Osaka is one of those Japanese cities that offer itself to ultra exploration, and the more you look around the more you learn. One of the most intriguing districts of the city is Shinsekai, which is known as being one of the more rough and ready areas of Osaka, that was actually modelled on the blueprints of New York City and Paris.
The main reason I came to Shinsekai was to see the Tsutenkaku Tower, which is like an icon of Osaka and perhaps one of the more well known icons of the whole country. Tsutenkaku literally means “The tower reaching to heaven”, and there is a useful observation deck on the 4th and 5th floors. There are other observation towers in Osaka but if you have an Osaka Unlimited Pass that grants you a free entry here, it would be a good stop during your trip to the Shinsekai region. Otherwise, if you’re paying at the door, then it will set you back 700 Yen per person, although interestingly if you’re a dwarf, it only costs you 300 Yen – I smell discrimination!
Before anything else, though, it was time to look around and get a feel of the area. Having seen other districts of Osaka, such as Dotonbori and Nipponbashi, as well as the waterfront area that contains Universal Studios Japan, I was happy to see that Shinsekai had a very different vibe – though not altogether positive! The area has quite a bad reputation for being full of criminals and chancers and for not really for being a place for solo travel, however on the face of it, I didn’t see anything untoward and during the daytime there are so many other people around that you shouldn’t feel too unsafe, provided you take the usual precautions (i.e. don’t flash the cash).
I spotted the strange long-eared Biliken statues all over Shinsekai. Probably the most famous Biliken is the one within Tsutenkaku, who is smiling to his visitors on the 5th floor! I saw plenty of people rubbing the soles of his feet as they made a wish, so I joined in and made a small wish of my own. There are plenty of these statues all over the Shinseaki region, although it was a little difficult to get good photos of them due to being wary about being mugged (this area of Osaka is known for its crime against locals and foreigners).
I never really wanted to visit the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, so a quick trip up the Tsutenkaku building was a good alternative. It is a little expensive, though, so if you’re counting your Yen then perhaps just marvel at the structure from the outside. Some people say that Osaka is a little light on tourist attractions, and I would agree, although with so much good (and cheap!) food in the city, you can easily kill some time if you have to!