May 8, 2011
These are the days that make me want to stay in Japan.
Golden Week, a virtual seven-day stretch of holidays, just finished up, and for the most part I didn’t do anything special. Just a combination of sitting on my couch trying to write and trying to get people to play Risk. Call it age or call it boredom but I’m just not as keen on traveling as I was one year ago. The only exception came on Tuesday…Japan’s Constitution Day…when I went to the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park.
In 1970, Osaka held the World’s Fair and constructed the grounds for the event just outside of the central part of the city. The people running the event enlisted the artist Taro Okamoto to create a “symbol” for the event, and he came up with the Tower Of The Sun (above). The fair came and went, and after several years the city decided to turn the fairgrounds into a park celebrating the event. They created a sprawling garden and retouched the Tower Of The Sun, opening up the Commemorative Park in the early 1990s. That’s what I visited last week.
Getting to the park takes a while, requiring a long train ride and a one-stop ride on the Osaka Monorail. But when you exit the station the scene becomes serene. Poking out from a clump of trees is the Tower Of The Sun, bigger than you expect and a bit perplexing to look at. My girlfriend gasped when she saw it from the walkway, shocked at just how huge it really was. She had been inspired by Okamoto’s work in university and, despite going to school in the city, never saw the statue before. It only becomes more impressive the closer you get, able to see the details of the face and the black sun painted on the thing’s backside. We weren’t the only ones sort of in awe of the Tower, as dozens of other gathered near the front of the statue posing for photos, hands outstretched like the Tower itself.
Though the Tower sits as the obvious draw of the park, the city of Osaka made sure to add plenty of other features to justify the 250 yen ticket price. The park features several gardens, including a flower area where we spent a significant amount of time. Fauna of various shapes and colors…though, to be fair, mostly just shades of pink in the Spring…gather near grassy hills and ponds full of disturbingly large koi. Despite the large mixture of toddlers and senior citizens, the area housing all these flowers comes off as deeply tranquil…to the point where photos probably do a better job at capturing the prettiness than my tired words.
During Golden Week, the park also hosted a giant flea market sponsored by a local radio station. Lines and lines of cars parked on a large field, and people set up ad-hock store fronts selling everything from handmade clothes to old McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Someone had an old Los Angeles Clippers jersey but I displayed a shocking amount of self-restraint in not purchasing it. This event also featured a slew of food stands and at least two bounce houses full of giggling children. We bypassed the baby-level activities in favor of the Expo ’70 museum.
The museum did what any museum would do – collected all sorts of artifacts (uniforms, programs, knick-knacks, uhhhhh robots) from Expo ’70 and put them out for the world to stare at. The Tower Of The Sun made up a large portion of the exhibits, including the original “gold face” in its entirety being on display.