National

Cabinet gives the greenlight to Osaka's 2025 World Expo bid proposal

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka’s bid to host the 2025 World Exposition earned a stamp of approval from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government Tuesday.

The Cabinet decision comes amid mounting concerns about the strength of the bid made by Paris, which is also vying to hold the international exhibition, as well as questions about who would pay for needed infrastructure projects.

Despite these problems, support from the central government had been expected. Abe is close to Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, who heads the nominal opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai, and the two men and their parties share similar views on many issues.

“We’ll make efforts to gain bid support from a variety of countries, as well as the rest of the Kansai region and the business community,” Matsui said Tuesday.

The governor is expected to submit the bid application to the Bureau International des Expositions, the Paris-based governing body, by April 24. The BIE will select the winner in November 2018. If Osaka is chosen, it will be the second time it has hosted a World Expo. The 1970 Expo, one of the most successful ever, drew 64 million people.

Osaka’s 2025 plans call for the Expo to be held on Yumeshima, a man-made island in Osaka Bay, from May to November. Between 28 and 30 million people are expected to attend. The economic effect is forecast to reach about ¥1.9 trillion.

The cost to build the venue, estimated at around ¥125 billion, will be split equally among the central government, local municipalities and the private sector. But Osaka politicians and business leaders are also pushing for the central government’s support of local transportation infrastructure projects needed for the Expo.

The organizers of the city’s bid have taken steps to improve its chances of being picked.

Osaka’s original Expo theme was “Our Health, Our Future.” That theme was centered on new medical technologies, products, and services needed to address health and lifestyle concerns of graying societies, a subject of intense focus in a country whose population is rapidly aging at the same time it is declining.

By 2025, according to one calculation by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 30 percent of the nation’s population will be 65 years or older (up from 26.6 percent in 2015). By 2065, the population, which stood at just over 127 million in 2015, will have fallen to 88 million, with 38.4 percent over 65 years old.

But worried about the Paris bid, business leaders and the central government, led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, wanted an Expo that focused on broader global concerns.

The theme was changed to “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” The concept was expanded to address threats to future survival and ways to reduce diseases, natural disasters, pandemics, food shortages and other problems.