Tsutenkaku is an observation tower in the middle of the Shinsekai district and is hailed as one of the main symbols of Osaka. It is registered as one of the National Tangible Cultural Heritage sites and attracts countless visitors even today. Its original design back in 1912 featured a base modelled after the Arch of Triumph with a replica of the Eiffel Tower on top. With a total height of 64 meters it was the tallest building of its kind in Japan and renowned as a prime lookout spot. It was heavily damaged during the 2nd World War and its remains disassembled for war effort, however it was later rebuilt in 1956 due to the large popular demand and nostalgia of the local populace. The current tower is 103 meters tall, almost twice the height of the original one.
The 5th floor is home both to the lookout deck as well as a shrine to the deity of “things the way they ought to be”, Billiken.
On the ceiling of the first floor you can see a repainted picture featuring the original tower with drowes of people. The 2nd floor is designed to recreate the nostalgic retro atmosphere of the nearby JanJan Alley, featuring an extensive archive of works by the author of the popular manga Kinnikuman. On the 3rd floor you can enjoy both an extensive exhibition about the history of Tsutenkaku, as well as refreshing yourself at the drink corner or cafe with a Tsutenkaku original parfait. Continue further up and you will arrive at the Tsutenkaku Orchard, faithfully recreating a traditional Japanese garden. The 4th floor is the observatory deck, but it truly and literally shines at night with colorful lighting and mirror balls reminiscent of a classical disco. The 5th floor is dubbed the golden observatory with glass panels from bottom to top. This is where you can find the gilded statue of Billiken, but also a statue of Ganesha that is supposed to make your dreams come true. Further above there is the Tembo Paradise outdoor observation deck, however entry requires an additional entry fee. On the other hand since only a handful of people are permitted entry at any given time, it can also be privately reserved entirely for yourself.
The underground floor is home to the Tsutenkaku Wakuwaku Land, focusing primarily on local foods and ingredients. It used to be an aquarium, however the 1973 oil crisis forced it to shut down. The neighboring STUDIO 210 is also a popular event space so be sure to check it out. In short, at Tsutenkaku you can experience the full spectrum of Osaka culture, condensed into one spectacular tower.
Weather forecast via the symbol of Osaka
Tsutenkaku has a rich history and deep ties with Osaka in more than one way. A permanent presence in the Osaka cityscape, it used to deliver various important information to the citizens via its neon lights. At night the whole tower is lit up and displays accurate time every full hour in a refreshingly colorful fashion. Not only that, but the neon lights installed at the top of the tower announce the weather for the next day. White colors represent a sunny day, orange symbolizes a cloudy day and blue a rainy one. If the tower turns pink it means it will be snowing the next day, although that in itself is quite a rare sight. It also serves as an advertising tower, with Hitachi's characters changing subtly every five years. At present the tower is lit mostly via LEDs, making various digital illuminations possible. Every year a zodiac ceremony is held at Tsutenkaku, featuring live zodiac animals for that specific year, with the exception of years of the dragon during which a sea horse is used as a substitute.
In February on Setsubun, the parting of seasons and welcoming of spring, the traditional bean tossing ceremony is held at Tsutenkaku as well, attracting not only tourists but also locals as well.
Billiken, the tiny god of Osaka?
Even though Billiken is often associated with Osaka, its origins can actually be traced back to the US, where it was created by an art teacher Florence Pretz. Pretz claimed the deity Billiken came to her in a dream. This oddly shaped figure made landfall in Japan in the Meiji Period. The Billiken statue enshrined in Tsutenkaku is gilded and it is believed that good luck rubs off on those who rub the soles of his feet. Known throughout the world, Billiken may be more familiar to the Americans who might recognize him as the mascot of the St. Louis University. The statue in Tsutenkaku is a 3rd generation, with the first statue originally installed in the Luna Park surrounding Tsutenkaku disappearing. Soon after, a second generation wooden statue was installed and enshrined until 2012 when it was retired due to extensive wear and tear especially of the soles of the feet. Soon after the current statue replaced the 2nd one. At the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the tower construction the statue was sat upon a gilded throne. Yet another incarnation of the Billiken statue can be found in the Matsuo Inari Shrine in Kobe, where on top of good fortune it bestows blessings of recuperation and convalescence, as well as improvement of one’s academic prowess. The original 2nd statue is currently touring Japan as a band mascot, bringing good fortune to people all over Japan.
