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

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Week twenty-nine (October 9, 2005)


Almost seven months after my first entry on this site, my Expo essays account is nearing its completion. Now that I have returned home, I have plenty of time to expand on incomplete entries and add more content in order to conclude this half-year mayhem. This is the time to collect my souvenirs and outtakes (content that I have already prepared but not used for the site), and also to summarize the final facts of the Expo.

· The road leading to the Expo

As I reported before, the World Exposition was originally planned to be a much bigger affair than it ultimately became. The original master plan (blue outline) provided for a large area southest of the city of Seto (the Seto Area) to be used for the exposition grounds. After initial protests and the discovery of rare birds, the future site was changed to utilize the Aichi Youth Park area near Nagakute city (yellow outline), and the Seto Area was reduced to a very small zone that showcased the history of the project planning. The final site chosen for the Expo (red outline) decreased the total area used from the originally planned 540 ha to 173 ha. Additionally, in the wake of the setback that was the Expo 2000 Hannover, the anticipated number of visitors was reduced from 25 million to 15 million people.

It's funny if you take a look at some of the original designs that were thought of for the Expo. The below images are from an unknown source - I don't remember from which web site I saved them back in March, and I'm not even sure if they are supposed to be about the Aichi Expo. The below image is somewhat reminiscent of the Global Loop, giant insects prowling and devouring everything in sight. This is also an area in which I think the Expo did have a lot of potential. Talking about the "coexistence of man and nature", one could think of public screenings of "Phase IV", and "Starship Troopers" and public lectures about the feasibility of terraforming, Dyson spheres and the evolution of humans into cyborgs.

I'm not sure what's going on in this picture...

...and this one also hardly looks like the Expo

This kind of looks like the original vision of the Global Loop

...whereas reality was somewhat different

The Expo Association published a video that documented the construction of the Expo site that was also screened at the Expo staff thank-you party. It's basically a photo slideshow with the background track of the Expo title song, "I'll Be Your Love" as performed by Dahlia. I took a few screenshots:

Aichi Youth Park

Aichi Youth Park - Global Plaza

Aichi Youth Park

Aichi Youth Park - Koi Pond & Global House

Seeing the photos of the original Aichi Youth Park, some aspects of the Expo site planning become clear. One can clearly make out the huge swimming pool building which temporarily became the Global House, the Koi Pond and the huge space that became the Global Plaza. In between the locations that became the Global Commons, the Global Loop was erected to minimize the necessity of bulldozing and landscaping of the original park. The below pictures also show the country pavilions under construction - one can make out the standardized modules that housed the pavilions pretty well.

Global Loop construction

Global Common 4 construction

Northern Expo site construction

Northern Expo site

Some more photographs from the construction:

Expo dome construction

Expo dome

Civic pavilion construction

Civic pavilion

The pictures below document the finished Expo site, seen from an aerial view. We didn't see any snow during the Expo, but on the first day (March 25) in the morning, the Global Loop was still covered in frost.

Expo aerial view - Winter 2004/05

Expo aerial view - March 25, 2005

Expo aerial view map

View from the ferris wheel

UPDATE 2005-12-17: I found two promotional videos on the eDonkey network that don't exactly shed a new light on the Expo, but are interesting nonetheless for their rather naive and unspoiled presentation - download them if you're really into it and see for yourself.

The first promotional video is set to the theme song "I'll Be Your Love' sung by Dahlia and presents the usual suspects (Global House, Global Loop, Expo Plaza, Bio Lung etc.) with the by now well-known artists sketches. The second video (which I reckon was published a few months before the opening) focuses more on Nagoya and the infrastructure. It has really tacky 70ieish background music and makes great revelations about Nagoya's pottery industry and the suburbs. The optimism regarding the Linimo was not yet shattered by reality, as becomes clear by this passage:

Among the many ways to reach the Expo is Japan's first commercially operating maglev train service. Because it glides above the rails, levitated by magnets, there is hardly any noise or vibration as you ride in comfort on this eco-friendly train of the future. The maglev train is the most convenient as well as the most futuristic way to get to the Expo site. (Note: highlighting by me)

Here's also a kind of "farewell"/thank-you video titled "Expo 2005 In Memory" which was (probably) taken from the official Expo web site.

