Want to know one of Osaka’s best-kept secrets? The city has the largest Korea Town in Japan.
You have a lot to see and do in Osaka’s K-town. The neighborhood offers much more than just authentic Korean barbeque. The narrow streets and old houses look like something out of post-war Japan. The elderly residents still sell their pickled foods here each day. They sell them in the same stores their parents lived and worked in. Many are second, third, fourth, or even fifth generation Korean-Japanese.
People call these Korean-Japanese “zainichi.” Zainichi roughly translates to “staying in Japan,” but could also be used with negative connotations. About twenty-five percent of the Ikuno ward’s population is zainichi. Their ancestors were Korean workers brought to Japan in the 1920s and 30s. They were usually brought by force – and forced to live in slums. Some parts of the area still look quite shoddy today.
But the area isn’t entirely run-down. A few of the streets might even make you think you’re in South Korea.
Want to buy some cutting-edge beauty products? You’ll find Korean cosmetics and other specialty goods for sale here.
And make sure you’re hungry when you visit – the restaurants serve a variety of delicious Korean foods.
Would you like to visit Korea without the hassle of leaving Japan? You can! Tsuruhashi’s Korea Town has got you covered.
What You Can Do in Tsuruhashi
Check out this awesome walking video guide that shows you all of the little shops and areas of Tsuruhashi. You can really get a feel of what it’s like being there.
You’ll catch a whiff of a distinctive smoky BBQ smell the moment you leave the station.
You won’t have any trouble finding authentic Korean food here. As a matter of fact, you might find it hard not to sample everything in sight!
But you won’t have time to taste everything. You have over 150 shops and stalls to choose from in K-town!
Here’s a brief guide to some of the foods you should try.
You can eat yakiniku anywhere in Japan…
But you won’t always find it made in the authentic Korean style. Korea Town’s yakiniku follows the true Korean BBQ tradition.
You cook the meat yourself. Instead of having the meat with a bowl of rice, you wrap it in a leaf of lettuce (the real Korean-style).
Many restaurants offer all-you-can-eat courses with a variety of side dishes. You can try a wide assortment of pickled vegetables and seaweed rolls.
And of course, the area offers authentic Korean sauces. They taste awesome once you get used to the spices!
Most of the yakiniku restaurants are on Hon-dori, the main street. The Korean lampposts on both sides of the street make Hon-dori instantly recognizable. You won’t miss the large entrance sign if you come from the station.
Recommended Places to Eat
There’s no shortage of delicious yakiniku spots in Tsuruhashi.
Here are three that famous throughout the area.
1. Ogawatei Torachan
Even on a street lined with famous restaurants, Ogawatei really stands out.
Ogawatei Torachan serves a lot of varieties and cuts of meat dishes. They even sell special beef bento boxes (Japanese style lunch boxes). Their premium beef lunch box uses specially selected cuts of meat and costs a cool 10,000 yen (approx $100 USD) each.
They are known for their Yamagata Prefecture “Phantom Harami (幻のハラミ – maboroshi no harami)” cut of beef. It costs 3,200 yen per serving. The serving size is quite small, but the quality of the beef is superb. The dish gives customers a taste of Ogawatei’s rare skirt steak meat.
The skirt cut comes from a different part of the animal than most other cuts. Skirt meat tends to offer more flavor than the other cuts – but it’s a little less tender.
- Wednesday – Monday and holidays: 11:00 am-3:00pm
- Last order 2:30pm
- Closed Tuesdays
- Monday, Wednesday – Saturday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm (last order 10:30pm)
- Sundays and holidays: 4:00pm -11:00pm (last order 10:30pm)
- Closed Tuesdays
2-15 Obasecho, Tennoji-ku
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If you like beef, Meigetsu is the place for you.
Meigetsu has a reputation for quality meat. The cuts they use are of high-quality and really sets this place apart from the competition.
Meigetsu targets the lunch crowd. They offer lunch courses from 11:30am – 4:00pm and teishoku (Japanese style set lunches) from 11:30am – 3:00pm.
Lunch courses usually cost less than dinner. Trying one gives you a great way to taste delicious yakiniku while saving some cash for Korea Town’s special goods.
- 11:30am – 11:30pm (last order–11:00pm)
- They have irregular closing days. You might want to call and make sure they’ll be open before you go (unless you happen to be in the area anyway)
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This Ikuno mainstay has been in business since 1948.
Tsuruichi offers several courses. They also offer ala carte meat dishes costing around 700 yen (beef stomach) – 1,750 yen (bone-in kalbi).
You can add some kimchi as a side dish. Most of the kimchi varieties cost 300 yen, but a few cost a little more.
You won’t have any trouble ordering your food here. Tsuruichi has English menus available.
They also a “vacuum” over your grill which helps to suck up any smoke to keep you smelling nice and fresh!
- 11:00am – 10:00pm
- You can call to make reservations from 10:00am – 5:00pm
- Last entry 8:40pm. Last order 9:00pm
- Closed over the New Year holiday period
3-3 Shimoajiharacho, Tennoji-ku
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Can’t get enough spicy pickled vegetables? You’ve come to the right place in Tsuruhashi Korea Town.
The covered shopping arcade is packed with stalls selling the Korean specialty. Most of the stalls offer samples – and the vendors enthusiastically invite you to try some.
