Take a visual tour of architecture in Osaka
Osaka boasts a diverse array of architecture—including a wacky waste disposal centre in disguise, a futuristic shopping mall and a castle dating back to the 16th century. Whether it’s your first time in the city or you have visited multiple times, these are seven buildings you’ll want to see after you check-in to your Osaka hotel.
1. Osaka Castle
One of the city’s most popular attractions, the iconic Osaka Castle is a national historic site located in the Kyobashi district surrounded by parkland. Actually composed of 13 separate structures, the castle is situated on a hill, which gives it an imposing air. It was originally built in 1583, but it’s been destroyed several times over the years, so the current main tower was built in 1931. Other sections still date back centuries, including the Kinmeisui Well, built in 1624, and the Kinzu Storehouse, built in 1751. Visitors can learn all about the castle’s history by touring its extensive grounds.
2. Umeda Sky Building
Designed by Hiroshi Hara and completed in 1993, these gleaming, conjoined skyscrapers are notable for both their unique design and the Floating Garden Observatory (Kuchu-Teien) on the top floor. From there, visitors can take in a 360-degree view of the city and beyond, with vistas all the way to Awaji Island. On the ground floor, there’s a restaurant area that replicates a town of the early and mid-20th century Showa era.
3. Osaka Station City
Once a dark and cramped transportation hub, Osaka Station underwent extensive renovations in 2011 and was reborn as Osaka Station City. Buildings on the north and south sides of the station house dozens of dining, shopping and entertainment options, while an expansive glass roof spans the distance between the two, covering the tracks. There’s a bridge called Toki no Hiroba connecting both sides where travellers can take a breather and watch the trains come and go. Best of all, it’s just a quick walk from the InterContinental Osaka, making both public transportation and entertainment super convenient for visitors.
4. Maishima Waste Disposal Plant
Dubbed “the world’s most adorable waste treatment plant” by Slate, this unique incineration facility was designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The colourful, cartoonish structure was built in the 1990s on a reclaimed island that was originally meant to host the Olympics (Osaka’s bid wasn’t successful). It may look comical, but the plant means business—it processes about 900 tons of waste per day. Tours are offered throughout the week, though reservations are required.
5. Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
Located in the Kita district of Osaka, this living history museum has recreated buildings and streets that represent everyday life throughout the city’s history. Visitors can see a model of the entire city during the Edo Period (when it was known as Naniwa), plus explore typical homes from the inside out, including kitchens, living spaces, and gardens. It’s like taking a step back in time, and a welcome respite from the bustle of the noisy city.
6. HEP Five
This popular shopping mall isn’t hard to find—just look for the building with the giant red Ferris wheel on top. Situated in the Kita district, the mall boasts nearly 200 shops and restaurants. In the lobby, there’s a massive red whale sculpture along with an information centre. Attractions like the game centre make this spot particularly popular with the local youth.
7. National Museum of Art, Osaka
This museum is actually mostly located underground. The notable part of the structure is, in fact, a massive glass and stainless steel sculpture that breaches the surface, creating a dramatic landmark among the more traditional skyscrapers of Osaka. Designed by architect Cesar Pelli to resemble reeds along a riverbank or the stalks of a bamboo grove, the structure also looks a bit like bunny ears, depending on whom you ask. Inside, the museum houses an impressive collection of Japanese art.