For most visitors to Osaka, this is where it all begins.
You step off the train at Osaka Station, wander out of the ticket gate, up the escalators and suddenly there it is all laid out before you.
Directly in front of you, you see the towering shard of glass and steel that is Grand Front Osaka.
A quick glance off to your left will show you the Umeda Sky Building, now superseded by Grand Front as the tallest skyscraper in the area, but still a mightily impressive structure in its own right, and a popular dating spot too.
Looking to the right, you will see the walkway that leads on one side to the Lucua Shopping Mall, and on the other a walkway taking you to Yodobashi Camera, Osaka’s biggest and best store for consumer electronics, video games, hobbies and a whole lot more.
Suddenly it hits you. This is it, this is what Osaka, what Japan is all about.
Just try not to get lost amidst the noise, the crowds and the overwhelming sense of wonder and adventure!
One of the first places you’ll want to check out in Kita Ward is, undoubtedly the Umeda Sky Building. Built in the mid-1990s, on initial face value it looks like just another skyscraper, complete with cafes, restaurants, temporary exhibitions and the obligatory souvenir shop.
However, there is a lot more to the Umeda Sky Building than that.
The “floating garden” as it is called, is a 360 degree open air observation platform on the roof of the building. Not only can you see the city in all its glory but you can feel it as well. High above the city, even on a clam day, you can feel the wind and the air that flows to freely from such a height.
Umeda Sky Building also hosts some great events throughout the year.
Of particular note is the Belgian Beer Festival, usually held in the first week of June each year, in the courtyard on the ground floor. The event usually runs over three days and allows you to sample authentic food and drink not just from Belgium, but also from Holland, Germany and other European nations too.
This same courtyard also takes on a very European theme in December each year, as it is given over to the German Christmas market.
Carols, games, sweets, hot mulled wine, this little festival manages to capture everything that makes a European Christmas magical.
Heading away from the Sky Building and over towards Osaka Grand Front, we can also enjoy having a look around this, the latest jewel in Umeda’s crown. A simple, and very open plan style gives the initial 6 floors of the building a very relaxed and easy feeling, with a variety of shops, cafes, art exhibits and other regularly rotating activities for visitors to enjoy. The 7th and 8th floors, are dedicated to fine dining, with some excellent Japanese food, and a pretty good Paella place too.
Finally, you come to the rooftop garden on the 9th and 10th floors. The garden is much bigger on the south tower than it is the north, so perhaps that’s the better place to go for your post-dinner evening stroll.
However, the best view of the Umeda skyline, especially at night, comes not from Grand Front, or indeed the Sky Building. For the best view of Osaka at night, one has to go back to the source, to Osaka Station itself.
High above the rail lines, on the 11th floor of Osaka Station, you will find a cinema. However, before you go to see a movie, I recommend taking a step outside, for just outside the cinema complex, you will see one of the best rooftops in all of Japan.
The rooftop at Osaka Station isn’t well known to visitors, but for locals, it’s a great hang out.
There’s a coffee shop at one end, and a convenience store at the other. Personally, my friends and I like nothing better than after a hard day at work, especially in the heat and humidity of summer, to head to the convenience store, grab some snacks and drinks and toast another week of work well done as we watch the sun set over the whole of Osaka city.
Indeed this rooftop is uniquely positioned to give largely unspoiled views over most of the city scape. On a clear day you can even see out into Osaka Bay, as far as the mountains of Wakayama.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I can’t think of a better way to round off another exciting and enthralling day in Kita Ward, Osaka.