Japan is world-renowned for its amazing architecture, and it’s not hard to see why. I’ve written about some of Japan’s most jaw-dropping skyscrapers along with some of the more quaint, but still novel, houses.
It’s mind-blowing to me how many cool and unusual buildings are in just one city. Take Osaka, for instance; it’s the third-largest city in Japan and it has some of the strangest, most unique buildings on Earth.
The more I look into architecture in Osaka, the more I kept finding more and more beautiful, unusual, and just plain cool buildings.
Gate Tower Building
Sometimes, difficult situations lead to weird compromises. There’s no better example of this than the Gate Tower Building.
In 1983, a local business decided to put up a small office tower on their land. Unfortunately, they ran into a problem; the land where they wanted to build on? There was already a highway (the Hanshin Expressway) planned to run through there.
The two forces clashed and, ultimately, neither really gave in. The Hanshin company had no other options if it wanted to build its highway, and the property owners were steadfast in their desires to build an office building. Both sides were persistent and stubborn, and negotiations dragged on.
But after five years, they reached a compromise. The highway would go through the building.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets immovable object? Apparently, an architectural and engineering oddity.
Construction of both the highway and the office building began in tandem. They set aside floors 5-7 of the building for the highway.
The tunnel going through the building has measures in place to muffle sound and vibrations, and doesn’t actually come in contact with the building itself. Apparently, the office workers inside of the building don’t notice a thing.
The whole thing has a very futuristic feel to it. It’s easy to think of a giant metropolis with roads running through buildings on every levels, crisscrossing through the skyline.
What makes the highway even cooler is that, if you notice at the end of the video, it cruises right by the Umeda Sky Building.
Umeda Sky Building
Even though the Umeda Sky Building doesn’t have nearly as dramatic a history, it’s still probably the most recognizable sight in Osaka’s skyline.
Finished in 1993, the Umeda Sky Building is a unique skyscraper that, in essence, is two skyscrapers loosely connected. Not only does the Umeda Sky Building look amazing, but it also provides one of the best views of Osaka around.
The journey to the top of the building is long, but worth it. There’s a narrow, enclosed escalator ride up to the top, where you’ll find the Floating Garden Observatory.
Once at the top (if you’re not puking from vertigo), you’ll find yourself with a full, 360° view of Osaka. Take a deep breath and take the in the sights.
But the Gate Tower and Umeda Sky Building are both relatively recent additions to the Osaka skyline. For the last century, there’s been one, consistent sight in the Osaka skyline: the Tsutenkaku building.
Tsutenkaku (通天閣) or “Tower Reaching Heaven” maybe isn’t as impressive to outsiders as it is to Osaka natives, but everybody should be able to respect its longevity as a symbol in Osaka.
The Tsutenkaku has been standing in Osaka since the 50s, but it’s not the first iteration of the tower. Before that, there stood another Tsutenkaku that was a bit different.
The original Tsutenkaku was largely modeled after the Eiffel tower and, for a time, was the second tallest building in all of Asia. Unfortunately, it was irreparably damaged in a fire and had to be torn down.
Up until now, all the buildings that we’ve been talking about have all been tall, fairly conventional buildings. What about more unorthodox buildings?
Okay, so Namba Parks isn’t really a single building as a collection of buildings, but it’s still one of the coolest sights in all of Osaka.
Namba Parks is actually a shopping center and office park, but you wouldn’t guess that from looking at it. Walkways curve through the complex, looking more like canyon walls than the side of a mall.
And at the top, there’s a luscious garden. In one of the biggest cities in Japan, the collection of trees, shrubs, ponds, and waterfalls is a rare but welcome one.
But Namba Parks isn’t the only leafy, green building in the city. Another architectural marvel in Osaka is literally covered in plants. Say hello to the Organic Building.
Recently, eco-friendly buildings have been en vogue; buildings with LEED ratings, solar panels, and natural materials has been the trend as of late. But Osaka’s Organic Building, finished in 1993, has been green for longer than Al Gore’s been driving an electric car.
For the most part, the Organic Building is pretty run-of-the-mill; as far as I can tell, it’s just an office building. But on the outside, it’s a nursery for plants indigenous to Osaka.
With its bright red plates and leafy vegetation, the Organic Building stands out among the drab, white buildings surrounding it.
There are, of course, many other unique buildings around Osaka, but these were my five favorites. Which was your favorite?