It’s not the only startling rooftop surprise in this town, either.

The area around Bentencho Station in Osaka’s Minato Ward is pretty nondescript. Yeah, cars pass through it on the Hanshin Expressway and trains on the Osaka Loop Line, but it’s pretty much a typical industrial neighborhood of factories and warehouses.

But if you happen to walk up this staircase…

…which leads to this bridge…

…when you turn your head to the right…

you’ll see a head.

Peeking out from one of the openings at the top of that beige-colored building is a giant Buddha head, and there was no way we weren’t going to investigate.

Navigating our way to the building wasn’t hard, since its size and color made it easy to keep in sight as we approached, even if we did lose sight of the head along the way.

Despite the Buddhist statuary, the building isn’t a temple or religious facility. Called the Ajigawa Call Warehouse, it’s an office building/warehouse owned by Maruhi Shokai, a company that deals in petroleum and petroleum-related equipment. When we knocked on the door to ask about the head, one of their employees, Mr. Hayashida, offered to give us an up-close look.

The company rents out part of the building’s office space to other tenants, and the top floor has both enclosed and open-air sections. Stepping out onto the roof we first saw the regular sort of maintenance fixtures you’d expect…

…but once we turned the corner, there it was.

Now, we should mention that in Japan, small rooftop Shinto shrines aren’t all that uncommon for office and commercial buildings, often dedicated to Inari, the patron deity of merchants and commerce. Rooftop Buddhist temples, though, are something you never see, nor are rooftop Buddhist heads, with this startling exception.

So…why? Well, remember how we said that the offices for Maruhi Shokai’s petroleum business don’t take up the whole building? Part of the leftover space was once a Balinese restaurant and import goods shop, which were also run by Maruhi Shokai. The head was made in Bali, and there used to be two more just like it, which they sold to customers. The third head, though, was installed on the roof to promote the restaurant and import store, and originally there was a banner with the shop’s name that hung down the side of the wall right underneath the head.

Both the restaurant and import shop went out of business years ago, so Maruhi Shokai got rid of the banner. Removing the head, though, would take a lot of effort and expense. It’s actually not prohibitively heavy, because even though it’s made of bronze, the center is hollow. The real problem, though, is the size. It’s too big to fit through the hallways or onto the elevator, so in order to get it down from the roof, they’d have to hire a crane.

Then there’s the fact that the company’s president is a pretty devout Buddhist, who often participates in festivals at local temples and makes donations to help pay for their upkeep. He likes having the head on the roof, and even in a secular sense, he likes the fact that it makes people smile or chuckle when they first see it (Osaka is, after all, the center of Japanese comedy).

Looking out at the city from the Buddha’s perspective, we picked out the exact spot on the bridge where we’d seen it from, and realized that while we were looking at the head, it had been looking right back at us.

By the way, if you’re wondering what kind of position Hayashida holds within Maruhi Shokai, he’s the manager of the small theater, Sekai-kan, that the company runs, which is located next door.

Inside, he showed us some of their stage props, like this giant book.

After that, he drove us to another office building the company owns in the neighborhood. This one doesn’t have any Buddha head on the roof…

…but it does have a giant hand and telephone. These, Hayashida told us, were originally props used by an overseas film production company. Back when the building was new and still had empty offices available to lease, they put a sign with the phone number for interested parties to call in the hand, where it could be seen by passengers on the nearby train line.

Oh, and he also took us to a gas station that Maruhi Shokai manages. It was just a normal gas station, so we didn’t take any pictures, but it was nice to have some proof that Maruhi Shokai really is in the petroleum business, because we were starting to wonder.

Related: Maruhi Shokai, Sekai-kan
Photos ©SoraNews24
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