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An Adventure into Papua's Captivating Heartland

1 December 2023

Nestled high amongst the lush central mountains of Papua, the breathtaking Baliem Valley offers a portal into the unique indigenous tribal culture and unspoiled wilderness of this region. Trekking through picturesque hillside villages dotted with traditional 'honai' huts and sweet potato farms, one encounters the warm and welcoming Dani people in their spectacular highland setting. From witnessing tribal rituals to exploring ancient battle sites, the enchanting Baliem Valley provides adventurous visitors with an unforgettable journey into Papua's mesmerizing heartland. This pristine river valley not only delights but also educates on a way of life stretching back centuries.
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Samal Island
More often than not, the setting of the place that we are bound to explore has a strong bearing on our entire vacation experience. So if you’re looking for a place somewhere in Davao that is worthy of your time and money, then Samal is your perfect escape. http://www.samalguide.com/about-samal/
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Davao Museum and Ethnography
The evolution and richness of Philippine history ensembles a simplest framework of how social change significantly takes place to effectively initiate its highest form of realization.-Socio-cultural development. http://www.poklat.com/davao_museum_and_ethnography/
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Mount Apo
Towering at almost 3,000 meters above sea level, Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines. Aside from being the highest peak in the Philippines, this wonderful creation is so blessed by nature. https://discovermtapo.com/9000-feet-above-ground/
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Fort San Pedro
Visit Fort San Pedro or Fuerza de San Pedro to have a glimpse of Cebu’s rich history. The work on the fort was first started on May 8, 1565 by Spanish and indigenous Cebuanos under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi. http://faq.ph/12-places-to-visit-in-cebu-city/
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Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Still near Fort San Pedro and Sto. Niño Church is another Catholic church that you should not miss to visit while in Cebu City. The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, also called as The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and St. Vitalis, is the ecclesiastical seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cebu. http://faq.ph/12-places-to-visit-in-cebu-city/
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Basilica del Santo Nino
Just a quick walk from Fort San Pedro, you can already reach the Minor Basilica of the Holy Child, commonly known as Santo Niño Church. Considered as the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, it was built on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was found in 1565 by Spanish explorers led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. http://faq.ph/12-places-to-visit-in-cebu-city/
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The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments
The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture is a must-see if you are living in or just visiting the city. Located close to Hamamatsu Station in the Seminar & Exchange Center of the Act City complex, the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments (Tel: 053 451 1128; 400 yen) showcases the city's long connection with the production of musical instruments by exhibiting a collection of diverse instruments from all over the world. The first Japanese European-style piano was made in Hamamatsu over 100 years ago and now the city is one of the world's foremost production centers for instruments made by Yamaha and Kawai, including pianos, synthesizers and electronic keyboards. With help from Yamaha, the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments has gathered over 1300 musical instruments, some of them extremely rare and valuable pieces. https://www.japanvisitor.com/japan-museums/hamamatsu-museum-musical-instruments
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Hamamatsu Castle
Hamamatsu Castle (Hamamatsu-jo) was where the founding shogun of the Edo period (1603-1868), Tokugawa Ieyasu, lived for 17 years before he became ruler of Japan. As he lived in the castle during the time when he began a war for the purpose of uniting the whole country, it was also named the Castle of Advancement. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/castles/hamamatsu.html
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Sakurajima
Sakurajima (桜島) is one of Japan's most active volcanoes and the symbol of Kagoshima. The volcano smokes constantly, and minor eruptions often take place multiple times per day. Located in the middle of Kagoshima Bay, Sakurajima is the area's most prominent geographic feature, having an elevation of 1117 meters and a circumference of about 50 kilometres. Before a powerful eruption in 1914, Sakurajima used to be an island in the bay, but the massive lava flow from that eruption created the volcano's current land connection to the Osumi Peninsula in the east. For the majority of travellers, however, the volcano is still most easily accessed by the ferries that run the 3.5 kilometres between Kagoshima Port and the Sakurajima Ferry Terminal. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4601.html
