur. Paris, a cafe overlooking the Ashiya River, and surrounding mountains.

Le Bonheur. Paris, a cappuccino with fresh fruit sweet tart.  Also pizza made with flour blends and cheeses from Naples.

The setting at Le Bonheur, Ashiya.  The flowers at the back are made from hand-crafted candy.

The confectionery selection at Le Bonheur includes Paris Caramels from France and Perini Confetti Bouquets from Sulmona, Italy.

Yamate a quaint street.   During the day shops sell fresh fruit, meat, seafood, sweets and so on. Some are intergenerational specialty stores. All have high quality goods with providence.

In the evening Yamate Street offers a wide range of small scale hospitality.  Including an English Pub, Italian Trattoria, Sake Bar, tiny restaurants.

A creperie in Yamate Street.

Enjoying a private matcha party in a Ashiya home.  The matcha tea is from Uji in Kyoto Prefecture.

Evian Coffee’s main roasting room is around the corner.