Kansai Sunflowers


As night falls in the Kansai region of Japan, neon washes over the neighbourhoods at regular intervals from buildings that at first glance you might take for casinos. Look closer though, past the riotous, pulsing facades and the colourful, child-like decor awash with whimsical (and often copyright infringed) characters and you’ll notice well-stocked shelves and freezers in place of the expected slot or pachinko machines, with persons of all ages and trades scouring the brightly-lit aisles in search of sustenance.

Branches of the discount supermarket chain ‘Super Tamade’ — famed in equal measure for their rock-bottom prices and storefronts designed as a visual assault on the senses, don’t so much draw the eyes as grab them in a vice-grip and yank them towards their neon-fringed entrances, commanding your complete and utter attention. Their iconic sunflower emblems beam down all over the region, but loom largest in Osaka’s more downtrodden areas where the stores provide a lifeline of cheap food and liquor to the large number of day-labourers and homeless that dwell there.

Such prices come at a cost, and the chain has often been mired in controversy for its treatment of foreign workers and known ties to Yakuza operations yet it persists, too vital to die and too bright to truly fade away.

This project attempts to document the comings and goings of life in and around these hubs of light — where the curious, the thrifty, and the desperate intersect in equal measure.

View of Super Tamade store on busy stretch of road, highlighting prominent signage
Super Tamade facade within a covered shopping street. Multiple bikes in front of entrance
A Super Tamade storefront at night with whole facade illuminating an otherwise dark street
A lone man with shopping bag juxtaposed against the colourful, brightly lit walls of a branch of Super Tamade
Entrance of a large branch of Super Tamade at night with customers coming and going
Drinks section inside a Super Tamade showing brightly lit fridges with whimsical neon signage above
A store employee tending to a fridge in the seafood section of a Super Tamade
Tron-like neon signage in the meat section of a Super Tamade
Customers walking through the entrance of a Super Tamade, headed by neon depictions of Disney characters
Colourful Super Tamade wall mural featuring smiling sunflowers, ducks and a blimp
Bright signage touting incredible bargains in Japanese amidst a colourful mural of animals and flowers
View outside a large branch of super tamade at night with customers and shop signage partially functioning, leaving a section of it in darkness