EXPO 2025: Osaka, Kansai, Japan
by Hirokazu Nishikawa
The Osaka-Kansai Expo will be held in the Kansai region of Japan, on Yumeshima in Osaka Prefecture, and is scheduled to be held from April 13 to October 13, 2025, for a total of 184 days. The number of visitors is estimated to be approximately 28.2 million, and the economic ripple effect is estimated to be approximately 2 trillion yen.
Japan has hosted five expositions in the past, the first of which was held in Osaka in 1970. Expos are events that bring together people and goods from all over the world, and they are places where wisdom and knowledge from across the globe gather to address various universal issues.
The 1970 Osaka Expo (EXPO '70), the first to be held in Japan and Asia, became a major event symbolizing Japan's rapid economic growth. The 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo will be the first international exposition to be held in Japan in 20 years, following Expo 2005.
The Expo is also expected to showcase new science and technology, and Japan is currently working on a number of initiatives in preparation for the event. In this issue, we would like to outline the framework of the Expo, the necessary infrastructure development, and the status of regulations and maintenance of the "flying car," which is expected to be one of the highlights of the Expo.
Yumeshima Location Map
The official website of the Osaka-Kansai Expo states that the purpose of the Expo is to use the centripetal force and power of the Expo to attract people and goods as a catalyst for continued growth in Osaka, Kansai, and Japan after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Expo will also serve as a "catalyst" for the development of new technologies and products that will make life more convenient, and the two goals of the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo are to "contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" and "realize Japan's national strategy Society 5.0."
Specifically, with regard to the former goal, 2025 is an extremely important year for accelerating efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations. With 2030 established as the target to fulfill the SDGs,the Expo’s aim is to be a platform for accomplishing them by the deadline in 5 years.
The latter aims to form Japan's national strategy "Society 5.0" (a human-centered society that balances economic development and solutions to social issues through a system that highly integrates cyberspace (virtual space) and physical space (real space)). This new society will follow past eras of the hunting and gathering, agricultural, industrial, and information societies. This age will be one in which various global issues are solved through technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), robotics, big data, and biotechnology, or in other words, a society in which the SDGs have been achieved.
Through all of the above, Expo 2025 Osaka-Kansai will "bring together the world's wisdom, including cutting-edge technologies, to create and disseminate new ideas," "increase investment from Japan and abroad," "create innovation by stimulating exchange," "revitalize the local economy and small and medium-sized businesses," and "provide an opportunity to disseminate a rich Japanese culture. The project aims to realize the following goals.
3. Infrastructure Development for the Expo
(Subway Extension and Reinforcement of Kansai International Airport)
The infrastructure development that will support the Osaka-Kansai Expo, with its great ambitions, will be the first step in the preparations for the event. In response to requests from Osaka Prefecture, Osaka City, and the Union of Kansai Governments, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has decided on a plan for infrastructure development related to the Expo. The plan includes the following five pillars.
Development of infrastructure around the Expo site
Improvement of access to the venue
Improvement of safety
Improvement of liveliness and attractiveness
Improvement of wide-area transportation infrastructure
Here are examples of transportation infrastructure improvements. Around the venue, plans call for extending the Osaka Metro Chuo Line, the transportation hub in the center of the prefecture, to Yumeshima Station (tentative name), as well as promoting the widening of other major bridges and the construction of multi-level intersections on trunk roads and other roads. As for infrastructure improvements to improve access to the venue, the Yodogawa River Left Bank Line, scheduled for completion by the end of 2026, is expected to be completed earlier and used as an access route for shuttle buses between Shin-Osaka Station/Osaka Station and the Expo site in the interim. In addition, Kansai International Airport will undergo a drastic renovation focusing on the expansion of international flight capacity, including the integrated operation of the north-south international flight area. Together with Terminal 2, this will create a terminal capacity of approximately 40 million passengers per year for international flights. As part of enhancements allowing venue access from a wide area, the Naniwa-suji Line will improve connections between Osaka and Kansai International Airport and the extension of the Osaka Monorail will enable travel without passing through urban areas, which will in turn strengthen the railroad infrastructure and create a ring highway network for the Osaka and the Kansai regions, including the New Meishin Expressway and the western extension of Osaka Bay Coastal Highway.
