Osaka-Kansai Expo: With One Year to Go until Big Event, Can Public Excitement Be Created?

Only one year remains until the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo opens on April 13 next year. However, the event continues to lack momentum.

The government and related organizations must work steadily to solve the problems in the run-up to the event and focus on introducing the concept and appeal of the Expo to the public.

The Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition, the organization that manages the Expo, plans to sell 14 million advance admission tickets, but only 1.3 million, less than 10% of the total, have been sold.

A nationwide survey conducted jointly by the governments of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City at the end of last year showed that 34% of respondents wanted to go to the event, down by 7 points from the previous year. The declining mood over time may be a sign of public distrust.

One cause of the decline must be the ballooning costs. According to the central government estimates released last year, the construction cost of the venue would be ¥235 billion, 90% higher than the initial estimate, and the operating cost would be ¥116 billion, 40% higher. The government attributed this to high inflation and other factors.

Most of the construction costs are to be borne by the central government and the Osaka prefectural and city governments. Most of the operating costs will be covered by admission fees, but there are concerns that public funds may be used to make up the deficit if the number of visitors is low.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and the expo association have each established a new organization to manage budget execution. Without strict monitoring of the budget and halting the increase in the burden, it will likely be difficult to dispel the public’s distrust of the expo.

Another reason for the lack of momentum is that the content of the exhibitions and event programs has not been adequately publicized.

The theme of the expo is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” Though lacking in signature showpieces, the expo is a festival of cutting-edge technology where visitors can experience daily life surrounded by robots and encounter images of their future selves.

It is important to disseminate the vision of the future society widely and at the same time strategically appeal to different generations and interests. It is also essential to actively encourage foreign visitors to Japan, the number of whom is increasing due to the recent depreciation of the yen, to take a greater interest in traditional Japanese culture and Japanese food.

Construction work will reach its peak in the near future. Of the 53 countries that will build their pavilions at their own expense, 17 have yet to select construction contractors.

Countries that are unlikely to be able to construct their own pavilions in time should immediately be encouraged to make a decision to switch to simplified pavilions provided by the expo association.

There are concerns that the concentration of contractors in the construction of the Expo site will hinder recovery work from the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. The government has said that there will be no overlap between the two projects, since Noto reconstruction will focus on civil engineering work and the expo will focus on building construction work. The government should take care not to adversely affect the recovery from the earthquake.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 13, 2024)