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Retro Japan: Mushroomlike towers in central Osaka deliver air to 400K people every day

Air intake towers for the Whity Umeda underground shopping arcade are seen at the northern end of Midosuji Avenue in Osaka's Kita Ward on June 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)=Click/tap photo for more images.

OSAKA -- Giant mushroomlike structures loom in the city lights in front of JR Osaka Station as the sun goes down. At first glance it may be difficult to tell what they are: air intake towers for the sprawling Whity Umeda underground mall, visited by around 400,000 people every day.

    Air intake towers for the Whity Umeda underground shopping mall are seen from the bottom in Osaka's Kita Ward on June 29, 2020. This photo was taken with permission. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)=Click/tap photo for more images.

    Located at the north end of Midosuji Avenue in Osaka's Kita Ward, the structures were installed to ventilate the underground shopping streets in the Umeda entertainment district when the commercial facility opened in 1963.

    The towers were designed by representative Japanese architect Togo Murano (1891-1984), who designed significant buildings including the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in the city of Hiroshima, which is designated as an important cultural property, and Nippon Life Insurance Co.'s Hibiya building in Tokyo.

    Osaka's Umeda air intake facility consists of five towers with heights between 13.5 meters and 18 meters, and some of them are connected near the top. The squares, pentagons and hexagons of the towers' steel frames are covered with stainless steel plates, like patchwork. The organic design, consisting of bold curves, has both functionality and formative beauty.

    The Whity Umeda underground mall has some 180 tenants. Even though the times have changed, the air intake towers give life to the shopping arcade beneath, and stand as landmarks of the Umeda district.

    (Japanese original by Takao Kitamura, Osaka Photo Department)

    Air intake towers for the Whity Umeda expansive underground shopping district are seen surrounded by wide roads in Osaka's Kita Ward in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on June 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Takao Kitamura)=Click/tap photo for more images.

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    The Japanese version of this article was originally published on July 12, 2020.

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    This series explores Japan's architectural wonders and secrets of yesteryear. Read more Retro Japan articles here.

    Retro Japan in Photos: Air intake towers a lifeline to people in underground Osaka mall

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