Association for EXPO 2005 Is Inaugurated

EXPO executieives proudly hold up a singn identifying the headquarters of the Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition.
(Photos by Masatsugu Yokoyama)

Preparations for the 2005 World Exposition in the city of Seto, Aichi Prefecture, took a big step forward with the inauguration on October 23 of the Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition. The association will oversee the day-to-day tasks of organizing the EXPO.

"I am happy to report that approval to set up the Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition was granted today by the Minister of International Trade and Industry," Secretary General Makoto Kuroda said in a speech to his staff at a ceremony to mark the opening of the association's Nagoya office. He went on to present letters of appointment one by one.

"This is a tremendous undertaking, with a time frame of seven and half years, and we will need everyone's input to make it work," he told the members of his staff, who appeared somewhat nervous amid the flashing of news cameras. "As secretary general, I will do my best to consolidate the energies of everyone involved to make EXPO 2005 a success".

The association will be responsible for the practical task of preparing and managing the EXPO, which is scheduled to have a six-month run starting in March 2005. It is the successor to the Bureau for the 2005 World Exposition Japan, which formulated the basic concepts for the bid Aichi submitted to the general assembly of the International Bureau of Expositions. The Nagoya office, which will serve as the association's home ground, occupies the Sannomaru Annex Building in Naka-ku, while its Tokyo office is located in Chiyoda-ku. The Nagoya office opened with a staff of 17, and the Tokyo office with 12.

The association's key activities for the remainder of fiscal 1997 (through March 1998) will include conducting research toward the formulation of a venue blueprint; carrying out studies and discussing basic exposition concepts; and making prior assessments of environmental impact, which will have a big bearing on the EXPO 2005 theme of "Beyond Development: Rediscovering Nature's Wisdom." The association will also reach out to the general public, hosting symposiums and sponsoring promotional activities at home and abroad. It will have a budget of 781 million for fiscal 1997.

"The general vision is for EXPO 2005 to address issues of global concern, like achieving symbiosis with nature, and to seek the public's participation in finding answers," Kuroda told a news conference following the association's inauguration. "But the task of filling in the details has yet to begin. The first thing we should do is conduct an environmental impact assessment. I hope to utilize the local enthusiasm that has built up during the bidding stage and serve as a channel through which their efforts can be focused".

Aichi Prefectural Governor Reiji Suzuki, who spearheaded the bidding effort, added, "I am sincerely grateful that we're finally able to get started in the true sense".

Many questions of strong interest to local residents remain to be addressed, however, such as sources of funding and transportation to the venues. "In these times of fiscal belt-tightening, we'll probably have a harder time than in the past securing necessary funding", Kuroda admitted. "But since EXPO 2005 is being organized as a national project, I expect we'll be adequately funded." He added that dialogue with environmental groups that remain opposed to the EXPO will continue in an effort to deepen mutual understanding.

The success of EXPO 2005 will depend on getting people inside and outside Japan more interested in it and on winning support for the concept of symbiosis. Some local businesses and civic groups are already preparing concrete proposals that they hope EXPO organizers will adopt.

Downstairs from the association's Nagoya office is the Aichi International Plaza,which was opened in June 1997 by the Aichi International Association. This forum for international exchange has a library with 7,000 books from all over the world and a lounge with computer terminals providing information in many languages. It also offers courses in Japanese language and culture--at hours that can accommodate even those with full-time jobs. Its meeting room is actively used by many different international exchange and volunteer groups, helping nurture a network of people from all walks of life. EXPO 2005, no doubt, will make Aichi's international colors more brilliant than ever before.