On May 1, Expo 2010 Shanghai opens its gates for a six-month run. Some 233 countries and organizations will have exhibits. Even the most modest projections are for a turnout of 70 million visitors, eclipsing the previous world record of 64 million set in Osaka in 1970.
"Some projections are for 100 million visitors," the promotion office coordinator responsible for Japan boasts to Shukan Gendai (May 1). "Pre-sales of tickets have already reached 20 million. We're expecting 3.5 million visitors from abroad, hopefully from 1 to 1.5 million from Japan."
Tickets for the first-day events and on other special dates are priced at 3,400 Japanese yen; for the other days tickets are 2,700 yen (pre-sale in both cases).
Having already hosted five major world expositions, Japan is something of an expo "otaku" (geek) country when it comes such events, and since Shanghai is just 3 1/2 hours from Narita, a big turnout is expected, according to Minoru Ikeda, head of the Japan China Economic and Trade Relations Center's Shanghai office.
Reiko Sasaki of Kinki Nippon Tourist says her company's "Holiday" package tours on the expo's first three days are already sold out.
"We're recommending visits in May and June," Sasaki advises. "Especially June 12 to 18, which will be 'Japan Week.' There will be lots of special events."
The sprawling expo site consists of five zones (A through E). Zones A through C are in Pudong, across the Huangpu River from the old city. The Japanese national pavilion will be in Zone A, along with the Chinese and Indian Pavilions.
Among the highlights of the Japanese corporate pavilion will be a gleaming array of sanitary facilities supplied by ceramics maker INAX, which will enable Japan to make good on its claim that it truly boasts the world's classiest toilets.
"Concerns have arisen over whether the expo will have sufficient toilet facilities, and it's possible visitors will stampede to use these cozy fixtures, with heated seats and washer nozzles," chuckles a PR spokesman for the pavilion. "But we're discouraging people from just coming in to use the toilet."
Since between 400,000 to 600,000 visitors are expected on some days, crowding will almost certainly be a problem. For instance, the magazine predicts it may be unrealistic to expect a leisurely dining experience in the restaurants at the site.
Visitors may also be put off by the locals' rough edges.
"When Japanese stand in a queue, they open up a little space from each other. But in China, people stand shoved right up against each other," warns Mika Sudo, a Shanghai-based journalist. "That's to keep anyone from cutting in line. And Chinese eat while walking around and shout at each other in loud voices regardless of where they are. That might be a bit disconcerting for many Japanese. But on the other hand, with China's emergence on the world stage, it's a good opportunity to get acclimatized to them."
Shukan Gendai then turns to safety and security. Business pundit Takashi Kadokura warns that some buildings at the site may be unsound due to cutting corners on materials and use of poorly paid laborers. And while nobody really wants to be reminded, the threat of terrorism lingers.
"With Shanghai's residential prices soaring by 30% a year, there's a lot of resentment among the city's economically disadvantaged classes," warns international affairs analyst Tetsuya Kozeki. He adds, "An even greater danger is the possibility of some act by members of China's oppressed ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, who would hope to attract the world's attention to their cause."
Well, says Shukan Gendai, quoting an old aphorism that goes, "If you don't go in the tiger's lair, you'll never catch a tiger cub."
Shanghai 2010 is going to be the biggest spectacle in human history. Will you enter the lair and be part of it?© Japan Today