Each stall uses their own recipe. This means you have an incredible variety of kimchi to choose from.
What type you prefer will really depend on your personal tastes. Having said that, the Tsuruhashi area is known for certain types of kimchi.
Those of you wanting a safe bet should try the pickled cucumber or celery. If you’re feeling more adventurous, I suggest the pickled crab and octopus.
Unlike most Japanese markets, the vendors in Tsuruhashi like to haggle.
Other Foods to Try
You’ll see lots of other street foods for sale besides the kimchi and BBQ.
Chijimi , or Korean-style savory pancakes, are always great. They come with a variety of fillings ranging from beef, pork, seafood, and even mochi (rice cakes) and cheese.
You’ll also see restaurants selling Korean noodle dishes. You can order the noodle dishes as side-dishes on the yakiniku menus as well.
People who enjoy a good drink should check out the Makgeolli for sale here. It’s a type of Korean alcohol made from rice.
Makgeolli gets brought out at communal events in Korea. It’s known for its milky color, slightly bitter taste, and low alcohol content.
Raw (unpasteurized) makgeolli continues to ferment in the bottle until you drink it.
But raw makgeolli has a shorter shelf life. And unlike the pasteurized makgeolli, it’s in demand as a health product.
Some people say the high yeast content makes the drink nutritious. I’m not so sure about the health claims… but I do know it tastes pretty darn good!
After the food, most people visit Ikuno’s Korea Town for the chance to get their hands on Korean cosmetics hard to find outside cosmetics.
Among the most popular items are facial masks, available—like the kimchi—in an incredible range of ingredients and tailored to specific needs—toning, soothing, moisturizing, with ingredients ranging from tea-tree oil to snake venom.
Similar to the facial masks, laser peel soft gel by beauty giant The Saem is a product that is impossible to find outside of Korea Town.
Looking for a BB cream? Many of the stores in Korea Town sell BB creams from big Korean brands at prices much lower than you’ll pay for Japanese brands with similar reputations.
Good places to find them are the cosmetic stores like Saransuron. Many offer samples so you can be sure you’re getting one that matches your skin tone.
The Face Shop and Nature Republic are popular cosmetic brands in South Korea, and now they’re building a presence in Japan too. Both have stores in Ikuno Korea Town.
The Face Shop specializes in cosmetics made with natural ingredients, while Nature Republic has a wide range of skin-care products.
This neat guesthouse sits right in the middle of Korea Town.
Hiro’s Guesthouse offers dorm rooms for backpackers. Guests get a Japanese-style room, access to a kitchen and cafe, and a chance to talk to the owner.
Hiro is third generation Korean-Japanese. He speaks fluent Korean, English, and Japanese. Hiro acts as a bridge to Japanese and Korean culture for international visitors.
He’s always happy to help you find some fun things to do in the area… and he always knows the best places to eat!
Hiro lets you bring in food from outside to eat inside the open kitchen (you just have to buy your drinks from the cafe).
Is Korea Town Worth Visiting?
The rundown nature of the area might put some visitors off… but the dated buildings and narrow shopping alleys give you a neat glimpse of post-war Japan.
The restaurants and food stalls are a draw for a totally different reason. You won’t find better Korean food anywhere…
unless you hop on a plane and go to Seoul!
Warning – Take it easy with the spices if you’ve never tried Korean food before.
Korean spices taste very different than Indian, Mexican, or even Japanese spices. You’ll have to start building a resistance to them from scratch.
Getting to Korea Town
Tsuruhashi Station takes you right to Korea Town’s front door. It drops you off in front of the main street in Korea Town.
The station is on the JR Osaka Loop Line. The Loop Line connects 19 train stations in the city. They include major stations like JR Osaka and Tennoji.
JR Osaka connects to Hankyu and Hanshin Umeda Stations. It also connects to the subway’s Midosuji, Yotsubashi, and Tanimachi lines.
Tennoji connects to the Hanwa and Yamatoji JR lines. It also links to the Midosuji and Tanimachi subway lines.
Tsuruhashi Station is on the Kintetsu Nara and Osaka lines. It’s also on the Sennichimae subway line.
From Osaka Station
Take the Outer Loop (clockwise) for seven stations.
The trip takes a little over fifteen minutes and costs 180 yen.
From Tennoji Station
Take the Inner Loop (counter-clockwise) for three stations.
The journey takes five minutes. It costs 120 yen.
Once You Get to Tsuruhashi Station
Take the West exit. You’ll come out right in front of Korea Town’s covered shopping arcade.
- Most stores close at dusk. Many shops in the area still follow the old Korean tradition of closing at dusk. Make sure you account for the early closing time when you make your plans.
- Most restaurants do the exact opposite. They close during the day and stay open well into the night.
- Ikuno Korea Town is close to Osaka Castle. You could easily combine a trip to the area with a visit to the castle.
- Be careful if you’ve never tried Korean food before. The spices probably taste different than anything you might be used to.
What Do You Want to Do in Osaka’s Korea Town?
Has anything in the article made your “must-visit” list?
Let us know in the comments!
Don’t forget to share this article with your friends. They’ll say kamsamnida (thank you) to you once they try the BBQ and kimchi in Osaka’s Korea Town!