For a long time, like many people the Tengachaya area of Osaka was for me just a transit point between the Nankai Line and downtown Osaka or 'that station at the end of the Sakaisuji Line (or start, depending on which direction I was traveling in)'. That was until one evening, I needed to buy some moisturizer on my way home and opted to take a detour into Tengachaya in search of a drug store. What I saw beyond the ticket gates and the escalators of the station area that night was enough to inspire me to explore the area in more detail.
As with most places worthy of a spot in a travel article, it would be impossible to squeeze everything that Tengachaya has to offer into the space of just a few paragraphs. What it has to offer is of course also dependent on the tastes and needs of the individual, but from my vantage point, I think the area's best offerings can be best summed up in three categories:
Kevin Jaako on Flickr
1: The rawness of everyday Osakan life.
m-louis .® on Flickr
To my knowledge Tengachaya doesn't, and never has proclaimed to be a tourist spot. The standing-only ramen restaurants, convenience stores and bento vendors that you can find within the immediate vicinity of the station are all very suggestive of an area that is geared towards catering for customers on-the-go; commuters, travellers in transit, day trippers, school children of various ages, and local residents just merely going about their everyday routines . There are no touristy souvenir shops, no celebrated sightseeing spots here - just raw everyday life, and that is what makes the area so alluring.
The opportunities to see that raw everyday life in action are present throughout the day. All day, everyday Tengachaya plays host to people from all walks of life coming and going while in the midst of their everyday routines. For them, that is all it is: just routine, but if like me, you are one of those people who just likes to take a few moments out of your day to just observe and appreciate what is going on around you, then Tengachaya will give you the feeling of being in amongst something special.
Kamagasaki on Wikipedia Creative Commons2: Tengachayan Locals.
That brings me on to my next point of persuasion for you to pay the Tengachaya area a visit: the locals. The majority of people who live here are bone-to-skin Osakan. The kind of people who have resided in the area their whole life- they are the heart and soul of not just Tengachaya, but Osaka too, and this is a feeling that will immediately impact you if you venture beyond the station. Go beyond the station area and into the shotengai (which lies just accross the street from the station's east exit) ,you'll witness Tengachaya locals running their everyday errands on bicycles; shop vendors enjoying a chat with regular long-term customers; blue collar workers taking a break and sharing a laugh over a can of coffee. Simple human scenes and interactions that go a long way towards defining the magic of everyday life in Tengachaya.
Ogiyoshisan on Wikipedia Creative Commons3: Old streets, allyways and railway crossings:
Tengachaya begins to become more mysterious and unknown beyond it's shotengai. For this is when you will begin to encounter it`s many alleyways and side streets, some of which are positioned above and below rickety, old concrete staircases that offer a scattering of 'mom-and-pop' styled restaurants, shops, cafes and bars. Head into these alleyways and streets, and you'll begin to get a sense of Tengachaya's local community vibe: you'll walk by posters advertising local community events, numerous traditionally styled Japanese houses many have lived in. A few derelict.
Walk around long enough, and you'll almost certainly stumble across the railway lines and crossings that serve the Nankai like and Osaka's tram line: the Hankai Line. The sound of trains cruising past together with the crossing bells ringing to signal approaching trains and trams just adds to the Tengachayan atmosphere. The atmosphere of a place that doesn't feature much in the guidebooks or at the top of most travel itineraries but will put a power over you that you will carry in your memory forever.