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March 2019

Cultural Article

Toward the 2025 Osaka World Expo and Beyond

by Hiroki Sakamoto

On November 23, 2018, the Japanese city of Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city and the largest in western Japan, was selected to host the World Expo in 2025 (May 3 - November 3, 2025 totaling 185 days), beating out rival cities in Russia and Azerbaijan, during voting in Paris. It will be Osaka’s second time to host the event, with the first occurring 55 years ago in 1970 under the theme of “Progress and Harmony for Mankind”. 78 countries participated in the Expo pavilion, including the United States of America which displayed a moon rock.

Osaka proposed to host the 2025 World Expo on a man-made island called “Yumeshima” (or “Dream Island” in Japanese). The expected total number of visitors of the six-month-long event is approximately 28 million, and the economic benefits are expected to be about $18 billion nationwide. The Expo is expected to be a crucial opportunity for not only boosting the local economy but also creating a chance for the region to advance its goods and services on the world stage.

The official name of the 2025 Expo is “The Osaka-Kansai Japan Expo”, reflecting the participation of surrounding cities such as Kyoto and Kobe. Discussions are underway to have “satellite” Expo areas in both cities. Local people are eager to show the world a new Osaka, Kansai, and Japan in the Expo.

The 2025 Osaka Expo’s theme is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”, with two interconnected subthemes of “How to Lead a Healthy Life in a Diverse Manner” and “Sustainable Socioeconomic Systems”. Moreover, the “People's Living Lab” is a unique concept that allows for the participation of 8 billion people by utilizing the internet and virtual reality. It will enable everyone on Earth to take part in this unprecedented experiment. In addition, the 2025 Osaka Expo especially aims to promote considerations to leverage robotics and artificial intelligence for the public good.

Towards the 2025 Osaka Expo and thereafter, in order to deal with immediate transportation infrastructure concerns for the projected 28 million visitors to attend the event, new transportation links to Yumeshima will have to be built. A variety of transport projects and urban developments are being considered. For example, a construction project to extend the subway is being examined because there is no railway access to the island of Yumeshima at present. Also, in February 2019, Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) created a research group of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). MaaS combines transportation services from a variety of public and private transportation providers through a unified gateway that creates and manages the trip, and provides users with a convenient payment system through a single account or app. OCCI will study and develop advanced transport access to the Expo venue on the island of Yumeshima from downtown Osaka and other major cities.

Furthermore, there is also a plan to construct a casino complex on Yumeshima. In July 2018, the “Integrated Resorts Law” was passed by the Japanese parliament, paving the way for the construction of Integrated Resorts (IR) featuring hotels, large-scale international conference halls and exhibition facilities as well as casinos. This means that for the first time, a casino may open in Japan. By the establishment of the IR complex, not only casinos but MICE (Meeting, Incentive Travel, Convention and Exhibition/Event) will contribute to the development of tourism by attracting a variety of international events. In Osaka, for the purpose of strengthening its economy, attracting international travelers and improving the city’s international brand, authorities and companies are taking steps to prepare for the IR complex in Yumeshima. If the IR complex in Yumeshima is completed and opened by the beginning of the 2025 Osaka Expo, it is possible that tourists to MICE held in the IR complex would visit the Expo and vice versa. Additionally, those tourists could extend their visits to other close tourist destinations in the Osaka bay area, including Universal Studios Japan and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

In 2019, there will be worldwide events held in Osaka such as G20 Osaka Summit in June and the Rugby World Cup from September. There also already exists a variety of tourists attractions in Osaka, such as Osaka Castle Main Keep (an Osaka symbol standing 55 meters tall with 5 tiers), Abeno Harukas (the tallest building in Japan), traditional and historical events and facilities (Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine, Shitennoji Temple and so on), Dotonbori (a bustling commercial street always busy with playhouses and food shops from the Edo Period), and Osaka cuisine (takoyaki, okonomiyaki, kushikatsu and so on).

Osaka Castle Main Keep

Abeno Harukas

These mega events and lots of standard tourist spots, as well as the 2025 Osaka Expo and a potential IR complex including the casino, will mean an increased flow of tourists to Osaka in the near future. If you have a chance to visit Japan, why don’t you extend your journey to the exciting destination of Osaka, and experience Japanese history, Japan’s modern flair, and a peak into the developments of the future?

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