Japan PM tells ministers to get Osaka Expo preparations on track

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday instructed relevant ministers to hasten preparations for the World Exposition in Osaka in 2025, as progress in the construction of pavilions for the event is far behind schedule.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters after meeting with Kishida that the premier called for "smooth coordination" between participating countries and domestic constructors.

World Expo minister Naoki Okada and infrastructure minister Tetsuo Saito also joined the gathering. The expo is slated to run for six months from April 2025 on the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay, centered on the theme of "Designing Future Society for Our Lives."

Kishida's instruction comes with concerns growing about the slow progress of preparations by overseas participants of the expo in the major western Japanese city, with ticket sales to begin at the end of November.

Of some 150 participating nations, around 50 are expected to design and build their own pavilions, considered to be the main attraction of the event, but various obstacles have slowed construction for the exhibitions, observers say.

As the Dubai Expo, originally scheduled to start in October 2020, was postponed for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries were unable to launch preparations for Osaka until the event in the United Arab Emirates ended in March 2022.

A surge in prices of materials and related higher building costs following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a chronic labor shortage in Japan's construction sector have made domestic companies reluctant to sign contracts with participating nations.

If participants want to build their own pavilions, they need to obtain permission from Osaka city authorities by submitting a basic design plan before proceeding with construction.

But until late July, only South Korea has submitted such a plan to Osaka, sparking fears that the pavilions for many participants may not be built in time for the opening of the expo in April 2025.

Under the current plan, participating countries are supposed to complete the bulk of the construction work for their pavilions by July 2024.

The cost of an adult ticket for the expo will be 7,500 yen ($53), which is 25 percent higher than the initially proposed price of 6,000 yen, according to the organizing association.

© Kyodo News