I’m pretty lucky to be living close to the site of the 2005 World Expo in Aichi Prefecture. Expos don’t happen very often and are usually thousands of miles away, so to have one an hour away by train is a treat. All reports back from people who’ve been said that it was well worth a visit, so I decided that the last full day Mum and Jan were here, we could make the trip and see what it had to offer. In fact, I was able to get discounted tickets a long time ago and they’d been sitting in my house a long time, so it was nice to finally get a chance to use them.
We arrived by Linimo (short for Linear Motorcar, which is how the Japanese interpret a Maglev Monorail system), which was ultra-quiet and ultra-packed with people. I feel sorry for those commuters for whom this is the usual route to work. Until October, they’re not going to have a peaceful ride to work any day of the week. The sight as you arrive from on high is impressive, with the Toyota and Hitachi Pavilions dominating the skyline. We were lucky to enter the park without queueing at all, because recently some people have had to wait up to half an hour just to get in.
This Expo, rather than having a fully-automatic virtual ticketing system like they do at big theme parks nowadays, relied on a curious combination of web-applications and pre-booked tickets to gain entrance to the main attractions. These were available a month before-hand, but sold out within an hour every day. Because of this, we decided to avoid the big industrial halls, which would have otherwise needed 2 hours of lining up for a 20 minute show. Instead, we concentrated on the many countries’ pavilions, which were dotted around the massive grounds, grouped by continent. For me, the Polish and Indian halls were the best, the former having an underground replica salt cavern and the latter with a variety of interesting live shows.
Luckily, (luckily, for me!) we were able to get inside the Global House to see the largest widescreen display ever play a short film on a screen 50m long. On the exit from this hall, we got to see an original mammoth tusk from pre-historic times, albeit through glass and only briefly. The Mitsubishi “What if there was no moon?!” pavilion was clever, with a mirrored ceiling reflecting a giant video screen for a strange, all-encompassing effect. Lots of robots dotted around the park followed children, saying hello to them, or cleaned up, or acted as guides.
A few of the countries’ pavillions were essentially adverts for their own country, and an effort to sell some jewellery and local goods, but the majority had been well thought-out and had interesting stuff inside. I really liked the UK pavillion, but lots of people, including Mum didn’t have much time for it. Strangely, the entrance to the pavillion was lined with lime trees. I know that English sailors used to eat limes to prevent scurvy and that Aussies call us limeys, but I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lime tree in England. I asked one of the guys about it and he told me it was because “we couldn’t get oaks to grow in time”. I asked if there was a secret room for Brits, like the Canadian pavillion had for Canadian citizens, but had no joy. Had our pavillion been more popular, I probably would have had to line up for it too! It’s lucky the theme of the Expo was technology and nature, because a pavillion combining queueing, rain, sarcasm and complaining about the cricket probably would have gone across even worse.
As the evening set in, the pavillions started to light up and, especially in the Corporate Zone (though ironically, not the Electric Wonderland), looked beautiful all lit up in a variety of colours. As more people left and it became less crowded, we were able to go into the Mountain of Dreams and see some weird expressive video and robot show, which left everybody confused. And then, finally, after a long, packed day, we made our way home. I’d recommend the Expo to anyone that asked, though if you’re hoping to see all of the most popular attractions in one day, you’d be disappointed. It runs until the end of September, after which I’m not sure what will happen to the area. All of the pavillions are recyclable and movable, so they might pop-up somewhere else.