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The 21st Century’s First World Fair


TOKYO – World Fairs do not come along very often, and the first one scheduled for the 21st century promises to make history (as the original did in London in 1851).

The first World Fair of this century will be held next year in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture for a total of 185 days, from March 25 (the beginning of the cherry blossom season) to September 25 2005, and has been given the name Ai Chikyu Haku (Aye Chee-que Hah-kuu)), which translates as Love Earth Exposition.

For orientation, Aichi Prefecture is centered in the Nagoya area, approximately an hour southwest of Tokyo by “Bullet Train.” Some 125 countries and eight international organizations are scheduled to participate in the global festival, which has officially been labeled “Nature’s Wisdom.”

The main venue of the fair will be a 158-hectare (390-acre) site in Nagakute Town, a short distance from Nagoya, with a second 15-hectare venue in nearby Seto. A maglev train, traveling at 100kph and capable of transporting 4,000 visitors per hour, will link Nagoya with Nagakute.

At the Nagakute main site, an intelligent bus platform system, developed by Toyota Motor Corporation, will convey visitors around the site using steering data from transmitters buried beneath the road.

Unlike most world fairs in the past that have featured industrial progress, Love Earth Exposition will emphasize ways to resolve challenges facing the world. An elevated loop walkway that circles the venue is being constructed of waste lumber and is in harmony with the rest of the fair, which will exhibit eco-preserving technology, from fuel cells and solar-powered energy to next generation levitated trains.

Japan’s industrial giants, from the Toyota Group and the Hitachi Group to Mitsui-Toshiba are building dramatic pavilions that will highlight state-of-the-art technologies aimed at protecting and preserving the natural environment of the earth.The latest in robot technology will undoubtedly be among the most popular attractions at the fair. At the Mitsubishi group pavilion a robot named Wakamaru will act as a guide for visitors. It has a vocabulary of 10,000 words, and can recognize individual faces when communicating with people.

Robots built by Business Design Laboratory that can “act human” will put on stage shows at the Toyota pavilion. One of them plays a trumpet a la Louis Armstrong. Another one plays soccer (it won the 2002 robot soccer tournament).

At the Mitsui-Toshiba pavilion the faces of visitors will be electronically scanned and turned into “characters” that will be used in visual presentations to predict a future in which people who left the Earth long ago return from outer space.

The International Exposition Bureau expects some 15 million people to attend the fair, and will have 100 locations, including gas stations and restaurants, on the accesses to the fair grounds where visitors can pay the entrance fees electronically.

Over seven million “first round advance discounted tickets” had been sold by March 2004. Second around advance tickets went on sale on April 1 at discounted rates that will be valid until September of 2004. Discounted advance tickets will continue being sold until March 24, 2005, the day before the fair opens.

For anyone who has never been to Japan, as well as those who have made the trip before, the 2005 World’s Fair offers an opportunity that should not be missed. For more details about the Expo, go to http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/.

John Erskine Banta is General Manager and Director of Radisson Miyako Hotel Tokyo

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