2005 photo essays
Week twenty-eight (October 2, 2005)
Turning off the lights
Since we had to start working at eight o'clock on the day after the end of the Expo, I had the chance to see the state of the Expo site after the final night. In places, the dismantling of the pavilions and the Global Loop had already begun. I also visited the Expo staff thank-you party and a very special place on my last day on the Expo site.
· The day after
Arriving at the Expo site at 7:30 in the morning had fabulous weather with little fluffy clouds and (for a change) no queues of Japanese waiting for us. In some places, the demolishing of the site was already beginning, and construction vehicles were arriving one after another - as, for example, in the French pavilion next door, which had several cranes and vehicles already inside the building.
In some other places, you could see remnants of the previous evening - our staff room was a big mess of empty bottles and dirty clothes, while the whole entrance of our Common House had been severly vandalized. A few survivors of the previous evening were also becoming alive and starting to take a shower or absently gather their stuff. Outside, the first bits and pieces of the French and German pavilions had been removed and stacked outside.
In between of our packing and cleaning work, we raided the reception of the French-German Common House. The box with around 10,000 easy access ticket that can be seen below was now just pieces of worthless paper, but just one day before people would probably have killed for it, or at least paid ridiculous amounts to enter the German pavilion. It was also rather interesting what stuff you could find at this place - empty drink bottles, three-month old memos, random notes, etc. For half a year, this place had been permanentely manned and now, all of sudden, deserted and simply left in its previous operating state.
· Demolishing of the Expo site
Strolling the Expo site, you could see that the demolishing of the Expo site was already partially underway. After all, they have only two months to restore the original state of the Aichi Youth Park. The first task was to remove the contents of the pavilions, and you could see undergoing work in most areas. Then, piece by piece, the Global Loop would be demolished.
This dismantling of the Global Loop was already progressing in certain places. Apart from that, the Loop and the site in general were heavenly uncrowded - only the occasional staff and engineers passing by, sometimes (for the first time) riding a bike over the Loop. The pavilion zones (especially the northern corporate pavilion zone) had a really weird atmosphere about them, for the first time in months without any people around - and the funniest thing about it is the knowledge that they would never be like that ever.
The Expo Association beat itself in bad organization and held an Expo staff party the day after the closing, on September 26th. It was scheduled to take place between 4 pm and 7 pm. The first thing that greeted me upon my arrival at the Expo dome was, of course, a hundred meters long queue. When we were finally let in, I was somehow not surprised that I was nearly the only Western foreigner in between hundreds or thousands of Japanese Expo staff - the others would show up later. But of course the show started four o'clock sharp with the speech of the chairman of the Expo.
Mr Toyoda, the chairman of the Expo, looks like he never did anything remotely related to expositions or international relationships, but still received the job for his revered state. At his farewell speech to the Expo staff, he couldn't hold his speech in English but needed an interpreter - you know that it's a bad sign when the boss of the World Expo speaks not one word of English.
Of course, the Expo Association was more than proud
about the great success of the Expo, with its 22 million visitors. This
pride could also be heard between the lines of Mr Toyoda's speech, congratulating
themselves for holding a "new type of Expo".
The boss of the BIE, also had a few (rather superficial) things to say about the Expo, and then it was time to open the buffet. Drinks and food were plenty, and the crowd was more than happy to salute with beer. That was about the time I decided to leave, since I still had another mission to execute (even if I didn't know about it myself at the time).
· Satsuki & Mei's House
When leaving the Expo dome, I noticed that the gates to the Forest Zone were all open and unguarded, so I decided to find a little rest apart from the crowds in the forest. I couldn't have had a better idea - finally strolling about the forest with no Japanese visitors or security guards around was really good for my peace of mind.
After a few minutes, I realized that I was getting close to a place I had visited before: the watchtower from which Satsuki and Mei's House could be viewed. This time, however, all the gates were open, and I could see a few people hang around the house. Having nothing to lose, I decided to ask for entry, which was no problem: the few remaining staff who were starting to clean and pack up were so nice as to let me see the house - a real privilege.
Consider this: Satsuki & Mei's House was the pavilion with the fewest visitors of the Expo because of its reservation-only guided tour system, which allowed for not more than 500 visitors a day. Reservation tickets were balloted by national lottery, which received so many answers that the chance of being elegible were minimal. There was also no easy access for Expo staff which means that, apart from VIPs, I was among a probably very small number of foreigners that saw the house.
I guess the experience of visiting Satsuki and Mei's House would have had a much bigger impact if one would have seen the movie "My Neighbour Totoro" recently. I couldn't enter the house and of course didn't have a guided tour, but taking pictures around the area was enough for me.
· Leaving the Expo and Japan
It must be said that in spite of the bliss of knowing that the Expo is all over, nobody seemed really excited and happy - it seems that everybody was just too exhausted and to stupyfied in their mind to be having a good time. I realized that when I left the Expo site for the last time - it was not like having a weight taken from me, it was just so normal; there was no capacity and energy left to be happy about the fact.
Anyway, the immediate aftermath was not just about relaxing: I was working at the site for the next two half-days (Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th), then all kinds of errands such as canceling the mobile phone and moving out had to be taken care of - not to forget the final souvenir purchases and numerous farewell dinners.
I left Japan on the 30th in the morning, totally worn out. Our trip to the airport was in a minibus holding 20 people, and their luggage was adventurous to say the least. To be honest, at that point, I simply wanted to get away from Nagoya, from Japan and everything. Also, I can assure you that the flight to Seoul was an uneasy one - no surprise there (considering what happened to me there on my flight to Japan six months before). However, transfer procedures were smooth and I could finally enter the plane that would carry me home.
When I arrived back home in Germany, I was running on fumes - my level of exhaustion was legendary. Afterwards, I was reconvalescing for about two weeks, not doing much apart from sleeping and trying to get everything sorted out in my mind.
· Next week: Epilogue & Outtakes