As we stepped out of the train station and into the attached undercover market that snakes towards the centre of Tsuruhashi, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I was literally dripping, too – it had been sheeting down all morning and I’d long ago surrendered in the battle of the thousand umbrellas.
The array of mismatched shops that line the roofed walkway, selling everything from linen to handbags to crockery, reminded me of the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg. The 360-store shopping center was a supporting character in the story of my childhood; every so often we’d make the trip into ‘town’ to profit off its bargains and spend our savings on samosas and roti.
Here, the smell of curry was replaced with barbecue and the signs hanging above each of the stores were not tamil or hindi, but kanji. Still, it was a different side of Osaka – older, quieter, poorer and distinctly un-Japanese. The Tsuruhashi District in Ikuno-ku is home to one of the country’s biggest Korean resident populations and its “Koreatown” is becoming increasingly popular locally and abroad.