The 2005 world exposition in Aichi Prefecture (Nagoya) Japan, was a six-month event, held March 25-September 25. Its theme was ecological: “Nature’s Wisdom.” 22 million visitors attended and 121 countries participated. The United States almost didn’t.
The Japanese government’s invitation to the US to participate at Aichi arrived at the State Department on September 17, 2001. On October 4, the Secretary responded that the US would not participate. This was primarily because the US Government (USG) was severely limited by legislation in its capacity to financially support participation in a world’s fair. The Government of Japan reiterated its invitation. Some two years after initially having declined, with the support of Ambassador Howard Baker the President gave his commitment to Prime Minister Koizumi on the occasion of a visit to Japan on October 17, 2003, that the US would “be present” at the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan.
Several months later, on February 13, 2004, the State Department issued an RFP inviting private US individuals, firms, associations and organizations (for profit and non-profit) to compete to create the US presence for Aichi 2005. The winning organization would have the authority to raise money for and develop and manage a US pavilion/exhibition covering 15,000 square feet. The Department indicated it would provide a letter authorizing it to proceed, on behalf of the USG raising the funds necessary to complete the project – then estimated at $20 million. I was named the Project Coordinator in the RFP and continued in that capacity throughout the endeavor.
A group incorporated as Aichi USA 2005 World Exposition, Inc. went through the RFP process and was selected after an expert panel was called to review its proposal. Following that review, a Letter of Intent was sent (at the end of March 2004) along with a list of conditions to meet before a Memorandum of Agreement could be signed. I put together the list of conditions based in part on comments of the review panel. On July 29, 2004, the US Department of State signed the Memorandum of Agreement officially tasking Aichi USA 2005 with raising all the funds necessary for the project and designing, building and operating the official US Pavilion.
Aichi USA 2005 raised more money ($32 million) and built a larger pavilion (22,230 square feet) than had been anticipated in the original RFP, enlisting 19 state partners and 56 corporate sponsors. Aichi USA 2005 was headed up by auto industry executive Douglas M. West. At the time, West was senior vice president of government affairs at Toyota Motor North America. More than half of the funding for the US Pavilion came from Toyota suppliers, including Coach, Rolls Royce, Dupont, and others (full list below).
Some eight-and-a-half breathless months later, on March 25, 2005, the expo’s opening day, the US Pavilion opened its doors to visitors.
The US Commissioner General was Lisa Gable, the first woman to hold that position in the history of US participation in world’s fairs. President Bush accorded her the personal rank of Ambassador for the duration of the expo.
The 22,230 square foot US exhibit was housed in a building provided by the organizers. The exhibits were produced by BRC Imagination Arts. Holloman Architects designed the building façade, a stylized rendition of the American flag featuring a 12-foot by 33-foot screen presenting America’s people, land, and culture. This was the first application of an outdoor large screen video on a US Pavilion.
The US Pavilion honored American statesman, diplomat, entrepreneur, and innovator Benjamin Franklin to showcase American culture, values, and technological achievements. Visitors followed an illuminated string of Franklin’s red kite (the kite motif evoked the famous story of his flying a kite in a storm to investigate the conduction of electricity) into “The Franklin Spirit,” a multimedia presentation which featured a virtual Franklin, returned to celebrate his 300th birthday and provide a uniquely American perspective on the “Nature’s Wisdom” theme of the expo.
Visitors next entered the American Journey gallery, which featured exhibits of American innovation from the past, present, and future. These exhibits included:
— A specially commissioned replica of the 1902 Wright Glider created by Orville and Wilbur Wright
— A 27 foot high display area where visitors could view same-day images of Saturn and its rings, received from NASA’s Cassini-Huygens mission
— A replica of the Mars Rover as well as live images of Mars from the real Mars Rover
— A fuel cell exhibit that featured a five-kilowatt GenSys(TM) stationary fuel cell manufactured by the National Fuel Cell Research Center
— A futuristic concept vehicle, AUTOnomy, the first vehicle designed from the ground up around a fuel cell propulsion system manufactured by General Motors
The US also presented a rich and varied cultural program. The New York City Opera performed Little Women and Madam Butterfly. Warner Bros. released its world premiere of “Batman Begins.” Visitors saw Texas country music legend Larry Gatlin, Mississippi blues guitar player James “Super Chikan” Johnson, Hawaiian ukelele player Jake Shimabukuro, a Native American dance ensemble from New Mexico, “West Virginia Boys” bluegrass band and Wayne State University jazz professor and performer Chris Collins. These and other performances played a crucial role in helping to showcase state and regional culture. Additionally, The US Pavilion cultural program afforded states the opportunity to invite sister city and sister state groups to perform on their behalf, further strengthening these special partnerships. Florida, Kentucky and Indiana took advantage of this opportunity.
A highlight of America’s Aichi 2005 expo participation was US National Day on June 20, a major media event that re-affirmed the bi-lateral relationship between Japan and the US. This celebration of youth gave visitors a chance to see a parade with the University of Southern California marching band, hear tenor Daniel Rodriguez sing the Star Spangled Banner, experience the Voices of Eve‚ N Angels (VOENA) children choir, and see a performance of Sesame Street Live. With the help of baseball giant Tommy Lasorda and former Texas Rangers president, Ambassador Thomas Schieffer, the day closed with events focused on baseball, a favorite American and Japanese pastime. US National Day was attended by a special delegation that had been named by President George W. Bush.
The US Pavilion also played host to business and political leaders from around the world in The Franklin Room, a VIP suite overlooking the entire pavilion floor. In the Franklin Room, the US pavilion facilitated international business and goodwill. It hosted 16 of the 19 state partners, eight of which had delegations led by governors (the number of state partners was a record that still holds). A US-Japan Innovation Summit was held focusing on mutual investment, cooperation and innovation.
There was extensive press coverage in national and local publications in the US and Japan, and total circulation was tabulated at 285,990,766 readers (media impressions) for newspapers and 65,067,186 readers for magazines, with more than 91 articles printed in Japan during opening weekend alone.
Attendance at the US Pavilion was 2,014,648‚ exceeding the initial target of 1.5M by more than 33% – and the pavilion was twice rated #1 in a survey conducted by a major television affiliate of the Asahi newspaper. Additionally, the US pavilion was honored with the Bronze Medal from the Expo Association.
Corporate sponsors, US Pavilion at Aichi Expo 2005:
American Airlines Cargo
DENSO International America, Inc.
Franklin Resources, Inc.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
GST Auto Leather
Gulf States Toyota
Gulfstream Aerospace – A General
Harman International – JBL
Johnson Controls, Inc.
Mitsui & Co., Ltd.
National Association of Manufacturers
National Environmental Education and Training Foundation
National FFA Organization
National Fuel Cell Research Center in Association with the Pacific Rim Consortium on Energy, Combustion, and the Environment
National Science Teachers Association
Norfolk Southern Corporation
Ripplewood Holdings, LLC
Saatchi and Saatchi
Servco Pacific, Inc.
The George P. Johnson Company
The National Audubon Society
Tokai Rika Co., Ltd.
Toyoda Gosei North American Corporation
Toyota Tsusho Corporation
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Union Pacific Corporation
Joseph Phelps Winery
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