3. Flying Cars
Several contents are expected to be presented at the Expo, but one of the highlights of the Expo will be the "flying car. This new technology is currently being studied around the world and is expected not only to solve various regional problems, but also to provide a new form of transportation that will enable people to lead affluent lives wherever they are. In Japan, the government and the private sector have cooperated to establish a public-private sector council to develop a regulatory system and form a market, and studies are underway nationwide to develop various services such as passenger transportation, scenic flights, and emergency transport services.
This concept image of flying cars is by Ken Okuyama Design, and was created for the MLIT (From: AAMinJAPAN_211005ENG (mlit.go.jp)
The plan is to launch commercial service at the Osaka-Kansai Expo in 2025 to raise public awareness, as well as to start full-scale operations in logistics and passenger transportation. Although the "flying car" is a dream come true, it is not difficult to imagine that there have been many discussions regarding the regulatory system needed to ensure their operational safety. The following is a rough outline of the items under consideration and the progress of each.
Safety standards for aircraft
The short-term goal of the study on airframe safety standards between 2023 and 2025 is to organize special requirements for eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) airframes when obtaining type certification (certification that an aircraft type (excluding military aircraft) meets safety and environmental compatibility standards). The new requirements are to be organized for eVTOL (Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) aircraft. Progress has been made in organizing the types of aircraft to be considered, organizing the flow of studies for formulating considerations when creating safety standards, and tentatively establishing design requirements based on the types and performance of eVTOLs that are assumed.
Also, The mid- and long-term goals for 2025 and beyond include the development of safety standards that take into account the use of remote control, automatic flight, and autonomous flight, which are expected to provide convenience and help solve social issues.
Certification of Pilot and Maintenance Vehicle Skill
Regarding the requirements for certification of pilot and maintenance vehicle skills, the regulations state that "the role required of pilots must be considered in light of the development of new technologies such as autonomous control that will contribute to future autopilot systems, and the possibility that the role required of pilots will change" and "as in the case of conventional aircraft skills certification, the flight time and maintenance experience required for each type of eVTOL must be taken into account and included in the requirements.”
As for the requirements for pilots and maintainers of remotely piloted aircraft, the following points are also being considered: "A proficiency certification system for remotely piloted aircraft, which is expected to be used for cargo transport, should be developed, taking into account trends in Europe and other countries. The requirements for remote piloted aircraft maintenance personnel include to: "Clarify what knowledge and experience is required for systems that are not available for other aircraft, especially in remote piloted aircraft.
Operational Safety Standards
The issues to be addressed in the operational safety standards can be divided into three categories: (1) those related to requirements and processes for setting flight areas, flight paths, and altitudes; (2) those related to the maintenance of takeoff and landing sites; and (3) those related to equipment requirements and processes.
Regarding (1), the requirements include the establishment of limited routes and areas that take into consideration congestion with existing manned aircraft as a guarantee of air safety, and assumptions regarding the introduction of advanced traffic management systems that will become necessary as the number of routes and frequency of flying vehicles increase in the future. Regarding point (2), under the current legal system, in principle, takeoffs and landings are prohibited at locations other than airports, etc., and this includes the need to review operational methods as necessary. As for (3), it includes the clarification of equipment requirements to ensure that devices for measuring the airborne posture, altitude, position, or course of the eVTOL, and first-aid equipment for emergency landing when flying over water, etc. are clarified.
The above is a brief overview of the Osaka-Kansai Expo, and some of the issues that have been discussed. The Osaka-Kansai Expo states, as part of its philosophy, "We will live together in this world by recognizing the similarities and differences among the various forms of life that exist in the natural world, by developing empathy for others, and by respecting diverse cultures and ideas. By doing so, we humans will be able to create new values to address various global issues and build a sustainable future." Although there is still a long way to go in the discussions and deliberations leading up to the Expo, which will no doubt require a higher level of expertise than that discussed in this article, we hope that the Expo will be a good opportunity for many people of all races and nationalities to visit, share knowledge, and promote international exchange and understanding, just as the aforementioned philosophy suggests.