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Kagoshima City Aquarium
Visitors to the aquarium are immediately drawn into the experience by stepping in front of the massive floor to ceiling Kuroshio Great Water Tank right after they enter. This approximately 1,360,000 liter tank focuses on the Kuroshio current; the current that runs off of Japan's eastern coast and is essential for supporting a wide variety of marine life. A large whale shark, graceful manta rays, and shiny tuna all glide right in front of your face. As you exit the large tank room, you walk right under these magnificent creatures, as the tank curves over your head. Kagoshima City takes particular pride in its marine life and the aquarium features many species that are indigenous to the local area. Those familiar with the southern port towns such as Makurazaki will recognize the shiny tuna (katsuo) in the huge 1st-floor tank, for example. Perhaps the most intriguing residents are the taka-ashi (lit. tall leg) crabs, whose leg spans can reach nearly 4 meters! These somewhat fierce-looking, yet serene animals are prevalent in the warmer waters between Kagoshima Bay and Tokyo Bay. Jellyfish, eel and squid are other creatures you can learn about through exhibits that are translated into English. https://en.japantravel.com/kagoshima/kagoshima-city-aquarium/1406
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Kagoshima Christmas Market
After stumbling across the Christmas Market at Hakata Station, I discovered that Kyushu was actually holding many Christmas Markets across different JR Station locations. Kagoshima-chuo station happened to be another of those market locations, and despite being a lot smaller in size than the Hakata one, this market still had beautiful lights and some lovely stalls. https://en.japantravel.com/kagoshima/kagoshima-christmas-market/33772
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Reimeikan Museum
The Reimeikan Museum (黎明館) is dedicated to local history and culture. On three spacious floors, it presents a wide variety of exhibits that cover the span of Kagoshima's history from ancient to modern times. There are a few interesting models, such as a large diorama of downtown Kagoshima at the beginning of the Showa Period (1926-1989) and a small scale model of a village from the middle ages. The museum was built on the former site of the local castle, known as Kagoshima or Tsurumaru Castle, and is surrounded by parts of the former moat and stone walls. The museum and castle ruins are located at the base of Mount Shiroyama, which literally means "castle mountain" in Japanese. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4606.html
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Shiroyama Park
Shiroyama Park (城山公園, Shiroyama Kōen) is a park in downtown Kagoshima that extends over Mount Shiroyama. With an elevation of 107 meters, the mountain formerly served as the site of a castle fortification, which led to its name. Shiroyama literally means "castle mountain" in Japanese. The castle's former grounds at the base of the mountain now serve as the site of the Reimeikan Museum. The park is most famous for its Shiroyama Observatory with spectacular views over downtown Kagoshima, Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima. The night view is also nice, particularly if a clear sky and bright moon allow Sakurajima to remain visible. Nice views can also be enjoyed from the Satsuma no Yu outdoor hot spring bath at the nearby Castle Park Hotel, which is also open to non-staying guests. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4607.html
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Senganen Garden
Senganen Garden (仙巌園), also known as Isoteien (磯庭園), is a Japanese style landscaped garden along the coast north of downtown Kagoshima. One of the garden's most striking features is its use of Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay as borrowed scenery. The garden also includes small ponds, streams, shrines and a bamboo grove. Senganen was constructed in 1658 by the wealthy Shimazu Clan, one of the most powerful feudal clans during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The Shimazu ruled the Satsuma domain (present-day Kagoshima) for almost 700 years until the end of the feudal age in 1868. They continued to be influential into the modern era as some of the earliest adopters of Western science and technology. At the centre of the garden stands the Iso Residence. The residence was originally built in 1658 along with the rest of the garden, but the current building mostly dates back to a mid-1880s reconstruction. After the end of the feudal age, the Iso Residence became the main residence of the Shimazu family, and its rooms are preserved in the way they were used in the 1890s. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4602.html
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Chiba Zoological Park
