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Looking for Summer Thrills? This Osaka Landmark Has a New ‘Tower Slider’

Riders swirl once around the landmark Tsutenkaku cylindrical elevator tower as they speed down the 22 meter drop in a 60 meter tube. Would you try it?

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At Osaka’s famous landmark attraction Tsutenkaku Tower located in the popular Shinsekai District of the city, a new feature called the Tower Slider opened to the public on May 9. 

The daring structure, a slide which drops one down from 22 meters above ground without stopping, is already a hot topic. However, there were some unexpected issues leading up to its completion. 

Looking at the newly opened Tower Slider, 47-year-old Ryuko Takai, president of the landmark’s operator Tsutenkaku Kanko Co., Ltd., said, “Isn’t it interesting? We want to make Tsutenkaku a “power-spot tower.” 

So will the new attraction be the trigger that stirs up Osaka’s slumping tourism amid the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The landmark Tsutenkaku Tower with its new slide wrapping around the outside. (Photo by Mizue Torikoshi)

Reaction to the New Attraction

There was already a line formed for the Tower Slider before its 10 AM opening time that day. Shingo Hayakawa, a 54-year-old man from Miyazaki City had lined up since 1 AM ー before dawn ー and was the first to try out the attraction. He said with a smile after screaming down the slide, “It was fun!” Then added excitedly, “I was looking forward to today. I think I’m going to get hooked.” 

Ryoko Ishikawa, 23, an office worker from Osaka City who was visiting with her friend, said with a satisfied look, “Building a slide is so innovative. I’m not a fan of thrill rides, but this was a lot of fun.” 

The Tower Slider takes people down from the 3rd floor of the Tsutenkaku Tower, which is 22 meters above ground, to the exit on the first basement floor in roughly 10 seconds. Riders swirl once around the cylindrical elevator tower as they speed down on their backs inside a specially designed bag along the 60-meter long tube slide. Its ceiling is transparent, allowing riders to take in the surrounding scenery ー if they’re quick enough.

Breaking the Pandemic Slump with a Slide

The crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus behind Takai’s idea for the new attraction. Before the pandemic, there were more than 1 million visitors a year to the popular site. That number dropped to less than half during the pandemic. 

Of course that makes it tough for management. But it is precisely at times like this in the midst of a crisis that Takai felt a unique project was needed that could “blow away COVID-19 with laughter”. 

Bungee jumping from the observation deck, or rock climbing the tower’s outer wall… Every time Takai thought of an idea, he would stop and think, “No no, it’s way too dangerous.” Then one day when he was feeling stuck and absent mindedly gazing at the elevator tower that stood right by the Tsutenkaku Tower, it dawned on him. “Wouldn’t it be great if people could slide around the tower? A slide would be fantastic!” 

President Ryuko Takai (left) and Koji Imanishi discussing the challenges encountered while looking at the drawings of 1956 drawings of the Tsutenkaku Tower on April 23, Naniwa-ku, Osaka (photographed by Yoshino Nakai)

Making it a Reality

Takai immediately put together a project proposal and contacted several construction companies. However, since there have been only a few similar projects in the past, the response to his proposal was always, “It can’t be done.” Just when he was about to give up on the idea, a playground equipment manufacturer in Higashiosaka, tandem Co., Ltd., came forward. 

Soon after, though, they came face to face with another problem. “We took on a really demanding job,” tandem Co.’s 55 year old managing director, Koji Imanishi, admitted. Upon checking the blueprint of the Tsutenkaku Tower for planning the construction of the slide, all that remained were drawings from when it was rebuilt in 1956. Furthermore, the lengths and dimensions of the columns and steel frames noted on the drawings were slightly different from the actual measurements. Also, because the elevator tower was a distorted elliptical shape, precise work would be required in the installation of the slide. 

Sleepless nights were spent during the days leading up to the completion of the slide. The stress caused Imanishi to lose as much as 8 kilograms. 

“If you had known that you’d face all these problems, you wouldn’t have taken on the project, right?” Takai’s comment led Imanishi to smirk and reply, “Double the difficulties, double the love.” 

With a total construction cost of roughly ¥300 million JPY (about $2.2 million USD), creation of the new landmark was filled with the sweat and tears of those who were involved. 

Experiencing the Tower Slider on May 9 (Kyodo).

Ride the Slide

Visitors can ride the Tower Slider at a cost of ¥1,000 JPY ($7.50 USD) per run (¥500 JPY, or $3.75 USD for elementary and middle school students). 

Those trying the slide must be at least 120 cm and weigh less than 100 kg to use the slide. 

Taking into account the need to maintain social distancing, the attraction waited to open until May 9, the first day after Japan’s long Golden Week holiday. 

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Authors: Yoshino Nakai, Sarasa Shimizu

(Read the article in Japanese at this link.)