Every major city here has an instantly recognizable landmark that has a strong emotional connection for the public. Tokyo has Tokyo Tower to symbolize the period of reconstruction and rebirth after WWII. Kobe has its famous tower. And, Osaka has the Tsutenkaku Tower.
It's not unusual for people to imbue physical objects, including historic buildings with 'spirits', almost as if they were alive and animate. Osaka's Tsutenkaku Tower, originally built around 1912 patterned after the Eiffel Tower as a part of the Luna Park amusement park, even featured an aerial cable car, and, unlike its sister structures in Kobe and Tokyo, has a shrine to the God of Happiness or "things as they ought to be", "Billiken", on its fifth floor. In an odd twist of fate, Billiken actually originated in the United States and came to Japan just two years before the tower was completed - but that's another story.
Just like many Japanese legendary heroes, Tsutenkaku Tower gave its life for the country. In the early 1940's, the government was concerned that it would be used as a landmark for American bombing raids and had the tower dismantled, melted down, and used to support the war effort. But the spirit and memory of the tower lived on in the hearts of Osaka citizens. In 1956, two years before Tokyo Tower was unveiled, Tsutenkaku was reborn in Osaka. In many ways the tower has become a symbol for the strong, vital spirit of Osaka that enabled them to survive extreme hardship yet come back even stronger than before.
What's all this got to do with robots? It turns out that Iwaki-san, the founder of Robot Force, and a group of other like-minded Osaka leaders, are behind the Tsutenkaku Robo Project, intended to inspire, and delight, people everywhere.This video of Tsutenkaku Robo acting as the Master of Ceremonies for the annual Osaka Electric Town Festival last month will give you a small taste, especially when he starts announcing to kick off the celebration:
The robot stands 170 cm tall, and has much, much more in store for the world.
Here's the promotional video for Osaka's own Hero Robot:
He's already invaded Tokyo, and might soon be on his way to points West:
We'd love to see him amaze and impress fans in the US, Europe, and around the world. With his combination of the Osaka spirit, Japanese technology, and advanced robotics, he would make a perfect Good Will Ambassador. He should be cutting the ribbon for other leading robot events, like RoboGames 2010.