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The Multiple Fronts of
Exposition Preparations

The countdown to the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan, is nearing its end. The residents of the prefecture will be actively participating in EXPO 2005 AICHI from its start on March 25 until its end on September 25, seeking to enliven the event in every way they can. In this issue we train our spotlight on the Local-Area Collaboration Projects that local governments and the people of Aichi have put into motion. While citing specific examples of hometown interchange and local collaboration, we illustrate the mounting enthusiasm in extending hospitality to visitors during the EXPO.

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Local-Area Collaboration Projects and Aichi Weeks
Iwakura’s grass-roots baseball diplomacy
Making EXPO 2005 a stage for local performing artists
An occasion for demonstrating hospitality



Local-Area Collaboration Projects and Aichi Weeks

 
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After watching each players swing, Linares offered some advice.
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The municipalities and residents of Aichi Prefecture have launched a variety of Local-Area Collaboration Projects designed to make EXPO 2005 AICHI exciting and fulfilling and to turn its success into an advantage in local development. Of special note are the projects in two categories: the one is called Aichi Hospitality project and, the Cities, Towns, and Village Events.

In the Aichi Hospitality project, the cities, towns, and villages of the prefecture have been paired up with countries that are official participants in the EXPO. Each municipality will give a community-wide welcome to visitors from the country it is teamed up with, striving to promote international exchange. And when the National Day of the country comes, the concerned community will do all it can to support the planned events.

In the Cities, Towns, and Villages Events, local governments will entertain visitors by staging festivals and traditional performing arts on the Aichi Festival Plaza in Aichi Pavilion Nagakute. The plaza will also be the stage for a variety of other events: those arranged by local citizens groups, more than 400 of which responded to a public appeal for participation; those organized by Aichi’s sister states (Jiangsu, China, and Victoria, Australia); and those sponsored by the prefectural government. With different themes having been set for each of the six months, we can look forward to 185 days of constantly changing events taking place on the plaza.

Among the official events of EXPO 2005 are days that have been designated as “prefecture days,” and Aichi Prefecture has been granted two Aichi Weeks, the first April 23–29 and the second September 13–19. An executive committee organized by the prefecture’s municipalities (excluding Nagoya) has taken the lead in organizing these events, which will make use of the entire exposition site to advertise the prefecture’s attractions. The week in April will draw on the combined talents of the 7 million prefectural residents to stage powerful and entertaining events designed to give visitors a glimpse into “Aichi’s heart and soul.” The week in September will attempt to give concrete expression to the exposition’s operational concept of a “Grand Intercultural Symphony,” and events displaying Aichi’s readiness for the global age are being organized with the cooperation of the media.

Iwakura’s grass-roots baseball diplomacy

On July 10 Iwakura City sponsored a baseball practice session for youngsters at the city’s Sports and Culture Center featuring instruction by a star Cuban player. A total of 192 elementary and middle school students, principally members of municipal sports clubs and school baseball teams, got the chance to spend some time with Omar Linares and three other players from the professional baseball team the Chunichi Dragons.

In the Aichi Hospitality project, Iwakura is the municipality selected to host Cuba. Thus far the municipal authorities have been working to acquaint residents with Cuba’s history and culture by, for instance, opening Cuban exhibitions and regularly carrying a “Cuba column” in the city’s newsletter. This grass-roots “baseball diplomacy,” which became a reality when Linares managed to find time to fit it into his busy schedule, was one of the city’s biggest events in a friendship program.

Linares is a famous baseball player in Cuba. He is a veteran of the Cuban national team, and he became the first player in the history of Cuba’s baseball league to win the triple crown (leading the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in). Since signing up with the Chunichi Dragons in 2002, he has gained quite a following in Japan, as well, and earned a good reputation for both batting and fielding.

Linares’s main duty on the day was to provide batting instruction to middle school students. Working one-on-one and speaking through an interpreter, Linares advised the young players to relax and reminded them to keep their eyes on the ball to the very last moment. From time to time he would show them what he wanted by taking a few swings himself. When he liked what he saw, he could be heard to remark, “Okay, you’re doing great.” One ninth grade boy said after the session, “I was really excited about meeting Linares. At first I was a little nervous, and I was overwhelmed by how big he is and how grand he looks. I’m going to keep on playing ball, never forgetting his advice.”

During the closing ceremony Linares offered these words: “It gives me great pleasure to know that you all will be learning about Cuba through the exposition. I took part in today’s activities for the sake of exchange between our two countries. I hope that while you’re still young you’ll practice and study as hard as you can and that someday you’ll become outstanding athletes.” Afterwards a great throng of youngsters crowded around him, eager to shake his hand and get his autograph.



Making EXPO 2005 a stage for local performing artists

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Children practicing for the Kabuki play Agemaki Sukeroku. Most of the youngsters currently participating in the Usugo Kabuki chapter are girls in elementary school.
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The traditional performing arts are alive and well in communities all around the prefecture. A case in point is Shinshiro Kabuki, a theater organization in Shinshiro City. Ever since the Edo period (1603–1868), when the people of this area prayed for, for example, a bountiful harvest, they have been accustomed to dedicating a Kabuki performance to their local shrine. This tradition has given birth to amateur theater groups whose performances stand out for their homegrown feel. The productions came to a halt for a while with change in the times, but they were resumed in 1981 thanks to a citywide campaign. At present the seven different sections of Shinshiro each has its own chapter, and the Kabuki actors and other participants are mostly people in their forties and fifties. Recently Shinshiro Kabuki is increasingly being invited to present performances outside the prefecture, and their plays have even been staged overseas in places like Beijing and Hawaii.
Early in the evening on August 29 we went to see a rehearsal at a community center in the Usugo district of Shinshiro, and we watched four female preteen members of the Usugo Kabuki chapter of Shinshiro Kabuki practice for the play Agemaki Sukeroku. This chapter has 11 members between the ages of 5 and 13, and they show up for practice regularly. After they finished rehearsing, the practice for adults began, and it lasted until around 10 pm.
Shinshiro Kabuki is taking part in the Cities, Towns, and Villages Events for EXPO 2005. It is scheduled to present a performance on Aichi Festival Plaza in Aichi Pavilion Nagakute..


An occasion for demonstrating hospitality

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In the Nagakute Area of the exposition site, the construction of corporate pavilions is making good progress.
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The call for public participation in EXPO 2005 was sent out far and wide, and an exposition with full-fledged “prefecture-wide citizens participation” is now taking shape. In municipalities all around the prefecture, residents are earnestly engaged in preparations to make the event a success. At the exposition site as well, construction is about 70% done and is moving steadily forward. Step by step, the venue is assuming its finished form.
As of this writing at the end of August, only half a year remains before the gates open. The 7 million inhabitants of Aichi are busy in preparations to showcase their warm hospitality, and they are hoping great numbers of visitors will come to the exposition from foreign countries as well as other parts of Japan.
(Akiko Onodera; photos by Masatoshi Sakamoto)


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