Take note — the admission prices for some of these places are waived with Osaka Amazing Pass.
At 300m, Abeno Harukas is Japan’s tallest building and on a clear day offers magnificent views of Osaka and beyond. The stylish Harukas 300 observatory (1,500 yen per adult; approximately US$14) features floor-to-ceiling windows as well as several glass floor panels where you can peer straight down onto the buildings below. More thrills can be had with a new “Edge The Harukas” experience (1,000 yen per person) that takes you outside to a narrow deck from where you can peer right over the side. For a more relaxing experience, arrive in the late afternoon to watch the city light up as the sun goes down.
How to get there: Quickest access is via Osaka Abenobashi station on the Kintetsu Minami Osaka line. Alternatively, head to nearby Tennoji station on the Midosuji or Tanimachi subway line, or on the JR Loop, Hanwa, or Yamatoji lines.
If the mere thought of standing atop Abeno Harukas leaves you feeling queasy, perhaps the nearby Tsutenkaku tower, at a third of the height, is a better option. Located in the heart of Osaka’s lively Shinsekai district, Tsutenkaku’s observation deck (700 yen per adult) offers fine vistas of the local area, including a bird’s-eye view of nearby Tennoji Zoo. The deck is also home to a statue of Billiken, a kind of charm doll that’s become one of the area’s most famous symbols. Don’t leave without rubbing the soles of its feet, an act that’s said to bring good luck. Back on the ground, head into Shinsekai to feast upon the district’s speciality of kushikatsu, succulent deep-fried skewers of meat and veg.
How to get there: Nearby stations include Dobutsuen-mae on the Midosuji and Sakaisuji subway lines, Ebisucho on the Sakaisuji subway line, and Shin-Imamiya on the JR Loop line.
Be sure to hold on to your hat as you step onto the outdoor observatory (1,000 yen per adult) at the very top of Umeda’s imposing Sky Building. Acting as a bridge between the building’s two towers, the 170-m-high platform offers impressive views of Osaka in every direction. Check out the passenger jets flying close by on their final approach to Itami Airport, and see if you can spot one of Osaka’s oddest sights — an office building with a highway passing straight through the middle of it.
How to get there: The Sky Building is about a 10-minute walk from JR Osaka station or Umeda station on the Hankyu line.
Perched on top of the HEP Five shopping mall bang in the middle of the Umeda entertainment district, this bright red Ferris wheel costs 500 yen for a fun 15-minute ride. The wheel’s elevated location takes the gondolas more than 100m above street level, offering riders a view of Umeda and further afield. Each gondola carries up to four people and lets you plug in your smartphone to a sound system so you can choose your tunes and enjoy perhaps the quirkiest party of your life. Once the ride’s over, head into HEP Five’s shops or drop by Gudetama Cafe on the seventh floor for some cutesy dishes based on the popular lazy-egg character.
How to get there: The HEP Five Ferris wheel is a short walk from JR Osaka station or Umeda station on the Hankyu line.
5. Cosmo Tower
Cosmo Tower kicks off with an exhilarating 80-second ride in a glass-walled lift to the 52nd floor, and a not-quite-as-exhilarating escalator ride up three more flights to the observatory (700 yen per adult). Located on the western edge of Osaka, the 252m-high lookout affords wonderful views not only of the city but also of Osaka Bay and Kobe, with Mount Rokko as its dramatic backdrop. You’ll also see Awaji Island with the awesome Akashi Kaikyo suspension bridge, which at 1,991m features the longest central span of its type in the world. Turn your gaze south and enjoy a spot of plane-watching as aircraft land and take off at Kansai International Airport 15 miles away.
How to get there: Cosmo Tower is a three-minute walk from Trade Center-mae station on the Nankai Port Town line.
– TEXT BY TREVOR MOGG