With Expo 2020 Dubai closing its gates on 31 March, Japan is gearing up to be the host country of the next World Expo, taking place in Osaka, Kansai. Opening in just over three years time, Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will gather, once again, countries from around the world, this time under the theme of “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”. The Secretary General of the Japan Association for Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai shares his thoughts at this important juncture for the next World Expo.

As Expo 2020 Dubai draws to a close, how are preparations advancing towards the next World Expo, Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai?

Hiroyuki Ishige: On 13 April, we will mark three years before the opening of Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai. With our sights set on opening day, we are making speedy, full-scale preparations. In a few days, the Expo flag will be handed over from Dubai to Osaka, Kansai, and the focus of each country will shift to Japan. Japan has hosted five successful Expos to date, and I feel countries hold great expectations for us.

At Expos in Japan, corporate pavilions have become very popular along with the pavilions of participating countries. In February of this year, we announced 13 companies and organisations that will build a corporate pavilion, and also announced the sponsoring companies of the Expo's theme project, “Brilliance of Life Project.” Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be a test site for future society, where together with various companies, we will blaze a trail with regard to questions of mobility, digital, virtual, green, etc. and show a glimpse of a future society. Furthermore, we are implementing the TEAM EXPO 2025 program to realise the Expo’s theme, “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” More than 500 actors from various sectors have already participated in this program and are working towards the realisation of the theme. We will continue to expand such efforts and boost momentum.

Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai is a participatory Expo. I would like to prepare the Expo venue to become an experimental site for challenging future society for many participants.

"Following Expo 2020, only three years will remain until the opening of the next World Expo"

How are you coordinating with participants and what are the next key steps?

Hiroyuki Ishige: As Expo 2020 Dubai comes to a close, countries are beginning to turn to Expo 2025 in Osaka, Kansai. Following Expo 2020, only three years will remain until the opening of the next World Expo. We therefore expect to receive an increase in confirmations from countries from around the world.

As of 11 March, 87 countries and 6 international organisations have already confirmed participation. Regarding self-built pavilions, participating countries are now at the stage of making progress on design and other preparations, as the procedures for building permits are expected to begin six months from now, in October, and construction will begin a year from now, in April 2023. We periodically share the schedule for participation at the BIE General Assembly and other BIE committee meetings and in addition, this year we plan to hold the first International Planning Meeting, which will reinforce dialogue and information-sharing so that participants prepare as best they can.

"In a few days, the Expo flag will be handed over from Dubai to Osaka, Kansai"

Having visited Expo 2020 in Dubai, what have you learned about this edition of the World Expo and the UAE’s hosting of it?

Hiroyuki Ishige: My trip to Expo 2020 Dubai in January was inspiring. I was overwhelmed by its scale, architecture, and the quality of events. Through hosting the Expo, Dubai is showing the whole world its transformation into a knowledge hub. I have felt the Organiser’s resolve in how Expo 2020 Dubai has implemented thorough measures against Covid-19, becoming an unprecedented World Expo overcoming the pandemic.

What impressed me even more were the efforts that emphasised the economies and businesses of the participating countries. The pavilions included not only exhibitions for general visitors but also seminar venues and reception rooms for business purposes. Economic diplomacy by the leaders of each country have been taking place actively. In addition, Theme Weeks have been held with the participation of business figures from all over the world to discuss global issues such as space, water, nature, natural disasters, and health. I think that Expo 2020 Dubai has presented a new Expo model that strengthens business interest and involvement.

"Expo 2020 Dubai has presented a new Expo model that strengthens business interest and involvement"

All of the country representatives I met highly praised the organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai. I fully recognise that the “lead role” of a World Expo is played by participating countries, and it inspires me to continue to prepare for Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, Japan with renewed vigour.

Japan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which features a section dedicated to Expo 2025, is one of the most talked about at Expo 2020. How is this experience and the feedback from visitors contributing to Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai?

Hiroyuki Ishige: At the Japan pavilion, we have set up a corner to convey the appeal of Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai and the Kansai area. This corner, named “scene 6” is the last exhibition area within the Japan pavilion. At the end of the experience, visitors can post their thoughts for the future society, and take their first step in participating in the next World Expo. Currently, we have received about 14,000 messages, including opinions and ideas for solving a wide range of global issues, such as “We should consider the environment with new materials that replace plastics!” We have also received comments from visitors such as “I definitely want to go to the Osaka, Kansai Expo in 2025.” I hope to connect the thoughts of the participants toward such a future society and connect them to Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai.

In addition, on Japan Day at Expo 2020 Dubai, which was held on 11 December, visitors were presented with "hospitality paper cranes" from participants of the TEAM EXPO 2025 programme. This experience of Japanese culture led to a heart-warming episode, where we received a thank-you email from a 10-year-old girl who received a paper crane from her father.

"Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be a test site for future society"

Each World Expo has its own unique story and makes its own contribution to the world. What does Japan, as host country, hope to contribute with Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai?

Hiroyuki Ishige: Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, Japan will be the first Expo with the theme centred around "life." As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, and considering the global situation these days, I think that the theme of "Designing Future Society for Our Lives" is becoming more and more important. As an international event that shows the future prospects of humankind, and with “life” as its theme, the Expo firmly opposes the needless robbing of "life." We hope that 2025 will be an opportunity to talk about the future of humankind and "life" across national borders. We will continue to prepare for the Expo with this in mind.

Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be a “place” where people from all over the world can co-create, overcoming the division caused by the pandemic, and where they can tackle the global challenges ahead. We believe that it is the major role of the host country to provide a place for people to gather and interact, and to create an environment where participating countries can maximise their abilities and motivations. At Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, I would like to create a bright future society together with the global community.

Making full use of the lessons learned from Expo 2020 Dubai, all stakeholders of the Expo, including the national government, the business community, local governments, residents, and participating countries, will work together to prepare for Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai.

"Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be a place where people from all over the world can co-create"

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