Tower of the Sun
🌞 The Eccentric Artwork by Taro Okamoto
The Tower of the Sun is the iconic sculpture of the Expo'70 Commemorative Park located in Suita, in the northern suburb of Osaka. The unconventional monument was designed by artist Taro Okamoto and is called Taiyo no to in Japanese. Its inside has reopened to the visit in 2018.
Osaka hosted the 1rst Universal Exhibition in Asia in 1970, and 55 years later, the Kansai area will welcome the upcoming World Expo, Expo 2025 in Osaka Bay. In the meantime, the city also hosted 1990 International Horticultural Exposition at the Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park.
Today, of the great Expo’70 cultural event staged in Suita in the north of Osaka, remains a large, wooded park, towered by the famous and authentic Tower of the Sun, Taiyo no to in Japanese. This totally unconventional sculpture, with a characteristic eccentric design, is one of the major artworks by artist Taro Okamoto (1911 - 1996).
With 3 faces on its outer shell, 2 in the front and 1 in the back, the Tower of the Sun illustrated at the times the main theme of 1970 Universal Exhibition, "Progress and Harmony for Mankind", with:
- The Face of the Sun at the center, symbolizing the present times;
- The Golden Mask 😷 at the top, meaning the future; and,
- The Black Sun, at the back of the statue to symbolize the past.
It was initially topped by a structure called The Big Roof designed by architect Kenzo Tange (1913 - 2005), but it is now standing alone in the middle of a vast lawn, which helps measure its dimensions:
- Total height: about 70 meters;
- Diameter of the body: 20 meters;
- Length of each arm: 25 meters.
On a side note, the Tower of the Sun is the setting of Naoki Urasawa’s manga 20th Century Boys.
The Tree of Life thriving again
Since March 2018, the inside of the Tower has reopened to the visit as a museum. Upon reservation, the public can thus (re) discover part of the initial 1970’s exhibition. There are indeed:
- The Tree of Life (or Seimei no Ki in Japanese) that retraces the evolution of life and species, from the first unicellular organisms to the Cro-Magnons;
- As well as the 4th hidden face of the Tower, called the Underground Sun. Note that the current sculpture is a reproduction, as the original one was lost when dismantling the Universal Exhibition and was never recovered.
Under mainly blue and red lighting symbolizing blood circulation, visitors are invited to enter in a fantasy universe, full of life and materialized by an explosion of colors and shapes. Those who were not impressed by the outside design of the Tower might be charmed by its inside.
The visit consists in climbing in the Tree of Life, standing up to 41 meters high, by stairways (5 in total and 145 steps) or escalators, especially for people with reduced mobility. The tour lasts 30 minutes, and is a one-way itinerary, with a start and a finish. The view extends inside the sculpture’s arms, even if it is not possible to go there anymore. For safety reasons, taking pictures is only allowed at the ground floor.
Comments on the exhibits are rather well done and give insightful information on the construction and the symbolic meaning of the Tower at its inauguration. Additionally, we strongly encourage amateurs of Taro Okamoto’s artworks to visit the dedicated museum in Kawasaki, his hometown in the south of Tokyo.
While not a must-see, the Tower of the Sun and the seasonal flowerings of the Expo'70 Commemorative Park, offer an original destination for a change from Osaka’s downtown atmosphere. The trip in monorail 🚝 is pleasant, and the recent LaLaport EXPOCITY shopping mall, as well as the National Museum of Ethnology, provide for a full excursion day in Suita.