The Tower of Babel in Beppu
Beppu, Kyushu is very famous for its onsen (hot spring).
The Beppu tower, built in 1957, is a symbol of Beppu city and is the third oldest tower in
Japan. At its prime in the 60s, Beppu city boasted 1 million visitors per year. The tower was
one of the biggest tourist attractions, but over the years its popularity has dwindled.
In 2012, Tsuyoshi Ozawa made an attempt to redefine the role of the Beppu tower. By
utilizing the neon signs attached to the side of the tower, the idea was to send a message to
the internationally diverse community of Beppu.
Beppu is host to a community of students and business owners of over 90 different
nationalities. The neon advertisement on the tower displays a six letters combination of“A”
“SA” “HI” “BI” “--” “RU” (“Asahi Beer”, in Japanese) in various different languages. The
messages, incomprehensible to most Japanese, flicker with meaning towards the few who
speak the respective foreign languages. It is also paired with a multinational chorus group
that sings a song with lyrics comprised of the 6 letters, in which the neon sign flickers in
synchronization with the music.
The tower of Babel is a symbol of people whose ego grew out of proportion. This angered
god, who decided to confound their speech so that they could not understand each other.
He then scattered them across the earth, and they stopped building the city.
We, as a people who live in a whirlpool of diversity, attempt to seek a moment of harmony
from the music and messages that emit from the Beppu tower.
The Tower of Babel in Beppu, 2012
Video , 17’09”,