Japan's Tower of the Sun is an alien refugee from a 1970s World's Fair.

The Tower of the Sun Is an Alien Refugee From a 1970s World’s Fair

The Tower of the Sun Is an Alien Refugee From a 1970s World’s Fair

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
June 4 2015 2:45 PM

Behold Japan’s Tower of the Sun

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook and Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.

During Japan’s Expo ’70 the otherworldly Tower of the Sun jutted out of the top of the giant tent surrounding it. Now, after decades of neglect, the multifaceted, wide-winged art building has been refurbished and is finally ready to once again open its doors and allow visitors into its mysterious guts.

Finished in 1970, the 230-foot-tall tower is not, in fact, a terrifying beast from beyond time and space, but the work of artist Tarō Okamoto. The designer built the structure to represent the past, present, and future in one fluid construction, so the tower features three distinct faces. The golden face at the top represents the future and features light-up eyes. The segmented face jutting out of the tower’s “chest” represents the present, while the rather ominous face on the back of the tower is a sign of the past. In addition to the faces, the tower also features two 80-foot-long wings.


The spacious interior of the tower has, on occasion, been even more strange. During Expo ’70 the wide space inside featured a tall sculpture known as the Tree of Life, which reached up into the heights of the structure. Smaller sculptures were hung from the branches, creating a sort of psychedelic Christmas tree.

Once the World’s Fair it was created for ended, the Tower of the Sun was locked up and left to the elements. The lights in its eyes died, and the entire site began to fall apart. In recent years, restoration of the tower has brought the site back to life. New lights were installed, the interior Tree of Life was dusted off, and limited groups of people were finally allowed back inside.

More wonders to explore:

Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.