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Concern over the omicron coronavirus variant has forced the cancellation of events and trips by Japanese officials to Dubai in order to promote the 2025 Osaka Kansai Expo.

Japan Day, scheduled to take place on Dec. 11 at the Dubai Expo, will still take place with local staff. But citing worries about the spread of the omicron variant, expo minister Kenji Wakamiya indicated Friday that he would not attend the event. In addition, trips by Japan-based entertainers for 2025 expo-related performances in Dubai that day have also been canceled.

Wakamiya’s decision came a few days after Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, also citing omicron concerns, decided not to visit Dubai.

The absence of a senior delegation from Japan means a prime opportunity has been lost to meet directly with more countries and ask them to come to Osaka in 2025.

“Japan Day would have been great timing for promoting the 2025 expo. But the decision to cancel was the right one,” Yoshimura told reporters in Osaka on Friday.

The Dubai Expo, originally scheduled to open in 2020, was postponed until October due to the pandemic.

It was unclear whether Wakamiya, Yoshimura, and other Japan-based government and private sector officials involved with the 2025 expo would visit the Dubai Expo before it closes on March 31 next year.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan tour the French pavilion at the Dubai Expo on the first day of Macron's Gulf tour on Friday. | AFP-JIJI
French President Emmanuel Macron and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan tour the French pavilion at the Dubai Expo on the first day of Macron’s Gulf tour on Friday. | AFP-JIJI

The Osaka Kansai Expo plans call for the participation of 150 countries and 25 international organizations. Since late 2020, the central government and Osaka have been meeting with foreign officials in Japan and abroad to lobby for the event.

As of Nov. 24, only 64 countries and five international organizations had committed to taking part in the 2025 expo. These include the United States and China, both of which are expected to have large pavilions.

Due to the Dubai Expo's one-year postponement, Japan will now only have three years between the time it ends and April 13, 2025, when the Osaka Kansai Expo begins, to conduct a domestic and international lobbying campaign. There are usually four years between expos.

The Osaka Kansai Expo 2025 will take place on Yumeshima, an artificial island in Osaka Bay. Expo officials are predicting about 28 million visitors will attend the six-month event, which closes on Oct. 13, 2025. This will include an estimated 3.5 million visitors from abroad.

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