More than a year has passed since Aichi was selected to host EXPO 2005, and the organizing body, the Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition, was inaugurated in October 1997. From its inception, the association has made clear its intention to engage private citizens in the planning and staging of the world's fair. Community groups in Aichi have reacted enthusiastically to this policy and have launched initiatives to help steer the EXPO to success.
Perhaps the largest of these groups is Global Citizens for EXPO 2005, which was inaugurated in May 1998. Seeking to stage an EXPO "for the people and by the people," the association is an amalgamation of grass-roots groups, both large and small, interested in contributing to the exposition.
"Before it was set up, we had another group called the Association to Consider Lifestyles in the 21st Century," explains Global Citizens' Minoru Sakata. "It sought alternatives to the pattern of mass-production, mass-consumption, and mass-waste-generation that was creating serious environmental problems. When we realized that our aims had much in common with the EXPO theme--Beyond Development: Rediscovering Nature's Wisdom--it seemed only natural to us to work hand in hand."
The new organization was launched on May 19, 1998, at a Nagoya hotel and hosted an inaugural festival on June 14 at the Little World outdoor folk museum in Inuyama, a city north of Nagoya. The event began with an opening address by Aichi Governor Reiji Suzuki and was followed by a traditional drumming performance by a children's troupe from Seto--the EXPO's host city--and a quiz testing how "global" visitors were. The festival proved to be a big success, attracting some 8,000 people despite steady rainfall. "It was an effective way of rallying 'global citizens' together," says Sakata, "and I hope we can stage two such events every year."
Over 500 community groups have already joined Global Citizens for EXPO 2005, and about 10 more are joining every month. So far, all of the groups have been from Aichi, "But," Sakata adds, "we're hopeful of broadening our membership to groups from other prefectures as well as to individuals."
EXPO 2005 is still seven years away. But for Sakata and many other Aichi residents, the countdown to opening day has already begun.