Join us for a ride on two of the world’s most unique escalators.

Escalators are one of those everyday things we often take for granted in public spaces, but here in Japan they can sometimes be an attraction in and of themselves. That’s certainly the case over at Shinsaibashi Big Step, a shopping mall in Osaka that’s celebrating its 30th year of business, where the escalators don’t just go up and down, they curve at the same time.

As a fashionable commercial facility, many of the customers at Big Step are young adults, who come to shop for used clothing, records, and sporting goods. When we popped by, specifically to check out the unusual escalators, we were struck by the complexity and beauty of the building’s structure.

Asymmetrical and colourful, the six-storey building sits in a U-shape, with a large staircase at the entrance that leads to the underground levels.

Searching for the mysterious escalators, we started at the bottom level and worked our way up, until eventually, when moving from the second floor to the third, we found one.

Stepping back to admire the unusual structure in all its glory, we couldn’t help but feel a flutter of excitement at the unique sight. This was our first time to ever see a curved escalator, and the curve was greater than we’d imagined, resembling a spiral staircase.

The technology behind this design was so foreign to our minds it seemed like something out of a wizard’s handbook, and the ride up to the next floor was just as magical.

As you ascend, your field of vision gradually rotates even though you’re just standing still, which is a very odd sensation.

After doing some research on the unusual escalator, we discovered that it goes by the name “Spiral Escalator” and Mitsubishi Electric is the only company in the world that manufactures them. There are only about 30 spiral escalators in Japan and Big Step is home to two of them — one that goes from the second to third floor, and another that goes from the third to fourth floor.

▼ The two spiral escalators are marked by the arrow below.

The design of the building looks as if it was made with spiral escalators in mind, and it’s possible this was the case, given that the first spiral escalator debuted in 1985, and Big Step was built eight years later.

It’s amazing to think that almost 40 years after creating the world’s first spiral escalator Mitsubishi Electric remains the only company in the world to make them. According to the company, the design helps to enhance architectural structures by delivering artistic appeal, and this makes it perfectly suited to Big Step, where you can find works by artists such as Seitaro Kuroda scattered throughout the building.

The restrooms on each floor have completely different designs, making it feel like a museum.

The artsy vibe extends to the on-site entertainment, which includes a movie theatre, a live performance venue, and an American pinball arcade.

▼ The commemorative medals available for purchase offer an arty way to remember your visit.

In some ways, Big Step is more like a fun amusement park than a shopping mall, and the star attraction is the spiral escalators, which we’d be happy to ride up and down all day.

▼ Even the shape of the steps is fascinating, as they appear to be slightly trapezoidal.

▼ If you’d like to capture both escalators in one photo, this spot on the fourth floor is the best place to do it.

So next time you’re out and about exploring Shinsaibashi and its heavily vandalised vending machines, be sure to stop by Big Step for the hidden escalators. It’s a great place to take a walk on the wild side, although you’ll probably want to stand to fully enjoy the experience.

Location information

Shinsaibashi Big Step / 心斎橋ビッグステップ
Address: Osaka-fu, Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Nishishinsaibashi 1-6-14
Open: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Photos © SoraNews24
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