The Chiba Zoological Park, first opened in April 1985, is located about halfway between Tokyo and Narita, just outside of the city of Chiba. The zoo is divided into seven sections: the Zoological Hall, the Small Animal Zone, the Steppe Zone, the Monkey Zone, the Avian and Aquatic Zone, the Ancestors of Domestic Animals Zone, and the Children’s Zoo. The Small Animal Zone houses Futa, the red panda who in 2005 became a television celebrity because of his ability to stand on his hind legs. His son, Kuta, now has the same ability, so you have twice the chance to see the spectacle when you stop by! The park map has pictures of the animals (at their locations), so there is no need to worry if you cannot get ahold of an English map. If you can, it is extra special to visit the zoo between mid-March and mid-April, when the many cherry blossom trees onsite are in full bloom! https://en.japantravel.com/places/chiba/chiba-zoological-park/16
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Odaiba
Odaiba is a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man made island in Tokyo Bay. It originated as a set of small man made fort islands (daiba literally means "fort"), which were built towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868) to protect Tokyo against possible attacks from the sea and specifically in response to the gunboat diplomacy of Commodore Perry. More than a century later, the small islands were joined into larger islands by massive landfills, and Tokyo began a spectacular development project aimed to turn the islands into a futuristic residential and business district during the extravagant 1980s. But development was critically slowed after the burst of the "bubble economy" in the early 1990s, leaving Odaiba nearly vacant. It was not until the second half of the 1990s, when several hotels, shopping malls and the Yurikamome elevated train line were opened, that Odaiba developed into one of Tokyo's most popular tourist attractions and date spots with a wide selection of shopping, dining and leisure options. Despite the initial setbacks, several lavish development projects did materialize, including some of Tokyo's boldest architectural creations, such as the Fuji TV Building, Telecom Center and Tokyo Big Sight. Modern city planning furthermore provides Odaiba with plenty of green space and a pleasant division of motorized and pedestrian traffic using elevated walkways and the like. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html
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Tsukishima
Tsukishima (月島, lit. moon island) is a man made island in Tokyo Bay, just across the channel from Tsukiji fish market. It was created over 100 years ago using earth that was dredged from the bay during the construction of a shipping channel. In the last few decades, areas of the island were redeveloped into residential high-rise complexes; however, you can still find remnants of the atmosphere of old Tokyo if you poke around the back alleys and lanes, especially around Sumiyoshi Shrine. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3015.html
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Hama Rikyu
Hama Rikyu (浜離宮, Hama Rikyū), is a large, attractive landscape garden in central Tokyo. Located alongside Tokyo Bay, Hama Rikyu features seawater ponds which change level with the tides, and a teahouse on an island where visitors can rest and enjoy the scenery. The traditionally styled garden stands in stark contrast to the skyscrapers of the adjacent Shiodome district. The garden has served many purposes over the centuries. It was originally built as a feudal lord's Tokyo residence and duck hunting grounds during the Edo Period (1603-1867), but later served as a strolling garden and as an imperial detached palace before eventually being opened to the public in its current form. Vestiges of these old roles are still visible throughout the garden including several reconstructed duck hunting blinds, and the remains of an old moat and reconstructed rock wall. Hama Rikyu is attractive in any season. Although not as famous for its fall foliage as some of the other gardens around Tokyo, it offers plenty of maple, ginkgo and other trees that show their beautiful autumn colors between late November and early December. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3025.html
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Tokyo Fish Market
Tsukiji Outer Market is a district adjacent to the site of the former Tsukiji Wholesale Market. It consists of a few blocks of wholesale and retail shops, as well as restaurants crowded along narrow lanes. Here you can find fresh and processed seafood and produce alongside food-related goods such as knives. A visit to Tsukiji Outer Market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast or lunch at one of the local restaurants. The restaurants are typically open from 5:00 in the morning to around noon or early afternoon. Because most of the fish served and sold at Tsukiji Outer Market is delivered directly from Toyosu Market, this is one of the best places in Tokyo to enjoy fresh seafood. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html
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State Guest House
The Tokyo State Guest House (迎賓館, Geihinkan) is one of two state guest houses of the Japanese government alongside another one in Kyoto. Contained within the Akasaka Imperial Estate in central Tokyo, the Tokyo State Guest House serves to accommodate world leaders, diplomats and other guests of honor during their visits to Japan. When not in use, sections of the grand estate are open to the public, with visitors able to explore some of the opulent rooms, picturesque gardens and the Japanese-style annex. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3048.html
