Tsutenkaku Tower: A Nostalgic Osaka Icon

It seems that all major cities in the world have iconic skyscrapers or other large buildings. London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, in New York it’s the Empire State Building, and Tokyo has Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree! In Osaka, there is most certainly one building that is synonyms with the city, Tsutenkaku Tower. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Tsutenkaku Tower is not only a symbol of Osaka’s rise to power as one of Japan’s most influential cities, but is also a symbol of the city’s culture itself.


The History of the Tsutenkaku Tower


The Eiffel Tower of Osaka

In 1903, Osaka sectioned off a large part of the Tennoji area to host the the fifth National Industrial Exhibition. After the event was over, half of the venue became Tennoji Zoo and the other half became the Shinsekai and an amusement park called Lunar Park. Completed in 1912, the original Tsutenkaku Tower sat in the middle of the newly carved out Shinsekai. With the other structures around it at the time, the Tsutenkaku Tower very much looked like the Eiffel Tower, a stark contrast to the rest of Lunar Park, which was modeled after America’s imitated Connie Island.

The first Tsutenkaku was 75m tall and had a rope way that connected it to a white tower in Lunar Park

Old framed picture of the first tsutenkaku Tower
Long ago…

Post War Woes

The Shinsekai continued to gain popularity, but as movie theaters, restaurants and other attractions started popping up nearby, Lunar Park began losing a lot of its customers. Eventually Lunar Park closed for good in 1923, just 11 years after it first opened.

In 1943 the Tsutenkaku Tower burned down, as a result from a fire that started in a nearby movie theater. After World War II funds came together to rebuild the Tsutenkaku. While this new Tsutenkaku was a bit taller (108m), it sadly didn’t enjoy the prosperity its predecessor did. During the 60’s, Shin-Imamiya, the area near the Shinsekai, became synonymous with high crime. There were even a number of violent riots and that took place Shin-Imamiya! The high crime rate naturally, turned many people off from both the Shinsekai and the Tsutenkaku Tower. From that point, the Shinsekai basically became abandoned, and was untouched for the next few decades.

Tsutenkaku Revival

It was only in the late 90’s after several movies and TV drama staged in the Shinsekai became popular that people gradually started coming back to the Shinsekai. Nostalgia for things from the the turn of the century and an increase of foreign tourists have given the Tsutenkaku Tower more of the positive attention it deserves.


Getting to the Tsutenkaku Tower

The two closest stations to the Tsutenkaku Tower are the Osaka Metro Midosuji Dobutsuen-mae Station, or the Ebisu-cho Station on the Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line.

Tsutenkaku Tower is a short walk from either station. While you make your way over to the tower, be sure to take some time to explore the Shinsekai!


Tsutenkaku Tower

Though the Shinsekai has had its ups and downs, the Tsutenkaku Tower undoubtedly remains one of the most iconic spots in Osaka.

Tsutenkaku tower in the heart of the Shinsekai in Osaka

Tsutenkaku may not be the tallest buildings in Osaka anymore, but it’s not little by any means!

Near the entrance of the Tsutenkaku is a public shogi board, but this is just some random attraction! This shogi board is to commemorate one of Osaka’s greatest shogi masters, Sakata Sankichi. Through sheer persistence became one of the top shogi masters in Japan, and the people of Osaka celebrate him even today.

memorial for shogi master Sakata Sankichi in the shape of a large shogi piece next to a shogi board
Memorial for the great shogi master, Sakata Sankichi.

Also before you go through the entrance, look up. The giant mural on the underside of the tower is a replica of the mural that was on the underside of the original Tsutenkaku Tower.

mural of flowers and peacocks on the bottom of the tsutenkaku tower
Mural of Tsutenkaku: the very first Tsutenkaku also had this mural.

The entrance of the tower is actually below street level. Since the entrance is also pretty narrow and the elevator going up to the tower is a little small, it can take a while to get to the observatory.

entrance of the tsutenkaku Tower
Entrance to the Tsutenkaku Tower

If it does look like you might have to wait a while, check out some of the shops near the ticket counter. All the companies that have stores in the Tsutenkaku basement floor originated in Osaka!

small version of the Glico man in the bottom floor of the Tsutenkaku

large chicken mascot of chicken ramen in front of the chicken ramen store in the Tsutenkaku Tower
Glico and Chicken Ramen Shop, both companies originated in Osaka.

FYI, you can only use the Amazing Osaka Pass during the week; weekends and holidays excluded.

Kinniku man statue inside the Tsutenkaku Tower
Kinniku Man: the authors of Kinnikuman are from Osaka too!

Tsutenkaku Tower Observatory

The Tsutenkaku Tower observatory is only 100m, 1/3 the height of nearby Abeno Harukas, but all the same, you still get a good view of Osaka’s cityscape.

view of the tennoji area including abeno harukas and tenno-ji zoo from Tsutenkaku Tower
View from the Tsutenkaku Tower observatory
view of Osaka from the tsutenkaku tower observatory
Tennoji and the Ikoma Mountain Chain
billiken statue in Tsutenkaku tower
Billiken. Of cousre, Billiken is enshrined in the observatory. You supposed to rub his feet for good fortune.

Tsutenkaku Tower Roof Access

If you pay extra 500 yen (200 yen if you have the Amazing Osaka Pass), you can go up to the roof of the Tsutenkaku Tower. Though its not much higher up, there is no glass separating you from the outside, meaning you can get really great pictures of the city when the weather is nice.

golden door entrance to the rooftop observatory at the Tsutenkaku Tower
Entrance to the rooftop observatory at the Tsutenkaku Tower
view of Osaka bay from Tsutenkaku Tower rooftop
View of Osaka Bay

When you are ready, head down one flight of stairs to the elevator.

When we went the Tsutenkaku Tower had a collaboration with Hastune Miku going on.

Hatsune Miku collab with the Tsutenkaku Tower

Here she is showing off her newly learned Osaka accent.

Hatsune Miku collab at the tsutenkaku tower with Osaka expressions
Nan de yanen!
Classic Osaka humor. 「Chau Chau Chaun Chau」  “Isn’t this a chow chow?”

Hidden Garden

If the elevator for bottoms floor is full, and you feel like it, you can take the stairs. It wont take you as long as you think, as there are only 300 steps, which should only take about 10 minutes.

At the last of the stairs was a little Japanese style garden. You can also get to this garden from the Glico store on the third floor, but the entrance is a little hard to find.

Billiken in the garden!


Tsutenkaku Tower

Address 1-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka,
Osaka Prefecture 〒556-0002
Website https://www.tsutenkaku.co.jp/
Hours of Operation Mon-Sun:
Admission Fee Adults: 700 yen

Children: 400 yen

* Osaka Amazing Pass Holders: Free admission on weekdays only*

Be sure to visit the Tsutenkaku Tower and take in this beloved icon of Osaka!

Coming next time,
The adventure continues…

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