Photo:T.Kiya on Flickr

Spectacular Skylines: Kansai’s Best High-Rise Views

If there’s one thing the Japanese do well, it’s tall buildings. Japanese engineering and architectural expertise has given birth to some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring tall buildings in Asia.

Many have marveled at, and indeed written about, the incredible views one can savour from the likes of the Tokyo Sky Tree and the iconic Tokyo Tower.

However, Tokyo certainly doesn’t have the monopoly when it comes to spectacular skylines. So today, let’s take a trip south, as we survey the best high-rise views that the Kansai region has to offer.

Kansai takes in 3 of Japan’s best known cities: Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. These cities all have a unique character, a unique look, and indeed a unique skyline.

So here for your consideration are 5 of the best views that Kansai has to offer.

5. Umeda Sky Building: Osaka

Photo : Shinichi Higashi on Flickr

Whilst it is by no means the tallest or indeed most modern of Osaka’s dozens of skyscrapers, the Umeda Sky building is certainly one of the most iconic. Since its opening back in the mid-90s, Umeda Sky Building has established itself as one of Osaka’s most popular dating spots. The twin towered structure is topped off by its famous “floating garden”. This circular structure allows beautiful unobstructed 360 degree views of the city, stretching to Osaka bay in the south, Wakayama in the east, and Hyogo in the west. It also gives a great view over Osaka’s Yodogawa river. Admission to the Floating Garden is 700 yen for adults. Discounts are available for large groups.

On cold or wet days, you can also enjoy the view from the comfort of the café and bar to be found in the second from top floor of the building. The café also helps to sate a particular ex-pat craving of mine. They serve Newcastle Brown Ale, undoubtedly England’s finest export.

4. Kyoto Tower: Kyoto

Photo : p_creux on Flickr

Situated directly opposite JR Kyoto Station, finding Kyoto Tower certainly isn’t difficult. Despite being a somewhat modest 70 metres high (the hotel below elevates the tower by a further 30 metres) the observation deck of Kyoto Tower still remains the highest point in Kyoto city. At the base of the Tower, one will see the Kyoto Tower hotel. The tower itself is open to everyone though, and you don’t need to stay at the hotel to buy a ticket for the observation deck itself. In addition to Kyoto City, the panoramic views from the deck also take in the mountain ranges of Higashiyama and Arashiyama on the city’s outskirts. On a clear day, one can even see some of Osaka’s taller buildings on the horizon. While you’re there why not also stop off for lunch at the appropriately named Sky Lounge Restaurant at the tower’s base.

Kyoto Tower’s unique 1960s design also makes it something of a curio for photographers. Unlike the more famous towers of that time period, such as Tokyo Tower which employed an external metal lattice framework in their design, Kyoto Tower has an internalized structure of steel rings, overlaid with thin metal sheets which were then painted white. This gives the Tower a distinctive look, modelled on a traditional Japanese candle.

It may not be first on everyone’s Kyoto “to-do list” but it’s certainly worth a look.

3. Kobe Port Tower: Kobe

Photo : inove manore on Flickr

When you go to Kobe, one place you will inevitably end up is Kobe Harbourland. This vast area, taking in most of the central port area boasts a number of shopping malls, hotels and some excellent restaurants. The jewel in the crown though is undoubtedly the Kobe Port Tower. This imposing red lattice structure stands 108 metres tall and overlooks the pacific coast, heading out towards Rokko Island. The observation deck gives great views of the coastline on one side and Mount Rokko on the other.

For photo opportunities, Kobe Port Tower is best viewed at night, when the entire structure is illuminated. The bright lights blend beautifully with the surrounding harbor waters, making for some lovely photos.

The Tower also has a unique restaurant that spins through 360 degrees. Allowing you to enjoy the entirety of the city and ocean view as you also enjoy your lunch.

2. Tsutenkaku: Osaka

Photo : Calvin YC on Flickr

Out of Osaka’s Naniwa district, springs Tsutenkaku, also colloquially known as Osaka Tower. This 103 metre tower is the oldest structure on this list. The tower was built in 1956, during the post war economic boom, and has long served as a power symbol to the Osaka people of that generation of the new dawn that came in the aftermath of the devastation of war. This hopeful premise means that the Tsutenkaku often inspires feelings of both pride and hope in the people of Osaka.

Although it has been eclipsed in size in recent years by a number of taller structures in the region, Tsutenkaku still attracts considerable tourist numbers ever year. The area in and around Tsutenkaku also has its own unique charm. Kushikatsu restaurants, sleepy little cafes and vibrant izakayas characterize and area that may not be the most glamourous in Osaka, but is certainly one of the most interesting.

1. Abeno Harukas: Osaka

Photo : Chie Gondo on Flickr

The number one entry on our list won’t really come as a surprise to anyone who knows the region. Not only is Abeno Harukas the tallest entry on our list, it is also the newest. After years of planning and construction, this huge structure finally opened its doors to visitors in March of 2014. At 300 metres, Abeno Harukas is the tallest building in Japan.

Tokyo Skytree is taller, but since its primary function is as a telecoms transmission tower, it does not actually constitute a building in the legally defined sense of the word.

In addition to the spectacular observation deck, the 60 floors of the main building also house a hotel, dozens of bars and restaurants and more than 100,000 square metres of shopping space. For the more romantically inclined amongst you, nothing quite beats the sunset and night time illuminations of Osaka city as viewed from the top of Abeno Harukas. It truly has to be seen to be believed.

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