Delay in Expo Preparations: Government Must Take the Lead in Resolving Troubling Situation

Japan’s international credibility could be undermined if the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai world’s fair is postponed. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida must fully leverage government resources to resolve the critical situation.

The construction of pavilions by participating countries for the expo — to be held in April 2025 — has been delayed significantly, and concerns are growing over whether the event will be able to open on schedule.

Soaring prices for materials and a labor shortage in the construction industry are the main reasons for the problem, with participating countries finding it difficult to source contractors willing to undertake work with their budgets.

Of the 60 countries building pavilions at their own expense, only 14 have been able to find contractors, and, as yet, not a single country has applied to Osaka City for permission to build a pavilion.

“Preparations for the expo are in an extremely tight spot,” Kishida said during a meeting of concerned ministers and others. “I will lead the government in this effort.” Kishida added that he plans to strengthen the structure of the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition — the body responsible for overseeing the expo.

Japan has made an international commitment to host the expo in 2025, and any changes would require consent from the Bureau International des Expositions. It is entirely natural for Kishida to take the initiative in terms of expediting preparations for the event as the leader of the government.

The Japan association has a staff of about 700 people, including individuals on loan from such bodies as the central government, the Osaka prefectural and municipal governments, and the business community. However, it is difficult to say that there has been sufficient cooperation among those involved.

The posts of Osaka governor and mayor are held by Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), which spearheaded the bid to host the expo. However, Ishin has indicated that it intends to stand against the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito in the next House of Representatives election.

The minister for the World Expo 2025, as well as the economy, trade and industry minister and the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, who are also involved in the expo, are members of the LDP and Komeito. In some respects, the distance between the central government and Ishin may have been an underlying factor in the central government’s delayed response.

Though the problem has been known for some time, the Osaka prefectural and municipal governments have been slow to address the issue. Ishin, which has been stressing its past achievements — such as attracting the expo to Osaka — during election campaigns and on other occasions, cannot now leave the matter to the central government. The central government should cooperate with Ishin and grapple with expo-related challenges through unified, nationwide efforts.

The Japan association has proposed building simple pavilions for countries that have yet to secure contractors on their behalf. However, many such nations have expressed concerns about the appearance of the proposed pavilions, and, as of August, only five countries had expressed interest in the idea.

If expo pavilions fail to charm potential visitors, it could affect advance ticket sales, which are slated to begin Nov. 30.

It is hoped that the central government and the association will strongly urge contractors to facilitate contracts with participating countries. If the current situation continues, there is a risk that some nations could withdraw from the event. It is also vital to reconsider plans for the expo in anticipation of such a situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2023)