Interview by James Ogul
Five world expositions have taken place so far this century: Hannover, Germany (2000); Aichi, Japan (2005); Shanghai, China (2010); Milan, Italy (2015); and Dubai (2020-21) Their combined attendance adds up to more than 159 million visits.
The next World Expo, Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai is a six-month event (April 13-October 13) with the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives,” and three subthemes: “Saving Lives,” “Empowering Lives,” and “Connecting Lives.” The expo site is being divided into three zones, each representing one of the three subthemes, and each of the participating countries (150 are signed up so far) will select one of the three zones for its pavilion and exhibit their interpretation of that zone’s theme.
A world expo (aka world’s fair or international exposition) is a monumental endeavor, but Osaka has a successful track record. The Japan World Exposition Osaka 1970, the first international exposition in Asia, was a standard-setter and attracted 64 million visits. The International Garden and Greenery Exposition in 1990, held under the theme of the “Harmonious Coexistence of Nature and Mankind” was overseen by the Bureau des International Expositions (BIE), the same, Paris-based organization that regulates world’s fairs, attracted 28 million visits.
With opening day a little over two years away, RFPs and opportunities will continue to roll out for individual exhibitors and numerous other aspects of the event. Many of the participating countries have already issued contracts for the design, fabrication and operation of their pavilions.
To learn more about preparations for Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, we posed questions to Sachiko Yoshimura, Director General of the Overseas Public Relations Team at the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition, and Takuya Yoshiyasu, an officer on her team.
How will the expo theme be reflected in the exhibits and programming?
The Expo will feature initiatives aimed at creating a future society for our lives presented by 150 countries and 25 international organizations, as well as companies, NGOs, NPOs, citizens’ groups, and others from around the world. They are enlisted in the vision of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the official Sustainability Policy of Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan.
Each exhibiting country is currently considering on which of the three subthemes their pavilion will focus, and developing ideas on how they will contribute to the SDGs. The expo organization itself will create thematic projects developed by eight leading creators in various fields. The TEAM EXPO 2025 program, a best-practices, co-creation project, will launch prior to opening day and continue after closing day.
Tell us more about the sustainability policy of the expo.
The “Sustainability Policy of Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan” was determined in April 2022. The goal is that the expo will deliver new solutions to sustainability challenges, in keeping with the “5 Ps” of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership).
Towards the sustainable operation of the EXPO itself, we also determined “EXPO 2025 Green Vision” in April 2022. The vision contains directions and initiatives towards achieving “Carbon Neutral” and “Circular Economy” goals in the operation of the EXPO. Currently, in order to work toward the above policy and to materialize and implement the measures described in the Green Vision, we have several active working groups researching areas such as resource recycling, sustainable procurement, and decarbonization.
How are the city and region involved in planning and execution?
Preparations are underway in cooperation with Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City. We believe that it is necessary to build momentum not only in Osaka, but also throughout Japan, so we are also conducting collaborative programs such as online symposiums for local governments to promote their participation in the Expo and to build momentum in their respective regions. We will also collaborate with the Expo mayoral alliance, a nationwide network of local governments that will take the opportunity of the Expo to create a regional society of the future.
What are the projected attendance and demographics of visitors?
We expect approximately 28.2 million visitors, of which 3.5 million are expected to come from overseas.
What types of transportation and parking options will be available for visitors?
For public transportation the main routes will be railways and shuttle buses. We recommend the use of public transportation to avoid traffic congestion. For those who will use private vehicles, we are planning to have satellite parking lots that connect to railways or shuttle buses.
How will you make technology and innovation part of the fair experience?
Expo 2025 is, by definition, an initiative on technology and innovation, and we are working on Future Society Showcase Projects. We are planning to provide the participants and visitors various kinds of services by utilizing technologies. For instance, we are considering manned flights of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), advanced automatic translation systems (consecutive translation and automatic simultaneous interpretation) to provide a future communication environment without language barriers.
Can you provide information on the budget for the fair and how it will be financed?
Regarding the financial plan, we expect the budget will total up to 185 billion yen for the construction of the venue and 80.9 billion yen for the operation of the Expo.
We are planning this budget to be financed one third each, by the Japanese government, Osaka Prefecture and City, and Private Companies. We are also soliciting corporate sponsorships for additional funds.
What kind of measures will be in place to ensure the health and safety of visitors and exhibitors?
We have established a Medical Rescue Council, composed of medical personnel and related administrative agencies, to discuss and coordinate the medical rescue system at the expo site.
We have also established a Safety Council consisting of academic experts and relevant administrative agencies, which is examining the fields of disaster prevention and security in a professional manner. In addition, we have set up a Health Council consisting of academic experts and relevant administrative agencies to discuss hygiene management and countermeasures against infectious diseases at the venue.
How will you be promoting the fair and reaching potential attendees?
We hope to foster the momentum for Expo 2025 both inside Japan and internationally. We have conducted several market research studies to analyze demographics and help determine key content to attract visitors and boost awareness.
Based on this research we have been organizing a number of Expo-related events and initiatives all around Japan. For example, at the “1,000-days to go event” held in February last year, various kind of events were held simultaneously in a range of locations such as universities, train stations, art museums, shopping malls and more. These events successfully increased awareness and raised the interest of many potential visitors. We will actively continue our promotions in Japan, and are starting full-scale overseas promotion in 2023.
What kind of legacy will the fair leave and how will it be maintained?
In recent years, the world has been facing numerous crises of division. We hope that Expo 2025 will play an important role in finding common cause to help resolve problems and conflicts. By bringing the international community of Expo participants and visitors together around the theme, “Designing Future Society for Our Lives,” we aim to create an innovative setting where everyone can work together.
To ensure that the Expo 2025 will not be a one-time event, but rather a legacy for future generations, we are also aiming for reuse, recycling, and other methods to make the most effective use of the venue facilities, equipment and temporary construction. • • •