· Final results of the Expo

Now, let's take a look at the facts and statistics:

The organizational body of the Expo, the Japan Association for the World Exposition 2005 (Expo Association) consisted of 405 members. The total number of Expo staff (including official participant staff, security and cleaning staff etc.) was cited as 20,000. The number of volunteers during the half year period was over 30,000, with a total number of attendences of over 100,000 (Source: Expo Association).

Regarding the number of visitors, the Aichi Expo was a huge success: the target figure of 15 million was exceeded by far and finally reached about 150% of the anticipated visitor number: the final visitor count was just over 22 million (22,049,544 unique visitors). The celebration of the 15 million mark on August 18 was feted with much fanfare and numerous lotteries with multi-million yen prize give-aways.

One rather interesting fact regarding the internationality of the exposition: more than half of the visitors to the Expo came from the three prefectures in the Tokai region, Aichi, Mie and Gifu. Visitors from foreign countries made up about 5 percent of all visitors (source: The Japan Times: Aug. 17, 2005), a setback regarding the originally anticipated figure of 12% (1.8 million). This is a somewhat of a disappointment especially considering the fact that at the 1970 Expo in Osaka, the share of foreign visitors was at 3 percent - in spite of 35 years of globalization, growing of international relationships, and relative ease of intercontinental travel, the Aichi Expo failed to draw a significantly more international audience.

As for the financial side, the Aichi Expo - mainly due to the fact that the number of tickets was far above expectations - proved profitable, and the Expo Association is expected to have registered almost 10 billion yen (over 70 million Euro) in profit (Source: Kyodo News Network).

As for the nature theme and its aim to raise visitors' awareness of ecological issues:

While some critics remain skeptical of how successful the Aichi Expo was in raising visitors' awareness of ecology, expo officials claim the world fair has fulfilled its role in environmental education. Citing an Internet survey the association conducted, the officials said 70 percent of the people polled after going to the expo said that they would actively take part in reducing and recycling garbage, more than double that of the 32 percent who said so before visiting. (...) Poor access to the expo sites, located some 20 kilometers east of Nagoya, and the high prices of goods sold at the world fair were also problems cited by 31 percent, respectively, of the respondents. Almost half of the surveyed companies and groups said they plan to relocate the pavilions or part of their exhibits to other places so that the expo will not end as just a short-lived event (Source: Yahoo! Asia).

Apart of this, the Expo made the headlines because of the fact that at the time 12 million visitors had visited the Expo only 4 crimes of pickpocketing had been recorded, and that some porn-film makers were caught because the backdrop of the Expo ferris wheel was recognized in the movie.

As for the international media (and even the Japanese media outside of Central Japan), it appears that the topic of the World Exposition was hardly ever picked up - in my home country of Germany, the fair made the news about once or twice, and that is at the opening and closing of the exposition. It makes you marvel how little the Expo (after all, the third largest event in the world, just behind the World Cup and Olympic Games) was perceived around the world. Let's hope that the upcoming expositions will have a bigger international impact.

· Japan as host country of the Expo

Speaking as staff that worked at the World Exposition, I must say that Japan as a host for the World Exposition disappointed me in numerous ways. First of all, the theme of "Nature's Wisdom" and its realization appeared to be more backward-looking than forward-looking. Instead of carrying and inspiring and innovating message, its appeal seemed more retro than futuristic. Maybe that has something to do with the general situation in Japan - the country is slowly but steadily turning into a senior home, where the pace will go slower and the main objective will be to conserve the status quo instead of pacing forward into new territory. To me, by holding the Aichi Expo, instead of providing a kick-start for the slow economy that is threatened by up-and-coming international contesters, Japan proved that it is past its heyday and that its pioneer role it used to carry will soon have to be given up to other, more dynamic and younger countries.

Judging from my own experience, the Japanese side was not a very good host for us international staff. It was a sour experience realizing that the side that put the "World" into "World Exposition" was treated in a way that made me feel unwanted and superfluous. This was mainly the fault of the Expo Association, which was clearly overwhelmed by the task of creating an environment suitable for an international exposition. I have no actual numbers but from my few interactions with the Association I would assume that a big portion of the 400 members of the Association were local Nagoya people without any international experience. Certainly only the fewest of them were even able to speak English, one of the most basic requirements in my eyes.