Due to its close ties to Osaka, Billiken is often featured on various goods and is a very archetypical souvenir to take back home from your Osaka visit.
Tsutenkaku Wakuwaku Land
WakuWaku Land was created as an outlet shop of three major food producers, namely Nissin, Ezaki Glico and Morinaga. Specifically, Morinaga operates the “Kyoro-chan’s Unusual Sweets Shop” with newest creations and unique sweets that can’t be purchased anywhere else but here. There is also no shortage of Tsutenkaku-themed goods for those looking to buy something to remind them of their visit.
The shop operated by Ezaki Glico features time-limited seasonal goods, special edition and store-only goods like t-shirts, model cars and more. There is also a big statue of the iconic Glico Man installed in the shop, a perfect photo opportunity for visitors.
The chicken ramen shop by Nissin is a collaboration between the chicken ramen maker and Tsutenkaku, offering a wide range of goods such as various instant ramen noodles and other original goods. The adorable Hyoko chick in front of the store will happily greet you as you enter. No matter which shop you stop by they all offer excellent opportunities to grab a souvenir that is bound to make your loved ones and friends happy.
On the same underground floor where the WakuWaku Land is located there is also the STUDIO 210 common space where often various events are held. There’s a little something here for both young and old, so be sure to stop by on your way to or from the observatory deck!
Definitely the observatory deck!
The observatory deck with its see-through glass panels is a sight of its own, but there’s also the outdoor observatory under the sky just above the observatory deck. For a small additional fee it offers a breathtaking, unobstructed view of the whole of Osaka from a height of 94.5m above ground. As there’s pretty much nothing obstructing the view, the experience might be a bit overwhelming for all who suffer from acrophobia so please keep that in mind. The extended viewing platforms TIP THE TSUTENKAKU create a space about 1.5m wide and 5.4m long with see-through panels, making you feel as if you were floating in the sky.
Even the floors are see-through, offering a view of the street down below, with the people looking almost like tiny busy ants.
In the vicinity
Tsutenkaku is located in a popular area known as Shinsekai, which in turn is famous for the kushikatsu skewers. There’s no better place to indulge in the kushikatsu and other hearty treats than the JanJan Yokocho alley, with its nostalgic retro atmosphere of the Showa era and many famous shops like the Niku no Sakamoto or the Grill Bon. After that, stop by at a local crepe store for a feast not just for the eyes. No matter what you opt for it’s bound to be delicious and there is no better place to stop by for a feast around Tsutenkaku than JanJan. However JanJan is not just about food. What you can find here are also retro arcades and game centers with a 50 year long history, featuring retro video games, whack-a-mole, UFO catchers and crane games and more - starting at a measly sum of 50 yen per game.
There is even a pachinko, slot machine and pinball arcade in the area. You can even find a shooting gallery here, it odes not get more retro than this! For a modest fee of 1000 yen you can enter the Naniwa Club local theater founded back in 1950’s and enjoy a 3 hour session of live performances. For period dramas and other plays be sure to stop by at the Asahi Theater as well. On occasion comedians from the famous Yoshimoto agency perform here too! Next to the JanJan alley is the SpaWorld, a 24/7 multi-floor massive public spa with various facilities like the amusement pool floor, waterslides, stone sauna and more.
There is even a gym, a hotel, a recreation space and even a dedicated floor with 8 different types of baths from all around the world. Furthermore, right next to Shinsekai you can find the Tennoji public zoo. In summer there are special nightly entries available, making the zoo a perfect spot for a romantic date as you marvel at the fierce lions and polar bears, or the impressive giraffes and gorillas. As you can see the area around Tsutenkaku is rich with excellent spots to visit, making it one of the prime locations for a truly in-depth tour of Osaka.
Venue Name: Tsutenkaku
Business Hours: 10:00 - 20:00
Regular Closing Days: None
Phone Number: 06-6641-9555
Address: 〒556-0002 Osaka, Naniwa Ward, Ebisu-Higashi 1-chome 18-6
Access: 3 minutes from Ebisu station on the Sakaisuji subway line, 10 minutes from Doubutsu-En-Mae Station
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