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Osakans with long memories are unlikely to be shedding tears for Yoshiro Mori, the former PM and now former Olympic chief, who quit that job last week. From describing the city as “phlegm” to lackluster support for its 2008 Olympic bid, Mori was no friend of Osaka, writes Eric Johnston.

No surprise, then, that figures in Osaka were among the first to condemn Mori’s recent sexist comments. After all, they have an image to burnish themselves for the next big event in Japan to come after the Tokyo Olympics: the 2025 Osaka Kansai Expo.

While increasing costs and the effects of the pandemic are complicating efforts to ensure the event is a financial and PR success, plans are quietly moving forward, explains Johnston in a Q&A, after the world exposition body formally approved Osaka’s plans for the event in December.

An artist's rendering of the proposed venue for Osaka-Kansai Japan Expo 2025 | JAPAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE 2025 WORLD EXPOSITION / VIA KYODO
An artist’s rendering of the proposed venue for Osaka-Kansai Japan Expo 2025 | JAPAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE 2025 WORLD EXPOSITION / VIA KYODO

Local businesspeople will be hoping the Kansai expo heralds an end to the “lost decades” that have seen many firms and talented residents, especially younger people, relocate from the area to Tokyo and elsewhere.

The Kansai Economic Federation recently presented its vision of what the region needs to do to thrive in 2030. Many of its prescriptions were familiar, writes Johnston, although it was dressed up in new imagery: of Kansai as a pioneer penguin that needs to break from the pack and dive into the icy depths first. Doesn’t sound that appealing.

In the short term amid the pandemic, though, things are looking up for the region. New infections and rates of hospital bed occupancy for COVID-19 patients continue to fall, and Osaka Prefecture has decided to ask the central government to lift the emergency there at the end of the month, Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said Friday, probably in concert with neighboring prefectures.

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