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Imperial Palace East Gardens
The current Imperial Palace (皇居, Kōkyo) is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo Station. It is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family. Edo Castle used to be the seat of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1867. In 1868, the shogunate was overthrown, and the country's capital and Imperial Residence were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. In 1888 construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. The palace was once destroyed during World War Two, and rebuilt in the same style, afterwards. From Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can view the Nijubashi, two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) for its looks. The bridge in the back was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi (Double Bridge) is derived. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3017.html
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Korankei
Korankei (香嵐渓, Kōrankei) is a valley near Nagoya reputed to be one of the best spots for autumn colours in the Chubu Region. Shaping the valley is the 254 meters tall Mount Iimori, on which Kojakuji Temple stands. In the 17th century, the head priest of Kojakuji planted some maple trees along with the temple approach, prompting many locals to do the same in the area. Today, visitors to Korankei can see the fruits of these past efforts, in the form of excellent autumn scenery that peaks around mid to late November each year. The best colours tend to appear around the paths along Tomoe River at the western and southern sides of Mount Iimori. Visitors can enjoy lovely sights of maple tree tunnels and autumn colours in combination with views of the river and the few bridges across it. The vermillion Taigetsukyo Bridge is the symbol of Korankei and a great picture-taking spot. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3316.html
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Yasukuni Shrine
Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社, Yasukuni Jinja) is a Shinto shrine in central Tokyo that commemorates Japan's war dead. The shrine was founded in 1869 with the purpose of enshrining those who have died in war for their country and sacrificed their lives to help build the foundation for a peaceful Japan. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2321.html
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Akihabara
Akihabara (秋葉原), also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. On Sundays, Chuo Dori, the main street through the district, is closed to car traffic from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March). Akihabara has been undergoing major redevelopment over the years, including the renovation and expansion of Akihabara Station and the construction of new buildings in its proximity. Among these newly opened buildings were a huge Yodobashi electronics store and the Akihabara Crossfield, a business complex with the aim of promoting Akihabara as a center for global electronics technology and trade. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
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Tokyo Skytree
The Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is a television broadcasting tower and landmark of Tokyo. It is the centerpiece of the Tokyo Skytree Town in the Sumida City Ward, not far away from Asakusa. With a height of 634 meters (634 can be read as "Musashi", a historic name of the Tokyo Region), it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world at the time of its completion. A large shopping complex with aquarium is located at its base. The highlight of the Tokyo Skytree is its two observation decks which offer spectacular views out over Tokyo. The two enclosed decks are located at heights of 350 and 450 meters respectively, making them the highest observation decks in Japan and some of the highest in the world. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3064.html
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Koishikawa Korakuen
Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園, Koishikawa Kōrakuen) is one of Tokyo's oldest and best Japanese gardens. It was built in the early Edo Period (1600-1867) at the Tokyo residence of the Mito branch of the ruling Tokugawa family. Like its namesake in Okayama, the garden was named Korakuen after a poem encouraging a ruler to enjoy pleasure only after achieving happiness for his people. Koishikawa is the district in which the garden is located in. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3034_003.html
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Sensoji Temple
Sensoji (浅草寺, Sensōji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. It is one of Tokyo's most colorful and popular temples. The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple. When approaching the temple, visitors first enter through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer gate of Sensoji Temple and the symbol of Asakusa and the entire city of Tokyo. Various events are held throughout the year in the Sensoji Temple area. The biggest of them is the Sanja Matsuri, the annual festival of the Asakusa Shrine, held in May. Other events are the Asakusa Samba Carnival in August and the Hagoita-ichi (Hagoita Market) at which decorated wooden paddles used in the traditional game of hanetsuki are sold. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3001.html
