Osaka’s New World Hallmark
Tsutenkaku, literally "the tower reaching the sky" is in the heart of Shinsekai district in Osaka. Standing 108 meters (354 ft) above sea level, it offers several observation platforms on the city. Thanks to its illuminations every night and its characteristic silhouette, the tower became one of Osaka’s landmarks and the emblem of Shinsekai.
Tsutenkaku cannot compete with the heights and the technological advancements of the newest observatories. However, its visit focuses on the heritage aspects and the creation of a retro-modern atmosphere, with a touch of tackiness that is typically Osakan.
A steel structure inspired by the Eiffel Tower
The first Tsutenkaku Tower was built in 1912 in the second Luna Park of Japan, mainly inspired by the Eiffel Tower. Its 64 meters (270 ft) high fascinated the numerous visitors. At the times, its access was possible by two means that were still rarities in Japan:
- An aerial tramway connecting the tower to the amusement park, and,
- An elevator from which it was possible to have a look on the metallic structure.
These innovative aspects of the tower were at the origins of the area’s name, Shinsekai, meaning the "New World".
In 1943, a fire 🔥 damaged the Tower which led to its dismantlement and its metallic components were redirected to the wartime efforts.
The present day’s octagonal Tsutenkaku Tower was built in 1956 by Tsutenkaku Kanko company, and designed by architect Tachu NAITO (1886 – 1970), who also created, among other things, the Tokyo Tower 🗼 and earthquake proof technologies.
A well-indicated visit course
The tower now has five floors, of which two have access on the outside, and a basement floor. Access to the ticket counter and to the lift for the observation platforms is made by the basement floor. At the same level, you will also find Waku Waku Land, an area sheltering two sweets shops (Glico-ya and Kyoro-chan LOL Lolly Shop), and a Chicken Ramen 🍜 Hiyoko-chan Shop selling ramen noodles.
The lift connects to the second floor where many possibilities of souvenirs are on display. Amateurs will find:
- The tower’s official goods shop,
- A wall completely covered with gashapon (capsule toys) machines, and,
- A small exhibition dedicated to the comedy manga Kinniku Man (Muscle Man) created by Yudetamago, a duo of manga artists born in Osaka.
Two main observation platforms
Then, heading to the fifth floor, you will enjoy a first vista on the city from the Golden Observation Platform at 87,5 meters (285 ft) altitude. If you want to attract luck, especially in love, you have better walking around the floor to greet all the seven gods of fortune and happiness. The eighth shrine is dedicated to Billiken, "The God of Things as They Ought to Be", that was formerly the Luna Park’s mascot, to which tourists make offerings for good luck.
With an additional fee, you can access to the outdoor observation deck Tembo Paradise, from the fifth floor, with an even more astounding view at 94,5 meters (308 ft) above sea level.
Each of the two observation decks have an unobstructed panoramic view on the city and, naturally, on Shinsekai district below:
- Tennoji Park and Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Kawazokoike pond and its red bridge,
- The colossal Abeno Harukas tower, another famous observatory in Osaka,
- Osaka Castle, barely noticeable among the business skyscrapers,
- Osaka Bay in the horizon toward west, and Tempozan Harbor Village’s Ferris wheel.
Night illuminations and local specialties
On the way down, the fourth floor has another indoor observation deck, at 84 meters (275 ft) above sea level, characterized by LED lighting and disco-balls. This floor is particularly enjoyable in the evening thanks to its illuminations. The tower itself is also illuminated at night with different colors to match the seasons and events.
The third floor is dedicated to the history of the tower and of Shinsekai district. The documentary movie is in Japanese, but it shows the first Tsutenkaku and the Luna Park amusement park that closed down in 1923. Near Café de Luna Park, you will find games themed on Pocky, the famous chocolate stick biscuit brand, and a Glico-ya shop, of the historical manufacturer of these sweets, based in Osaka.
A free little stairway gives access to the Tower’s outdoor garden at 26 meters (85 ft) high, that is also illuminated at night.
A new attraction was inaugurated in May 2022, the Tower Slider. You just have to lay on your back to go down this spiral toboggan, which is partly transparent with a view on the outside. The descent lasts about ten thrilling seconds, over a 60 meters (196 ft) long tube, from the 3rd floor to the base of the tower.
Lastly, if you are hungry, there is a lot of possibilities to eat at Tsutenkaku Tower, but Shinsekai’s area also offers many possibilities for lunch or dinner. The place is indeed renowned for its very affordable gastronomy, especially the kushikatsu, which consist of several ingredients (initially beef chunks) skewered on a bamboo stick, breaded and fried, one of the specialty dishes of Osaka.