No matter how you look at it, it is unexcusable that the Expo Association failed to bring in more internationally experienced people and companies from Tokyo or Kansai, but obviously planned the fair without much expertise from outside, the way they thought it would work - a plan that failed at even such most basic affairs such as providing public transportation to the site or accomodation for staff in the vicinity of the Expo site. Regarding this matter, the chief of the Expo Association admitted that they "were inexperienced and lacked the know-how on how to handle the crowds swiftly and this is an area for improvement." Well, it's not like crowds and the need for their managements are uncommon in Japan; also, the World Cup took place just three years ago in this country. At least he was as modest as to claim a "a passing grade of at least 60 points out of 100" for the Expo, having run for six months without any major incidents.

In all respects and matters, the small-town Nagoya affair that was the Expo Association was a typical example of the legendary Japanese bureaucracy. Whenever dealing with the Expo association, you would feel like in the movie Brazil ("Do you have a 24-B?"). In the last week, I had the questionable honor of coming into contact with the Expo Association apparatus. The simple matter of requesting entry for three people and two cars (external supplying companies) on the day after the end of the Expo took me one week and six personal appearances to the Official Participant Support Center. Filling forms, entering computer data, getting the director's sign twice (because I was supplied with the wrong forms), even requesting vehicle passes from the companies (which weren't needed in the end), contacting the Expo Vehicle Section (where they said it's none of their business, because it's post-Expo) for parking space permissions (which finally were not needed because "it's post-Expo") etc. etc. I'm just happy that I didn't have to deal with them on a regular basis, or for for serious matters such as supplying the German pavilion with electricity.

However, it was not only the Expo Association being inexperienced and ignorant. For example, the company running the Linimo certainly deserves its own price for incompetency. Even though it was evident by simple math that the train could never handle the hundreds of thousands of people going to and from the Expo site every day, nothing was done to amend the terrible traffic situation, like increasing the number of trains. No - what they did do was put up signs advising you not to use the Linimo at times when it is crowded - very helpful.

Even on days when the trains were stopped because of technical problems or high wind speeds - both of which pretty usual occurences during the last few weeks - the Linimo operators failed to increase the frequency of trains afterwards or run later than usual trains to handle the load, but instead would grip tightly to the normal schedule with no flexibility whatsoever. Even on typhoon days with high propability of temporary stopping of service due to wind speeds over 25 m/s, there were no preparations at all to handle the situation by using emergency shuttle buses instead - instead, thousands of people were left stranded at their stations with vague announcements.

I also experienced an ignorant and arrogant attitude with representatives of the most popular pavilions of the Expo such as Toyota, Hitachi and Mitsui-Toshiba. I remember one instance clearly when one representative of the Hitachi pavilion marched past our restaurant queue of about 300 people, demanded for a table seating 10 persons "at once" and then inquired "How much discount?" (she was sent away by our manager).

· Summary

Despite these regrettable and sometimes frustrating facts, the experience of working at the Expo for six months was a rather interesting experience. Through the experience of working at the World Exposition in Japan, I've had ample time to reflect about our own country - there, reverse culture shock awaits us (in my experience, a much more difficult situation than leaving the country). Also, assessing this span of our lifetime - half a year - will need some considerate reflection in the weeks and months to come. Most people I worked together with at the Expo will now return to their own country within one month, some of them as early as the end of September, others taking a little break to travel or visit friends in Japan. Then, the process of re-orientation will start - most of us haven't had much time to think about the things that may suck in the future while working here.

Now that the weekly updates have come to an and, the question remains what will become of my Expo essays account in the future. Writing these pages certainly served a useful function during my period of hard work at the Expo - in certain instances, I could use it as a valve to let off some steam after some especially stressful days. Also, during the latter half, expanding the view to some other World Expositions (namely the Expo 1970 Osaka and Expo 2000 Hannover) helped me see the exposition from another perspective. In the future, I hope on finding a way to connect these pages to the upcoming world expositions in Zaragoza and Shanghai. We'll see what will become of that.

For now, I thank everybody who read these pages for your patience and hope that you enjoyed my bits and pieces from the Aichi Expo. If you want to read some more of my material, you may continue with my page of Expo essays outtakes. Apart from that; I will now close the channel and concentrate on some other matters (first of all, taking a step into the underground music industry in Munich). However, you can be sure that on the next occasion, I will once again open the "New file" dialogue to create some more output.

For now, thanks a lot and goodbye.

· The End.