expo 2005 photo essays
- weekly report from the World Exposition in Aichi, Japan

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Week four (April 17, 2005)

The busiest week

This week was the busiest yet and probably for the whole Expo: for once, we had the German National Day on Wednesday, on which the German financial minister Clement and a lot of other VIPs visited the German pavilion. There was a lot of pressure that nothing must go wrong on that day, they apparently even flew in two more technicans from Germany to take care of the pavilion ride, which still isn't running smoothly. Apart from that, there also were a few staff parties at various pavilions, most notably the long-awaited Croatia party which lasted until the early morning.

Also, it was a really pleasant surprise when I was approached at my workplace by a group of Germans who actually knew about this website. If you read this and happen to come to the Expo, be sure to drop by the German pavilion (you can also enter at the exit) and say hello, even though I might be somewhat busy at times...

· Germany National Day

I was quite surprised when I learned that I would join the official festivities for the German National Day on April 14th on behalf of the catering company I am working for. The reception was held at Meijimura (official web site) near Inuyama, a lovely small sightseeing village at a lake which features the preserved hotel lobby of the Frank Lloyd Wright's former Tokyo Imperial Hotel. It is a really pleasant place with scattered buildings along the lake, making for a great atmosphere.

St. John's church at Meijimura (taken from meijimura.com)

Kureha-za Theater at Meijimura (taken from meijimura.com)

We arrived there before noon to start preparing the Imperial Hotel where the festival would be held. Soon we learned that due to communication problems with the truck leasing firm we had to haul all the beer barrels, wine bottles, glasses, etc. from the trucks and inside the main building ourselves. After that, we (my boss, a co-worker and me) started setting up the place with a beer stand, buffets, bars and so on.

Then at around 4 o'clock the Japanese staff of about 50 arrived. As you can imagine, hierarchical differences were clearly marked among them. You had the silent young hostess girls, the slighty older waiters in grey suits, the quite jovial senior waiters in black, and then the really important group leaders and decorators on top. I - the only Japanese speaker of our group - was responsible for communicating with the Japanese staff; me being a foreigner enabled me to ignore all hierarchies and to deal directly with the Japanese super-boss, which saved a lot of time.

We decided that it might not be a bad idea to set up a staff meeting "some time around 4 or 5 o'clock'. This, of course, couldn't pass with the Japanese like that. At 4:30, they put on the main stage lights, turned on the microphones and directed everyone into the main entrance lobby for a major staff briefing. After the super-boss made clear that today was a very special occasion, that very many important people would be coming and that no mistake would be allowed, he passed the mic to us and asked us to give directions about the procedures of the evening. Since we had originally only thought of a rather informal staff introduction at the respective locations, we weren't really prepared to give a running plan. I, especially, wasn't prepared to hold an impromtu speech in front of the whole staff. This meeting probably left the Japanese staff quite much in the dark about how we were planning to run the show - that was mainly because we ourselves didn't have a real plan. That's probably kind of the German way of running things - just start the show and see what trouble you run in, then fix it on the spot. In the end, everything works out OK, not perfect, but good enough.

The special show for the evening was the dance show by the 100+ "Kölner Funken" carneval group from Cologne. Because of that, the beer sponsor supplied us with so-called Kölsch beer, which is served in a quite special way. Whereas in Bavaria, for example, beer is usually served in large beer jugs (up to 1 liter, the so-called "Maß"), Kölsch is served in small 0,2l glasses. The Kölsch barrels themselves were really small (only 10 liters) and had a special opening mechanism, so we had to wait for the beer representatives from Cologne to show us how to insert the taps. Also, the beer thirst of the carneval group had been hugely underestimated - if you have ever been to the carneval in Cologne, you might have an idea of how much these guys can drink. Keg after keg was emptied and we ran out of beer much too soon.

The ceremony was planned to begin at around 6:30, so we taken by surprise when at around 5 o'clock the first buses started showing up. After just 10 minutes, the hotel lobby was filled with more than 300 guests, even though we weren't finished preparing at all. Since I was responsible for the entire first floor, I got really busy beerwise - that means giving beer instructions to the Japanese staff, filling beer glasses, and distributing them to to guests. Therefore, I didn't really catch much of the ongoing speeches of German finanicial minister Clement, various town mayors, and the performance by the carneval group ("Zweite Reiheee, ün Schritt nach vünn!").

The Imperial Hotel lobby (taken from meijimura.com)

Reception with Mr Clement and the Rote Funken (photo courtesy of japan-photo.de)

At around 8:30, the party finally wound down; however, we still had to remove everything we brought from the building and haul it into the waiting trucks. After an one-hour drive and a late-night dinner, I finally arrived home long after midnight. Of course that meant that I'd miss the previously announced Argentinan pavilion party in Sakae in the town center, but I couldn't have cared less about partying that day.

· Croatian / Australian / Singaporean pavilion parties

April 15th marked the day of the previously postponed and long-awaited Croatian pavilion party. The pavilion inside features a large room, which has a elevated balcony all around it where the visitors walk and watch the movie projections on the floor in the middle. I didn't really like the location, which I found to dark and too noisy, but that probably was because I was still very tired from the previous days. Also, I was as unlucky as to get happôshû (no, that's not beer, even though it looks like it) from the heaps of free drinks provided - I just can't drink that stuff. I didn't really get into the party and left Croatia after 30 minutes to go home sleep. It's really not a good feeling if you're too exhausted from work that you're not feeling like communicating with people. From what I heard the next day, the party went on until four in the morning, which makes me wonder how the Croatian organizers dealt with the Expo party police.

The next two evenings had two smaller parties at the Australian and Singaporean pavilion respectively. In fact, they are right opposite to each other in the Global Commons 2. The Australian Bar (Sand Bar) is running on the weekend until late at night and serves Japanese and Australian beer. The Saturday party was a quite nice meeting of all kinds of staff, which took place mainly in front of the pavilion.

Band at the Australian pavilion party

At the Singapore pavilion

The Singapore party on the next day apparently was planned only for their own staff, but they still let us in and invited us to eat and drink from their buffet. The party took place in the Rain Forest room, where during the day artificial rain is falling to simulate a rain forest. The pavilion generally is really beautiful and also has a really good music and light system, which was used to play some club music until around 11:30 o'clock, when everything here has to close down. We talked to the party organizers and they said that this was only a "preview party" for the real one on May 1st - let's see.

· Next week: Mascot madness