As Japan’s second city in terms of business and culture, Osaka has a booming downtown district, Umeda. The main train station is here, as are a range of office and shopping buildings. I went to the Umeda Sky Tower, which is actually two 40-storey towers that are joined at the top by an open-air observatory “Floating Garden Observatory.” It’s not that high, but it has an interesting design in that the escalator to the top is in the open, in other words, the only thing between the escalator and the ground below is air.
Escalator to the top – nothing below this escalator and the ground over 40-stories below!
The V-shaped thing below the circular hole on top is the escalator
I actually went here twice, because the first time, I went in the afternoon and bought a ticket, then as I was about to go up to the rooftop, the staff closed it because of a storm. The storm eventually didn’t materialize but they didn’t reopen the roof (people take precautions seriously in Japan, at least a lot more than China, I’d think). They offered me a free half-ticket so I came back the next day at noon. The view over Osaka is pleasant with downtown Umeda on one side and the Yodo river on the other, which leads to Osaka Bay. I was also able to see Osaka Castle in the distance using my superzoom camera. The skyline is not spectacular as the towers are not as tall as say, Hong Kong, but they are attractive and signified the prosperity of the city.
I only went to one temple Shittenoji, which was walking distance from my hotel. Founded in 593, it is one of Japan’s oldest temples though it has a very new look probably due to recent renovation. The temple is a very open complex, and the main part consists of an attractive five-story pagoda in the middle of a plot of ground, surrounded by a shaded wall and gateways. This structure is kind of sterile but behind this are other shrines that have a more historic feel. There are even giant turtle ponds and a small cemetery.
Entrance to Shittenoji
Main part of temple – 5-story pagoda
Temple at the back
Another shrine at the back
Along the way to Shittenoji, which I went on my last morning, I also encountered this other temple, Isshinji, which was founded in 1185 in a modern compound with weird sculptures with a cemetery nearby. However, its main draw is rather creepy – Okotubutu, a Buddha status made up of the ashes of dead people.
Also, during the Siege of Osaka Castle in 1614-1615, this was the site of the base of warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu, who went on to become the virtual ruler of Japan.
The Yodo river which leads into Osaka Bay
Can you spot Osaka Castle?