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A New Hope
When I heard there was a Star Wars-themed bar in Osaka, I reacted as a true Star Wars fan – both gleefully optimistic, and poised to rip it to shreds for betraying my impossibly high personal expectations. I mean, I wanted to love it, but George Lucas knows I’ve been hurt before.
I jumped the first available transport and a few parsecs North West of Umeda found myself in the charmingly eclectic district of Nakazakicho. About ten minutes walk from the station, the bar’s location is as unassuming as a moisture farm on Tatooine, in a narrow suburban street lined with narrow houses. Leading to one of them was a simply adorned white door, with a sign outside heralding “Pachimon Wars – Bootleg SW Toy Bar”. I entered nervously, could such an everyday door really lead to a galaxy far far away?
Open The Blast Doors
Upon entering I found myself in a small but lively izakaya-style bar, serving drinks and a limited food menu. The venue itself is longer than it is wide, with an open area and several sci-fi barrel-like tables to stand around by the entrance, then a narrow seating space along the bar. The decor is heavily Star Wars influenced, but not slavishly so.
While both sides of the bar feature the infamous Imperial lozenge-shaped wall lights, the left side was an appropriate grey color while the other was painted orange, with stained wood panels reminiscent of a traditional izakaya. “That’s not canon” I thought disapprovingly. But as I sat soaking up the atmosphere/alcohol, the color scheme grew on me. It’s the answer to the question, “what would the love-child of the Star Wars universe and a 1970s Japanese pub look like?”
What’s a Pachimon?
Bootleg is the operative term to describe the venue, “pachimon” being Osaka slang for bootleg or knock-off. A large glass display case on the wall brimming with bootleg Star Wars toys is the heart of Pachimon Wars, and testament to a life-long obsession.
As the owner explained to me, the color choice on walls is in the bootleg spirit. It’s not supposed to be a perfect Star Wars imitation, and it’s certainly not an official product. It is, like many of the bootleg and hand-crafted items on display, a labor of love and a tribute to the passion that Galaxy Far, Far Away inspires in people. Combine that passion with creativity, and you get bootlegs – a personal pastiche, authentic in its uniqueness, and perfect in its imperfection.
Toys Toys Toys
The Star Wars bootleg toy collection is impressive… most impressive. The objects on display come from all over the world, purchased via eBay, or traded with other fans in exchange for Japanese bootlegs. The Star Wars theme extends beyond the toys though, it’s baked into the bar’s design in all manner of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. While non-fans can enjoy the kitsch decor and friendly, enthusiastic locals, for Star Wars aficionados there are easter eggs a-plenty, including a toilet modeled extensively after Darth Vader’s meditation chamber from The Empire Strikes Back. Insert your own Admiral peePiet pun here.
Hive of Scum & Villainy?
The assembled clientele, far from a wretched hive of scum and villainy, resembled any lively Osaka izakaya. I was both dreading and secretly excited for an opportunity to talk arcane Star Wars lore with a bunch of mouth-breathing man-children like myself, but these were well-bathed, socially-adjusted, everyday Japanese people, with more women than the entire original trilogy!
It turns out, you don’t need to know a wampa from a womp rat, the joy of playing with the props, helmets, and baby yodas on display brings both diehard fans and casual drinkers together. Snap a selfie as Boba Fett, snuggle up to Han Solo in carbonite, or simply enjoy a cool draft beer pulled from a C3-P0-themed tap tower. Pachimon Wars works for both non-fans and scruffy nerf-herders alike.
Are These The Droids You Are Looking For?
Or should you go about your business?
Owner Shuichi Kimura, who goes by “Kimu-Ni””, created Pachimon Wars a little more than 5 years ago as both a labor of love and a place for his movie and TV industry friends to socialize and network. A freelance director in addition to managing the bar, Kimu-Ni’s entertainment industry connections are responsible for much of the memorabilia, like the hunting trophy Tauntaun head mounted on the wall.
That, and the Jawa greeting guests at the door, are courtesy of a university friend who made props for “Kamen Rider”, the masked motorcyclist zooming around Japanese TV since the 1970s. The pedigree of the items on display runs from a DIY rubber bathmat stormtrooper helmet, to licensed replicas, to a full-sized recreation of the Millennium Falcon’s crescent sofa and holo chess table in a secret room upstairs, sadly too large to make it into the bar itself. The mix of naive art knock-offs, off-the-shelf toys, and well-made replicas makes for a charming jumble guaranteed to enthrall any Star Wars fan.
Boba Fett’s Baby
When the bar had quietened down, I asked Kimu-Ni who his favorite Star Wars character is. He replied Boba Fett, from the original trilogy. I nodded sagely at that important distinction – Episode V’s mysterious masked bounty hunter, not whatever Temuera Morrison was in Disney’s The Book of Boba Fett. Keep your helmet on mate, it’s not “The Book of Boba’s Face”.
The shadow of Boba Fett looms large over Pachimon Wars, and Kimu-Ni’s life. A fan since childhood, it was his impressive collection of Boba Fett merchandise that had (now defunct) Movie Magazine “Eiga Hiho” reaching out to him. But when the interviewer arrived, it was Kimu-Ni’s bootleg toys that caught their eye and became the focus of the article instead. That was when the idea of a bootleg toy bar first occurred to him, and it was Boba Fett in the flesh, or more accurately – in the plastic, that provided the money to make it happen.
Plastic Worth its Weight in Gold
To explain why requires a history lesson in Star Wars figure lore. Back in 1978 toy maker Kenner’s prototype Boba Fett figure came with a backpack-launched spring-loaded missile. However, choking hazard concerns sent the rocket-firing Fett to the Sarlacc Pit of failed designs. Only a precious few of these scrapped prototypes remain, and Kimu-Ni had one. The most common is matt-blue in color, of which only 25 exist. But what Kimu-Ni had was the Holy Grail of collectors – the ultra-rare grey prototype Boba Fett figure, one of only three in the world! To give you an idea of their worth, the last one to come up in auction had an asking price of $220,000 USD. No matter how solid an investment that may be, good luck explaining to your partner what you spent the house deposit on.
After initially balking at a handsome offer to sell, Kimu-Ni compromised and agreed to swap of his grey figure for a (still rare) blue one, plus a substantial amount of cash, making for a nerve-wracking flight to San Francisco and in-person exchange. Imagine having to explain to police that you were beaten and mugged for a Star Wars figure, and not being a school child in the 1970s.
The funds earned from this swap became the seed money for Pachimon Wars, and over 5 years later it’s still going strong – testament to a well-run venue and the enduring appeal of the universe George Lucas birthed.
And that’s Pachimon Wars! A uniquely Japanese venue with an intergalactic theme, fun for fans and non-fans alike. It’s a good place to geek out over Star Wars. It’s a good place to network with entertainment industry creatives. It’s a good place to grab some drinks and a bite to eat, enjoying one of the themed menu items. Tourists are welcome too, a love for Star Wars breaks through language barriers and brings people from all over the world together. Come kampai with R2-D2. Unlike Mos Eisley’s Cantina, they serve all kinds here.
Address = 8-12 Kurosakicho, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0023
Closest Station = Nakazakicho Station on the (purple) Tanimachi line, exit #1
Hours = 6pm until midnight, every day except Sunday.