Friday, October 20, 2017

Umeda Sky Building

This article is based on a visit made on Sunday, 20 November 2016.

Edit 7 October 2019: Updated prices to reflect the increase in Japan's national sales tax.

Previously on Sekai Ichi, I visited the Osaka Museum of History.  Once I had my fill, I crossed town to the Umeda Sky Building (田スカイビル, Umeda Sukai Biru), a skyscraper in the Kita (north) district of Osaka.  It stands 173 metres (568 feet) tall, opened in 1993, and was designed by Hiroshi Hara (原 広司, Hara Hiroshi, b. 1936), also famous as the architect of Kyoto Station.

Getting to the Umeda Sky Building from Osaka Station involves walking westward, through a pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath a freight railyard.  As I emerged from this tunnel and walked up to the foot of the building, I was greeted by the sight of a German-style Christmas market.

The Umeda Sky Building is actually made up of two towers, with a piece on top connecting them.  This spot is known as the Floating Garden Observatory (空中庭園, Kūchū Teien, lit. 'sky garden'), and it is where we'll be going.

Here's a clearer look at what the towers look like, in Lego form.  This scale model was on display in an exhibition room at the top.

In the same room, they had a special exhibition on landmark souvenirs from around the world.  Here are a few from right here in Osaka.  The subjects in this display represent Tsutenkaku, in the south-centre of the city, and the Tower of the Sun, built for the 1970 World Expo site in the north of the city.

On the more bizarre side, there was also a Barbie doll with a dress modelled after the Sydney Opera House!

Step up and outside, and you will find yourself on an open-air observatory, offering a 360-degree view of Osaka's surrounding cityscape.  First up is the south view, where the bulk of Osaka has been built up.

One of the more curious features I saw from this vantage point is a highway that cuts through the middle of a building.

The west view looks across the Yodo River and towards Osaka Bay.  If the weather were nicer, it would be possible to see all the way to the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge outside of Kobe, but obviously that was not the case.

The north view again looks out over the Yodogawa.  Shin-Osaka Station, and subsequently my hotel, should be around here somewhere...

And finally, the east view shows a bit more of Osaka's urban concentration.  In between the two glass towers in the centre, you can see a red Ferris wheel -- the same one I saw from ground-level the night before.

There is a large hole in the centre of the observatory floor, partially ringed by reflective glass walls.  If the sky were clearer, I bet they'd look really nice.  Rising up into this hole are the escalator tunnels used to funnel people into and out of the observatory.

This place is a romantic hotspot for couples, too.  By sitting in these two chairs and holding hands, you can make spots on the floor light up.  You can also buy padlocks, get your names engraved on them, and clip them on to the wire fence behind.

Whilst I do love a good wide view, at the same time I am also afraid of heights, so it is with a degree of relief that I took the elevator back down and into the Christmas market I had mentioned earlier.  And I see they really put some effort into this setup, with one giant Christmas tree set up in the courtyard.  Not sure how it compares to the one they have at the Rockefeller Centre in New York, but it's definitely something.

Finally, I chanced upon this juggler who had set up shop in that same plaza, and stayed for two of his acts.  In one, he rolled these reflective glass balls around his hands and arms.  Back home, I've seen those things sold as "Fushigi Balls".  Coincidentally, "fushigi" (ふしぎ) is a Japanese word, meaning "mystery", and indeed seeing them in practise makes them look more mysterious than they are.  And for his next act, shown above, he spun these rings around so that one in each pair appeared to stay in place.  It was actually really cool seeing them in motion, and I would have stayed longer, but my flighty attention span was beckoning me to my next destination.  That would take me across town to Shinsekai, next time on Sekai Ichi!


Hours: Open from 9:30 AM to 10:30 PM.  Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time.  No regular closing days.

Costs: ¥1,500.

Address: 1-8-7 Ōyodonaka, Kita-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu  〒531-6023

Access: The Umeda Sky Building is 10 minutes on foot from Osaka (JR Kyoto/Kobe (A) and Osaka Loop (O) lines) and Umeda (Osaka Metro Midosuji (M) and Hankyu (HK) lines) stations.

Directions: From the North exit of Osaka Station, walk along the bridge between the two buildings, and turn right when you reach the road.  At the next traffic light, cross the road to your left, and head along the underground passage.  Once you emerge, the building will be across the next street.

From the Umeda subway station, climb up from exit 5; you will emerge in front of the Yodobashi Camera department store.  Facing the road, turn left, and left again at the next traffic light.  Continue down the road until you reach the end, and the underground passage described above.

From Hankyu's Umeda station, head down the street from the Hankyu Sanban-gai exit.  The underground passage will be at the end of the road.

Website(English) (Japanese)

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