Day 3 of #blogjune – in which we travel back to the seventies
On the Sunday after we arrived in Japan we rode the shinkansen from Kyoto, where we were staying, to Shin-Osaka station and from there we rode the Midosuji subway line out to the terminus at Senri-Chuo where we changed to a monorail.
Unfortunately the trains on the Osaka monorail look pretty much the same as the trains on the Osaka subway line. We were hoping for something a little more Jetsons-style for our trip to Osaka Expo 70.
I remember seeing programs on TV about Expo 70 back when I was a kid, and I remember the stamps commemorating the Australian pavilion. It all looked impossibly modern, the amazing buildings and a proper monorail circling through the park among the retro-future pavilions.
The Australian pavilion, like almost all the other buildings from the Expo is no longer at the Expo Memorial Park but we later found out that it still exists, having been relocated to Yokkaichi City – although it’s currently threatened with demolition.
We were headed to the Expo park to see the Tower of the Sun, created by artist Taro Okamoto as the symbol of the Expo and which we had thought was all that remained but, although all but one of the pavilions have been removed or demolished, there is quite a bit more to see than we’d expected and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our Japan holiday.
You can see the Tower of the Sun from the monorail station as soon as you arrive. It was a sunny Sunday and there were hundreds of families out enjoying the park, walking dogs, and there was some sort of flea market taking place, but lots of people had come to see the Tower, its golden face shining like a beacon in the bright sunshine. The Tower now stands in the open among landscaped lawns and flower beds, but it was originally enclosed in a space frame in the festival plaza which was the Expo centrepiece.
There’s very little remaining of the Expo site, which is so sad when you see pictures and videos of what it looked like 40 years ago. Isamu Noguchi’s fabulous water fountains are
gone – we later discovered still there!
There’s a tiny remnant of the space frame that originally enclosed the Tower of the Sun, at what was being used as the venue for the flea market, and there were also some panels from Kiyonari Kikutake’s Landmark Tower outside the one remaining pavilion, the original Steel Pavilion, which thankfully reopened in 2010 as the Expo 70 Pavilion.
We stumbled upon the Expo Pavilion almost by accident and, through some confusion at the ticket desk, almost missed out on visiting the exhibition. The official Expo web sites assumes you’ll be visiting the Expo Park to view the parks and flower beds and there’s really not much publicity for the wonderful Expo Pavilion.
We couldn’t find any information about the Expo exhibition in Japanese, let alone English, and the staff on the day we visited spoke no English either but we managed to bumble our way through in basic Japanese and with a bit of pointing worked out that the Expo exhibition is upstairs in the Expo Pavilion.
The second floor of the pavilion houses an amazing museum devoted to Expo 70. There are models, posters, videos, artifacts, uniforms worn by the Expo hostesses, and some wonderful videos. Even better is the sound and light show in the auditorium, and if you watch from the room closest to the entrance you can hear the sounds from one of the original speakers. You can almost imagine you’re there back in 1970!
Take the red Midosuji subway line to the northern terminus at Senri-chuo. If you’ve come from Kyoto on the shinkansen, the Midosuji line passes through Shin-Osaka.
The one way metro fare from Shin-Osaka to Senri-Chuo is Y300.
If you buy a day pass for the Osaka metro, we discovered that the pass only covers you as far as Esaka station, three stops before the terminus, so you’ll need to pay a Y120 fare supplement to use the extension to Senri-Chuo. There are fare adjustment machines near the exit: put in your day pass and pay the difference, then use the small ticket from the fare adjustment machine to exit the station. When you come back, just buy a minimum fare ticket to get back in.
From Senri-Chuo follow the signs for the Osaka Monorail and take one headed east towards Saito-nishi or Kadoma-shi and get off at Bampaku Kinen-koen. The monorail fare was Y250 each way. You’ll see the Expo park and the Tower of the Sun as soon as you leave the monorail station. Entry to the Expo park is Y250. Head towards the Tower and then it’s a short walk to the right to the Expo Pavilion.
Staff at the Expo Pavilion didn’t speak English the day we visited but from what we worked out it’s Y200 for upstairs, Y300 for downstairs and Y500 for the whole thing. Upstairs is what you want for the Expo exhibition so buy a Y200 ticket.