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SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
Opened in 2011, the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is the railway museum of Central Japan Railways (JR Central). The museum seeks to educate visitors on the advances in high speed rail in Japan and displays a number of actual trains including historic steam locomotives, world record setting experimental shinkansen (bullet train) and the latest magnetic levitating trains (maglev). A collection of 39 retired train cars are displayed in the museum. Many of these can be entered or viewed from underneath, and are accompanied by a host of exhibits explaining the different parts of the trains and all aspects of their operation and maintenance. Another section of the museum is dedicated to maglev trains and JR Central's plans to construct a maglev high speed link between Tokyo and Osaka. The second floor of the museum also has lots of learning experiences, which are specifically geared toward young children. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3314.html
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Legoland Japan
Legoland Japan opened in April 2017 in Nagoya. The outdoor amusement park has many attractions aimed at young children and some attractions of interest to accompanying adults. Visitors can expect large Lego models, rides, building stations and dining areas. The amusement park is separated into seven themed areas, matching the different universes in the Lego world. Right in the middle of the park is "Miniland Japan" which highlights the iconic attractions across the entire country and is constructed out of millions of Lego bricks. Here you can find Kyoto, Tokyo and Mount Fuji just a few steps away from one another. The rotating Observation Tower not far from Miniland offers a bird's eye view of the park and its surroundings. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3317.html
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Sumiyoshi Shrine
In Osaka, the shrine is known affectionately as "Sumiyossan." Every year, from January 1st to 3rd, the shrine welcomes more than 2 million people for Hatsumode, the traditional first shrine visit of the year. The head shrine for Japan's approximately 2,300 Sumiyoshi shrines, Sumiyoshi Taisha is the most important shrine in the Osaka area. Praying to the gods here is believed to ensure maritime safety, as well as good luck in farming, waka poetry, martial arts, and sumo wrestling, and to ward off disasters of all kinds. Built more than 1,800 years ago, the buildings are arranged to resemble a fleet of ships headed out to sea. The shrine was built in an architectural style known as Sumiyoshi-zukuri, the oldest style used in shrine construction, and is registered as a national treasure. Sumiyoshi Taisha has more than 30 auxiliary shrines, as well as a number of festivals and rituals, including Sumiyoshi Matsuri. The grounds of the shrine are carefully preserved as a national treasure and important cultural property for their architectural and cultural value. https://osaka-info.jp/en/page/sumiyoshitaisha
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Nagashima Resort
Nagashima Resort is a major vacation destination just outside Nagoya. It is comprised of five main leisure facilities: the Nagashima Spaland amusement park, a water park, a hot spring complex, an outlet shopping mall and a flower park named Nabana no Sato. The resort is located on a long piece of land that is surrounded by rivers and the sea; fittingly, it is called Nagashima or "long island". Nagashima Spaland, reputed to be the best amusement park for roller coasters in western Japan, is the main attraction of the resort. The park is filled with over forty rides, ranging from gentle ones suitable for children to outrageous ones for those looking to spend some exhilarating moments. Immediately noticeable even before entering the main gate is the Steel Dragon 2000, a gigantic roller coaster ride which spans the entire length of the park. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3313.html
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Abeno Harukas
Standing 300 meters tall, Abeno Harukas (あべのハルカス) in Osaka is the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The building stands on top of the Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station and is conveniently located across from JR Tennoji Station. It houses a department store, an art museum, a hotel and an observation deck. The observation deck is called "Harukas 300" and occupies the building's top three floors (floors 58 to 60). The observation deck is accessed by elevators from the 16th floor. With large floor-to-ceiling glass panels all around, the 60th floor offers 360-degree views of Osaka, while the 58th floor features an attractively designed inner court with a wooden deck and cafe. A souvenir shop and restrooms with views are also available. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4026.html