Whether you refer to him as a robot or an example of automata, Gakutensoku was unquestionably a mechanical wonder.
The first robot built in Japan, Gakutensoku came into being in Osaka, circa 1929, the invention of biologist Makoto Nishimura. Using an air pressure mechanism, the 7’8” tall automaton would start his performance by touching a mace to his head before he proceeded to write out Chinese characters with his pen. He could open and close his eyes pensively, smile, puff out his cheeks, and move his head, arms and torso.
Originally created as an exhibit in honor of the Showa Emporer’s ascension, Gakutensoku toured expos, his tall golden visage and peaceful mechanical movements charming spectators all over Japan. In the 1930’s, the humanoid was touring Germany when he was somehow lost, a historical treasure taken from the world—but not for long.
In 2008, the Osaka Science Museum produced a new Gakutensoku. At 10’6”, the new golden-skinned automata is bigger and better, with all of his original movements recreated and slim-lined with a fancy computer-controlled pneumatic system.