Ishin Party Criticized over Delays, Rising Costs for Osaka Expo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A huge ring-shaped structure is seen being constructed at the venue of Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai on Yumeshima, Osaka City, on Sept. 3.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), an opposition force in the Diet, is facing criticism over delays and increased costs for Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai since the party has touted its success in attracting the Expo as one of its achievements.

Some members of Ishin are concerned that the next House of Representatives election may be affected by the criticism that has come from both the ruling and opposition parties.

The Expo will be held from April 13 to Oct. 13, 2025, on Yumeshima, a man-made island in Osaka Bay. About 150 countries and regions are scheduled to participate, and about 28.2 million visitors are expected during the event.

Hirofumi Yoshimura, the Osaka governor and co-leader of Ishin, expressed concern at Wednesday’s press conference about the delay in Expo preparations, saying, “The timing is actually getting tighter.”

The bid to host the Expo was announced in 2014 by Toru Hashimoto and Ichiro Matsui – the party’s founders who were at the time serving as Osaka mayor and Osaka governor, respectively. After Osaka was selected as the host city in 2018, Ishin claimed that the Expo would be a catalyst for growth, and used the success to expand its party’s influence mainly in the Kansai region including Osaka.

However, problems have recently come to light. The start of construction of the overseas pavilions, the main attraction of the event, has been seriously delayed due to rising costs of construction materials and labor.

At the end of August, Yoshimura asked Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to cooperate on the Expo, and the latter made it clear that the central government would be actively involved in the event.

“We’ll work with a sense of urgency,” said Hanako Jimi, who assumed the role of state minister in charge of the Expo this month.

The central government has begun mediating with participating countries and construction companies to get pavilion construction started earlier.

“Ishin has claimed credit for bringing the Expo to Japan, but when in trouble, it turned to the government,” a mid-ranking member of the Liberal Democratic Party said in criticism.

Ishin leader Nobuyuki Baba was also criticized by other parties as “avoiding responsibility,” since he said at a party meeting on Aug. 30, “[The Expo] should be held through nationwide efforts, and Osaka is not solely responsible.”

The largest opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, has also voiced criticism of Ishin over the increase in venue construction costs. Party leader Kenta Izumi posted a comment on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, saying: “What are the [local] administrations controlled by Ishin and the central government doing? The burden on people is increasing.”

Ishin’s signature policy is “self-sacrificing reforms,” which means cutting the salaries of local assembly members, and in one sense, records of such reforms have helped the party gain significant support. The problems surrounding the Expo could be a blow to the party, which is facing another scandal: It was recently revealed that two Ishin lawmakers hired members of local assemblies as their state-paid secretaries without undertaking the necessary procedures.

There are concerns within the party that this issue will become a source of criticism in the next lower house election. “If the Expo’s cost expands even further, our signature policy could be seen as empty words,” said an official of the party.

“People’s wish is all parties’ cooperation for success of the Expo, isn’t it?” said Ishin’s Secretary General Fumitake Fujita at a press conference on Wednesday. “If there’s anything we as the party can do, we would like to support it.”