One of the main reasons I went to Osaka was to visit Namba Parks - a very innovative shopping mall right in the centre of Osaka City. Completed in 2003, Namba Parks is far from your stereotypical shopping centre. It is conceived as an urban park, and in fact has a huge garden built right on its rooftop.
The building itself is also not a typical rectangular box that you find in most shopping malls. Instead it is a very intricate piece of architecture, its curvilinear forms reminiscent of natural landscape and inspired by the Great Canyon. In fact a huge canyon space cuts right through the centre of the shopping mall, and on boths sides of the canyon are cafes, specialty retail shops, entertainment and dining venues.
The garden on the rooftop is truly amazing. So much care and effort has been put into the design, and it is so well maintained that not a leaf is out of place. A really beautiful oasis right in the middle of a concrete jungle.
Designed by shopping centre specialist Jerde Partnership, Namba Parks is in itself worth a visit to Osaka. You will not find another more innovative and interesting shopping mall elsewhere. I really wish more shopping centres can be built like this.