The Tower of the Sun
Don't miss this weird and wonderful landmark of Osaka.
If you visit the expansive and scenic Expo Commemoration Park (Banpaku-kinen-koen) in Suita, Osaka, you’ll happen upon a strange and oddly haunting sculpture. This is the Tower of the Sun, created by artist Taro Okamoto for Expo ‘70, the first world’s fair held in Asia.
The 1970 Osaka World Exposition marked an important time in Japan’s history, one of optimism for the future of the country and its role in the progression of technology. This was clearly on display at the Expo. It featured the premiere of the first IMAX film, mobile phone prototypes, and introduced the first shinkansen (bullet trains). It also showcased radically futuristic architecture, of which the Tower of the Sun is all that remains today.
The theme of the Expo was “progress and harmony for mankind.” In his interpretation of this idea, Okamoto wished to represent the past, present and future all in one piece of art and did so by placing three distinct faces on his Tower of the Sun.
The largest face, an abstract, moon-like orb, sits squarely in the center of the sculpture. It represents the present. At the top of the tower is a round steel face plated in gold which stands for the future. At night, its eyes light up eerily. You have to walk behind the tower to see the third face, a large mask-like black sun which represents the past. This is a mosaic of pieces of pottery from the famous Shigaraki ceramics village. There was once a fourth sun, representing the underworld, on the inside floor of the tower. It has since been removed and is stored in an unknown location. At 230 feet tall, the tower is made of a steel frame and reinforced concrete. Wings that span 80 feet stretch from either side, and red mosaic lightning bolts flank the sculpture.
During the Expo the inside of the statue featured a 45-meter-tall sculpture called the “Tree of Life.” Meant to represent the evolution of all creatures, it was painted in bright psychedelic colors and had large orbs and miniatures hanging from it. Moving staircases surrounded the tree but you had to take an elevator to reach the top of the tower. The inside is no longer open to the public, but word on the street is it may be open in the near future with the Tree of Life on display once again.
Expo Commemoration Park is a huge park with many features, including a botanical garden, traditional Japanese garden, scenic walking trails and lakes. It also has two museums: the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum and the National Museum of Ethnology.