Osaka is a massive city sprawling, one of the largest in the world and home to over 19 million people. If you want to get a perspective on the city layout then the place to head to is the Umeda Sky Building, or more specifically the Sky Garden.
Getting up high when I arrive in a new city is something I do like to do. I’m not naturally a city person and it helps me orientate myself in the days to come without being overwhelmed. It’s also such a unique perspective on the world below.
The Umeda Sky Building itself is so distinctive it would have to be on the must see list for anyone with an interest or appreciation of architecture. For such a populous city the gap seems to be an almost unbelievable amount of ‘wasted’ space. Located in the Kita area of Osaka it’s constructed of two individually substantial modern tower buildings joined at the top by a massive circular construction known as the sky garden.
It’s not a garden as such, I was expecting plants when I first heard it called that but it is a very impressive viewing deck out to the horizon in all directions. The structure itself has been both criticised and praised but I love its unique lines and it’s won its share of awards. Even on an overcast afternoon, it was definitely on my must see list in Osaka.
Inside the Umeda Sky Building
Getting to the top is part of the experience
After having a walk around outside to see the structure from its various angles we headed inside. It’s 42 stories high but as you can see there’s a lot of empty space between the two supporting towers providing the opportunity for the Sky Garden at the top to appear to float from up there.
You start by taking the glass elevator from Level 3 (the ground floor) to Level 35. As you travel up you can see the city get smaller and more of it appears out to the horizon. You then switch to riding the glass domed elevators up to level 39 where you purchase entry tickets and continue up to level 40, the viewing area.
Exploring the Sky Garden
What I found most unusual and loved about Osaka’s Umeda viewing deck is that a good portion of it is open air. In Japan they don’t obsess too much about individual stupidity so they have safety rails between you and the city view, they have signs telling you not to climb the rails but they rely on your common sense not to climb over. The lack of tall barriers means you can see or take photographs over the top of the railings not through the glass as is most often the case. Even though it was winter and fairly cool outside I enjoyed the outdoor viewing deck the best.
We headed up in the afternoon so we would have the chance to see the building and view in daylight then waited for the sun to go down and the lights to come on across the city. If you have the time it’s definitely worth seeing it by both day and night. As you can see by the photos it was a grey overcast day with occasional showers coming through so we didn’t get a dramatic sunset but I’m still pleased we made the time to go. If you have your pick of days then a clear sunny day with a few whispy clouds to enhance the sunset would be ideal.
We headed inside to warm up a little, take a different perspective on the view from other points and have a drink. There are plenty of spots to sit down or look out in a different direction.
A date night venue
For the young and in love the sky garden is a romantic destination, and there were plenty of couples and groups making the most of Valentines week although we did learn that in Japan Valentine’s day is for the men to be treated, the girls get their day later in the year. Outside there is even a special corner for the romantics where they can fasten a love lock they’ve had engraved with their names or anniversary date.
What we liked and what we didn’t
We felt the Umeda sky garden experience was good value for a couple of hours entertainment. We’ve paid a lot more for a sky deck experience in other parts of the world.
I loved that you could be outdoors and see the view unobstructed rather than through windows. The fresh air is great and it’s much easier than taking a photo through glass which can be tricky at times to avoid those tricky reflections and smears.
As someone brand new in the city I was slightly disappointed that there weren’t more points of orientation to help you spot key sites around the city. It did mean we got good value and spent a bit more time up there than we might have otherwise to identify the places we did know. The distinctive Osaka castle and gardens are a good reference point to start with and it’s easy to spot. I guess now with a cell phone it’s not difficult to find your bearings with a map app.
Getting to the Umeda Sky Building
If you use a street map then getting to Umeda is going to look long and convoluted so I’m going to give the easy version through the shopping area and underpass here.
We were staying at the Hilton Osaka on this visit and planned to walk from there. The hotel is adjacent to Osaka Station and as it’s both a convenient walking distance and an easy landmark I’ll give the directions from there. Of course, you can click on the embedded Google map and get directions from where you are or plan to be but this will be much quicker than following the roads.
It’s an 800-metre walk from the centre of the Osaka station and will take you around 10 minutes. The walk goes through a long pedestrian underpass, don’t worry, even coming back at night it’s busy, well lit and like most of Japan, very safe.
Take the exit from the station up the escalators marked for the Grand Front Osaka. As soon as you’re outside you’ll see the distinctive shape of the Umeda Sky Building looming up in front of you in the distance. Aim in that direction and there’s a downward escalator directly ahead of you. Take that down and continue walking toward the Sky Building you will still be passing along in front of the Grand Front Osaka, stay close to the building and you will come to a crossing. Cross on the diagonal and you will see the entrance to an underpass. Follow that down and it seems to loop back in the direction you came from in a ‘U’ shape but just before the end you turn into the branch to the right. The underpass is quite long but straight forward, at the end exit up the stairs and cross the road on the signal. You are now right in front of the Umeda Sky Building. Written down it sounds a little complicated but it’s straightforward and fast.
**Note: When using escalators in different Japanese cities the etiquette changes. In Osaka you stand to the right, leaving the left side free for anyone who needs a clear path to walk through.
Address 〒531-0076 1-1-88 Oyodo-naka,Kita-ku,OsakaCity
Hours The Sky Garden is open from 10 am until 10.30 pm daily. However, there are some limited or special openings during the year. For example, a common Japanese New Years Day tradition is to watch the sunrise on New Year’s day from somewhere special so they open at 5 am for that.
Cost Standard adult entry is Y1000 but discounts are available for children, seniors and groups.
Osaka Amazing Pass The Umeda Sky Building entry price is included in the Osaka Amazing Pass, this is a one or two-day city pass that incorporates a range of the most popular activities and attractions in the city for one price. It can be a good option if it’s your first time in the city and you want to see a bit in a short space of time. Read more on the pass at The Osaka Amazing Pass, our experience and whether it’s good value.
Official Site: You can view the official website here, there’s limited information in English but you can find the latest information on opening hours and prices.
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