Similar to the Japanese enclaves, which exist outside of Japan, numerous Koreatowns have also been established outside of the Korean peninsula. During the Korea under Japanese rule, approximately 2.4 million Koreans immigrated to Japan. Some came due to economic reasons and some were forced to move during WWII to work as laborers. Although many departed after the war, others still remained and were joined in the 1950s by a wave of refugees from Jeju Island after a communist uprising there. Today, Koreans are the second largest ethnic minority living in Japan after the Chinese and Osaka is home to the largest Korean population followed by Tokyo.
Tsuruhashi in Ikuno-ku is the center of Osaka’s Koreatown and it is well known for its many Korean restaurants, shops and super markets. The residents hail from all over the Korean peninsula and from many different eras. Some of Tsuruhashi’s inhabitants are from South Korea, some are from North Korea and others were brought or have family who were brought to Japan during a time when Korea was a unified nation.
The area is easily accessible via the JR Loop line, Kintetsu Nara and Osaka lines or the Sennichimae Subway line. In the area surrounding Tsuruhashi Station, there is a labyrinth of market stalls, 800 in all, which offer all sorts of imported items and amazing Korean food, all at reasonable prices. Also there is an entire side street devoted to Korean BBQ or yakiniku as it is referred to in Japan. Each restaurant offers various cuts and types of meat at different price points. Alongside the restaurants, which serve Korean food, you will also find restaurants that offer okonomiyaki (tepan fried batter with vegetables, pork or seafood), kushi-katsu (deep fried skewers), sashimi and sushi. If you are interested in kimchi, you will find a variety of stalls offering every type of kimchi available including soft-shelled crab kimchi, cucumber kimchi and celery kimchi. There are shops selling brightly colored Korean hanbok (traditional Korean dress), table ware, raw fish, meat and vegetables, which are hard to find elsewhere.
Tsuruhashi is a dark and dank area, reminiscent of pre-war Japan, comprised of narrow streets and alley ways teaming with tourists, who come there to simply feast and stroll. It is where Korean traditions have been preserved and passed down alongside Japanese traditions and customs and definitely worth visiting if the opportunity arises.