Visitors to Odaiba Island while in Tokyo might catch a curious sight in the corner of their eye: A replica of the Statue of Liberty silhouetted against Tokyo Bay. This landmark is just one of many interesting sights to see on the island, but how did it get there? We’ll tell you the history behind how this American icon got to Japan. Did you know there’s more than one Statue of Liberty replica in Japan? We’ll also look at two other replicas found across Japan and see that American iconography isn’t just limited to the Tokyo metropolitan area.
The most famous of Japan’s replicas of the famous French statue, this statue can be seen with tourists flocking around it throughout the day. Interestingly, much like the larger original statue in New York, this replica was also erected as a symbol of friendship with France. Originally placed temporarily during 1998 as part of the Japan-France exhibition, the sight proved so popular with Japanese visitors that it was permanently reinstated in 2000. Visiting the statue is extremely simple for tourists, as they can just take the Yurikamome special train line to Odaiba from Shimbashi station to get within walking distance of the statue.
This replica of Lady Liberty is found in the city of Oirase on the northwestern coast of Japan’s Honshu island. It resides in Ichou Park, otherwise affectionately known as “Liberty Park” thanks to the statue replica’s presence. Despite its humble location, the replica is fully furnished with a matching pedestal, making it four stories tall, the largest such replica in Japan. The replica has an interesting origin story; many Japanese cities receive money from the government to invest in projects to attract tourism, especially in more rural areas of Japan. Oirase actually lies on the same latitudinal line as New York, and so the city government chose to construct a replica of the Statue of Liberty to tie the town to the bustling American metropolis.
Rooftop billboards are ubiquitous in Japanese cities, and you’ll even see some buildings in Japan topped by strange and eyecatching figures like the Asahi beer company’s “flaming heart” or a giant pachinko ball in downtown Kyoto. But the Osakan Statue of Liberty takes advertising to a new level. Located in Osaka’s New Osaka district, this replica proudly tops a block of storefronts. New Osaka became a hotspot for American goods in the region as the Japanese economy grew and began importing American goods during the 1970s. Hereafter it was known as Amerikamura, the American Village, and the streets are filled with exciting and interesting American iconography. The Statue replica was built in 1984 to top the New American Plaza office building.
Japan’s love of a symbol of the United States like the Statue of Liberty is interesting. Although the original statue in New York is associated with political issues such as immigration and independence, in Japan these replicas are tied to commerce and the appeal of American imagery. Even though the replica in Odaiba was created to celebratee the relationship between Japan and France, people were more interested in a replica of the American relationship instead of a new original design. Looking at how differently the statue’s replicas are viewed in Japan, it’s clear that American iconography can be seen in a variety of ways by the rest of the world.