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Osaka expo careens toward a looming disaster, for an event that few even want

21 Comments

Soon, less than 500 days will remain until April 13, 2025, date of the scheduled opening of the Osaka-Kansai Exposition.

Like the Summer Olympics of 1964, Japan's politicians remain stuck in a mental time warp, clearly hoping to replicate its successes of the previous half century -- in this case the Japan World Exposition, Osaka, 1970 or Expo '70 for short -- which was held in Osaka's Suita City from March to September 1970 under the theme of "Progress and Harmony for Mankind."

The Osaka Expo had the distinction of being the first world's fair held in Asia, and over six months welcomed a record-setting 64 million visitors, a record that stood until the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

Even as a much more modest effort -- with a projected gate of only 28 million visitors -- Asahi Geino (Nov 23) is unreservedly negative about the exposition's prospects. In the headline it even uses the term zetsubo (hopeless).

A reporter visiting the site noted that around noon at Yumeshima's single convenience store, long lines form at the cash registers where workers purchase cigarettes or lunch boxes.

"I always bring my box lunch from home, but this time I forgot," one of the workers at the site told the reporter. "Since we're not allowed to drive here in our own cars, I ride together with my colleagues in a company van, but many commute to work by bus."

"Smartphone connections are poor out here," another told the magazine. It even takes a while to download maps on the screen. "During our lunch breaks there's nothing else to do to keep occupied."

As journalist Fumikazu Nishitani explained, the initial cost estimate of 1,235 billion yen has already ballooned 1.8-fold. Of this, 160 billion yen is said to have been earmarked for water mains and sewerage, expanding the width of the elevated highways, extending the subway line and other infrastructure. And that doesn't include 7.9 billion yen for measures to prevent ground liquefication.

It seems the island's foundation is in the process of sinking, some say by as much as five meters.

"You can see the ground water come bubbling up," says Nishitani. "Dealing with this requires a lot of time, and is one of the factors causing delays."

Initially conservative party Nippon Ishin no Kai had proposed that after the expo, the site be redeveloped into an integrated resort/casino complex. Which led Tadashi Shimizu, a former Japan Communist Party parliamentarian, to raise objections that funding for Expo 2025 was being treated as a hidden slush fund for casino development.

"Yumeshima is a man-made island reclaimed by using human-generated rubbish and mud," Shimizu told the magazine. "The soil has been contaminated with toxic wastes like dioxin and PCB, and its foundation is extremely soft. It's a completely inappropriate site on which to build the kind of high-rise structure that would house a casino.

"What's more, the island faces risks of other natural catastrophes such as an earthquake along the Nankai Trough or a tsunami," Shimizu added. "I wonder if safety can be secured for the 28 million projected visitors. The organizers have yet to develop an emergency evacuation plan, which I see as a major problem."

Workers at the site also confided that at the current pace, construction would very likely not be completed in time for the opening.

"Since limits have been placed on worker overtime hours, construction is slowly moving toward three shifts over 24 hours. But where will the extra workers come from?" a worker in his 50s asked rhetorically.

Another gorilla in the room is that any enthusiasm by foreign countries had for participating appears to be fading fast. On November 10, the government of Mexico announced its intention to withdraw from the exposition out of "difficulties in securing a budget."

The Japanese organizers are now terrified Mexico's withdrawal will unleash a domino effect and indeed Estonia and Russia have also dropped out. Nevertheless, even if visitor turnout is low than expected, this will not affect the bottom lines of the foreign countries and cities that participate.

"Based on the construction costs of 235 billion yen, expo's fiscal burden on each citizen of Osaka is estimated at 14,152 yen," the aforementioned Shimizu told the magazine. "But the combined total burden on Osaka residents and citizens of the nation is more likely to be in the neighborhood of 77,000 yen for a family of four."

Shimizu added that with very few exceptions, most of the pavilions on the site will be demolished at the end of the exposition. Where else can you find waste of that order?

By the time the 2025 expo opens, organizers might also need to rethink their projected number of visitors. According to a survey of Japanese adults conducted by the Kyodo news agency earlier this month, 68.6% of respondents voiced the opinion that the expo was "unnecessary."

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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What a money pit. Good job, Japan.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

According to a survey of Japanese adults conducted by the Kyodo news agency earlier this month, 68.6% of respondents voiced the opinion that the expo was "unnecessary."

Hmmm. Where have we heard that before? When corporate welfare is involved, the citizens have no voice but pay out anyway.

As for the tsunami risk, well that applies to Kobe Airport, Kansai Airport, Port Island, Rokko Island and various other reclamations that went ahead anyway (Kobe Airport, which today caters to one take-off or landing every 6 minutes, despite a petition against it by Kobe citizens). The main hospital to cater to victims of earthquakes and tsunami around Kobe is situated on Port Island, and could be under water.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Since COVID , there's no need for such exhibitions in an actual physical location.

