Tokyo has many free observatories on top of high-rise buildings, as for example The Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku has a breathtaking skyline view of Tokyo. Osaka has a couple of good spots too, like the beautiful view from the Umeda Sky Building Observation Garden. It was by chance that I discovered another fantastic spot nearby; an observation space on the 15th floor of the Umeda Hankyu Building.
The Umeda Hankyu Building is a dual structure with the lower thirteen floors comprising the Umeda Hankyu Department Store. The upper floors up to 41F is mostly commercial space with corporate tenants. The 15th floor of the Umeda Hankyu Building is called Sky Lobby, being a very well maintained observation floor open to general public, and the best part is, it's free of charge.
The observatory being on the 15th floor, it does not give you that overwhelming panoramic view you get elsewhere higher up; however, it is ideal to view the traffic action around Osaka station below. Plus, on a clear day you can even view Osaka Castle in the distance.
The Sky Lobby was renovated in 2010, when it received greater windows that now reach from the floor to the ceiling. There is now also a Tully's Coffee Shop on the same floor. A lot of people come here to enjoy a coffee and the view after visiting the Hakyu Department Store. I have been to this place on a weekday and during a weekend, and I can say that it is more enjoyable during the week as there are clearly less visitors around.
One of the things you will notice is that there is quite a lot of security/management staff at the observatory, and one of the things they are tasked with is to ensure that visitors do not set up tripods for photography. Although you are certainly free to take snaps without a tripod. I never use one anyway, so I personally don't mind.
One disadvantage of the observatory however is that the flooring is white and the lighting quite bright in general, so that, at night-time, unless you go very close to the window, you may end up seeing significant reflection in the glass which interrupts the view. However, it's still great! So if you have some spare time in Osaka or if you have to wait for a couple of hours to catch the shinkansen (bullet train), the Sky Lobby can be a good way to pass your time. By the way, the best time to visit is in the evening at twilight time.