Location: Namba, Osaka
Good for: Getting to know your potential partner
- Mostly indoor
- Adjustable timing and length
- Any season
- English/Japanese speaking staff
If you are new to the term, “Nat 20”, never fear! Nerd culture is welcoming to everyone along the subculture spectrum. This Osaka-based dating destination is set in the sprawling arcades of Namba, where protagonists can experience an adventure full of wholesome bonding, quirky characters and optional side-quests that will provide endless conversational fodder and, hopefully, future reruns.
Story Mode: The Hearth Board Game Bar and Café
The Hearth Board Game Bar and Café
14-25 Namba sennichimae, Chuo-ku, Osaka City
Hannan Building 4F
Open: 12:00 – 24:00
The Hearth’s menu was developed by owner and chef of 20+ years, Jake and based on Australian pub favourites like lasagna and fish n chips.
On entering, the friendly bar-staff will explain all the house rules and a few of the games’ ones as well, if necessary
Scaling a few flights of narrow stairs, the door to The Hearth opens on a warm, pleasantly cluttered room. At the far end waits a bookshelf crammed with a bewildering array of boardgames. A cheery irasshaimase, hajimete? or Welcome, first time? greets visitors. Newbies get the script: all you can play for 500 yen per person, and a rundown of the sticker categorisation system: Blue are recommended for 2 players; Green are easy to pick up; Yellow are a little harder; and Reds are games that can take a few hours to get going. Many games are bilingual, or contain a set of Japanese and/or English rules inside, as the bar attracts an even mix of locals to international visitors. Again, a handy flag sticker helps in identifying this.
At noon, just after opening, the bar is quiet, chill, good for a quiet start to a date, and the chance to peruse the vast library of games at leisure. The menu board also takes some time to ponder. Snackish options include brownies with ice cream, toasties, or garlic bread which is perfect for sharing, with heartier fare like lasagna, fish’n’chips and burgers for hungrier bellies.
Brownies come with ice cream, coffees with biscuits
Depending on focus requirements, beverages range from lattes to boozy milkshakes. There is also the Nat 20, a drink that deals a critical hit to the liver, and a shout out to the DnD enthusiast. At only 1200 yen, this interesting, and occasionally rough blend of spirits, comes with a risk of severe inebriation, and might be better saved for later dates.
While crafting a custom-made milkshake, Kat, the cheerful Irish bartender, considers the question of why The Hearth would be the spot to bring a date.
Bartender Kat’s Nat 20 is whiskey, Malibu, banana liquor, cider and soda for taste.
“There’s always something to talk about. The games, the teddies, favourite TV shows. You can learn so much about someone in a short time…”
She overhears a return customer explaining how the maps of fantasy worlds, from Bikini Bottom to Princess Bride, that adorn the walls of the toilet, correspond to music that plays once the door shuts. Kat nods approvingly.
“Yeah, the Middle Earth tune is a bit intense. But then you can come out and talk about the weird music in the bathroom. Endless chances for conversation!”
Apart from board games, The Hearth holds movie nights on the roof every two weeks. A perennial favourite is cult classic, The Room, while a recent event saw a guest chef making chicken pies to accompany stop-animation classic, Chicken Run.
The Hearth runs regular movie nights and events. Check their Facebook, Instagram or website for the latest.
The rooftop terrace is the spot for sunsets, BBQs and movie screenings.
Recommended Games For Dates:
A cooperative game where players work together to collect treasures and escape a rapidly sinking island. Good to see how well each other problem-solves and listens to each other while working under pressure.
A strategic game where players take on the role of a caretaker of a Japanese garden, growing bamboo to feed a hungry panda. Cute with beautiful art and also satisfying in a tactile sense as pieces of bamboo click together.
Fog of Love:
Just on the name alone, this is an obvious choice (as well as the unanimous suggestion from The Hearth’s Line group). Create and guide characters through a relationship, navigating challenges and opportunities while trying to fulfil secret objectives.
Games to avoid:
Returnee customer, Amber, recommends Wavelength – a guessing game where players answer questions on spectrums. A great way to get a real sense of where your date stands on issues, from the inane (cute animal vs not cute animal) to the deep (sustainable vs non-sustainable).
Suggested Side-quest: Sennichimae Doguyasuji shopping street and Den Den Town
Every appliance you could ever need, and a great way to consider what a future shared kitchen could contain.
For those who stray past nerd and into the realm of otaku, venture into Den Den town. Bond over a shared love of Warhammer 40K figurines or share a cappuccino with 3D Pokemon art in a maid cafe.
For any type of date, a lot rests on the fun memories made and the steady flow of conversation. While not everyone is a board game lover, debates the merits of Star Trek captains, or otherwise identifies at all in the nerdy category, The Hearth Board Game Bar and Café provides a variety of quirky prompts for newbies getting to know each other. And who knows, you might just roll a critical hit in love. If all else fails, winning at the claw game outside is always a solid backup plan for winning your date’s heart.
Cliché but solid when wooing, win at the claw game, win at love.