Osaka Guide: Expo Memorial Park, Osaka
Expo'70 Commemorative Park - 万博記念公園
If, as is often written and said, that the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 marked the return of Japan to the world stage as a full member of the international community, then the world fair, Expo70, held in Osaka in 1970, certainly marked its move towards the center of said global stage.
The theme of Expo70 was "Progress & Harmony for Mankind" reflecting the optimism of the times, nowhere more so perhaps than Japan, whose economy had two years previously become the second-largest in the world.
It was a very successful Expo, drawing 64 million visitors, a number not surpassed until the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Much new technology was on display, including early versions of mag-lev and cellphone technology, and the world's first IMAX screen was shown, but Expo70 is mostly remembered for its modern architecture, much of which was designed by a group of Japanese architects known as the Metabolists, including Kenzo Tange who was responsible for the overall design of the site.
Following the Expo, as was normal practise, most of the pavilions and structures were dismantled and removed, and the site was then rebuilt as the Expo70 Commemorative Park with numerous sporting and cultural sites within the grounds.
One installation that did remain, and is now known as the symbol of Expo70, is the giant structure called "Tower of the Sun", Taiyo no To. Half as tall again as the Statue of Liberty, this strange sculptural form is actually a building that during the Expo displayed an art exhibit.
Opened to the public several times since then, the tower has been closed since 2015. The 65 meter tall building was designed by Japanese artist Taro Okamoto and the name Tower of the Sun is said to derive from a novel by the now infamous Japanese politician Shintaro Ishihara.
The Steel Pavilion from the Expo, originally a theater and performance space, has been renovated and opened in 2010, the 40th anniversary of the Expo, as the Expo Pavilion, a museum dedicated to the Expo and its construction.
Through photos, videos, and collections of paraphernalia as well as numerous scale models, the heady days of 1970 are brought to life. While the main focus is on Expo70, other world fairs are also covered.
Open 9am-5pm. Closed Wednesdays & over the New Year. 200 yen for adults, free for children.
The biggest cultural facility within the park is the National Museum of Ethnology. Opened in 1977, and designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa (Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Ehime Prefectural Science Museum), this massive establishment has hall after hall filled with artifacts from the peoples of the world.
Boats and other vehicles, dwellings, tools, costumes, toys, masks, thousands upon thousands of colorful displays with English captions, the museum also has a huge collection of video and audio research materials available to the public. A separate building in the complex hold different thematic exhibitions throughout the year.
Open 10am to 5pm, closed Wednesdays and over the New Year. Entry 420 yen for adults, 250 yen for students and 110 yen for kids.
Whereas the Expo Pavilion and the Ethnology Museum are both really suitable for kids, the other museum in the Expo park is probably not. The Japan Folkcrafts Museum, (Nihon Mingeikan), displays ceramics and porcelain, fabrics, lacquerware, and a variety of other craft works including wood, bamboo, metal etc.
Anyone with an interest in Mingei should visit. Thematic exhibitions twice a year sometimes include crafts from other countries. Open from 10am to 5pm, closed on Wednesdays, but also closes irregularly throughout the summer and winter so best to check before planning a visit. 700 yen for adults, 450 yen for students, 100 yen for children.
The park is massive, covering more than 90 hectares, and where was once Expo pavilions has been replanted with forest. There is an aerial promenade, a walkway up to 10 meters above ground and even a footbath in the woods, as well as several large children's playgrounds, though the highlight must be the Japanese Garden.
Built for the Expo, the Japanese garden is actually constructed in four different historical garden styles and also includes a tea house. The English pamphlet gives plenty of explanations and overall the garden is a wonderful opportunity to learn about traditional Japanese gardens.
Access - how to get to Expo Park, Osaka
9-3 Senribanpakukoen, Suita, Osaka 565-0826
Tel: 06 6877 7387
Open from 9.30am to 5pm. Closed Wednesdays or the next day if Wednesday is a National Holiday. Closed from Dec 27th to Jan 7th.
250 yen for adults 70 yen for kids. The entry fee also includes entry to the other gardens in the Expo Park.
Expo Park is a 15 minute walk from either the Bampakukinenkoen or Koen-higashiguchi monorail stations.
The #112 Hankyu Bus from Hankyu Ibaraki-shi Station runs on weekends and public holidays to Nihon Teien Mae bus stop from where it is a 15-minute walk to the park.
Just outside the park and adjacent to the monorail station is Expo City, a massive shopping and entertainment complex that includes an aquarium and the Redhorse Ferris Wheel, the biggest in Japan.