Online is fine.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

A waste of tax payer money and resources.for an island of mud and garbage…

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Piskian

Online is nit fine, you need to see things first hand. My partner and I can get great benefits from the Expo and already had some freebies from Osaka city. You see it helps the local community.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

It seems that the "spawn from the abyss" mascot that nobody liked was actually appropriate since it fully represent the malformed fiasco the expo is becoming.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

For Japan, things like expos and olympic games are ways of "beating the drum," getting everyone on board in order to ram through much-needed infrastructure projects with minimal resistance. People are told that the eyes of the world are on Japan, so for the sake of its national reputation (or to avoid loss of face), they have got to join together and cooperate and allow themselves to be nudged aside to enable building of new highways, bridges, trains (the Shinkansen in 1964 is a prime example) and so on. Only a small fraction of the 64 million visitors to Expo 70 came from abroad; most were repeat visitors from the greater Osaka-Nara-Kyoto region and members of agricultural cooperatives bused in from the provinces, who were willing to queue up outside the US pavilion in steamy summer heat for five hours for a 1-minute look at a rock from the moon.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

It seems that the "spawn from the abyss" mascot that nobody liked was actually appropriate since it fully represent the malformed fiasco the expo is becoming.

Hemorrhoid-kun !

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Yumeshima looks like an attempt to clone Yumenoshima or Odaiba - Osaka's shot at keeping up with the Joneses. It never seems to have found a use the way Tokyo's artificial islands have, and the 'sinking' bit may play a part in that. It's not unusual to host an event like the Olympics as a way of funding infrastructure or reviving an area, and it often works. But the global economy is heading in the wrong direction, conflicts are escalating and the Expo at Yumeshima looks increasingly like a white elephant built on a money pit.

No matter how much you have spent, sometimes it is best to just call it a day. Alternatively they could try and get Google to do their Smart City thing there and implant the Expo into it. But even Google do due diligence, and time may be running short to rejig it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

great wasting of taxpayers money.

a good business with fat profit for a few.

a misery for rest.

this expo may be even more bad than so called Tokyo olympics...same pattern.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Its stuff like this that really makes me despair for the future of this country. The country is falling off a cliff economically and demographically, and the old folks in charge are pushing the accelerator to the floor by spending what few resources the country has remaining on anachronistic short term prestige projects like this which will provide zero benefits to the country.

As the populaton gets older, and those governing it get older still, I fear we are getting caught in a loop of ever-worsening decision making that has no natural limit to it.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Nice! I know it is obvious, but why not use existing facilities.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Civil servants and corporate employees have no business sense whatsoever. The world doesn't run on "studies," reports and meetings.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@NCIS Reruns,

Nearly agreed entirely until I came to the.......

much-needed infrastructure projects with minimal resistance. 

...part.

I would replace it with much un-needed pro barrel projects.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

pork barrel.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

What a bunch of morons. Every last one of them. At the very least, they could have built this in Kobe or Himeji. Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo don't need to be any bigger and more crowded than they already are.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The concrete and cement companies want mo money. Laughing all the way to bank.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Osaka was nearly bankrupted by the bayside development of these islands 20-30 years ago. The whole area with the APC, the aquarium, the island with the Gaudi-like gomi burner, and these islands where they wanted to host the Olympics. They just constantly throwing good money after bad.

I hope the national taxpayer does not bail them out. We need to stop event-based development. If Sapporo locals want the Olympics, they should be told its going to cost them 500,000 each and the city will start closing nurseries and old peoples homes if people won't pay it in property taxes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I saw on the news last night that hemorrhoids shaped mascot. They interviewed a bus driver to that facility who seemed to wonder how many people would go there since access is mostly by bus. Sadly even the young mayor of Osaka is heralding this enormous waste of money.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Shimizu added that with very few exceptions, most of the pavilions on the site will be demolished at the end of the exposition. Where else can you find waste of that order?

Perhaps the worst part is that nowhere in this article, nor anywhere within the comments above, does anyone acknowledge or even realize that the site of this Expo once it is done is slated to become the location of Osaka's new casino complex, to be opened in about 2029 or 30.

So all this bloated overspending on development there, on train line connections, ferry ports, roads and bridges, drainage, electrical connection, sewers, and overall prevention from the island sinking... its all being done at taxpayer expense to put in place a base for private casinos whose sole intention is to further fleece populace of their wealth through odds-weighted gambling.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Perhaps the worst part is that nowhere in this article, nor anywhere within the comments above, does anyone acknowledge or even realize that the site of this Expo once it is done is slated to become the location of Osaka's new casino complex, to be opened in about 2029 or 30.

Divinda@ I think you missed this paragraph in the article.

Initially conservative party Nippon Ishin no Kai had proposed that after the expo, the site be redeveloped into an integrated resort/casino complex. Which led Tadashi Shimizu, a former Japan Communist Party parliamentarian, to raise objections that funding for Expo 2025 was being treated as a hidden slush fund for casino development.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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