Expo 2020 Dubai takes Japanese envoy back to 1970


Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Dubai - Though Nakajima’s house was close to Osaka, where Asia’s first World Expo was held, he could not beat the huge crowds and get in.


Anjana Sankar

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Published: Sat 26 Jun 2021, 7:32 PM

From the disappointment of being unable to attend the 1970 Osaka Expo to serving as Japan’s ambassador to the UAE when Dubai is hosting Expo 2020, life has come a full circle for Akihiko Nakajima.

“I was 13 years old then...I still remember how excited people were as Japan was on the path of progress after the second World War had devasted the country,” Ambassador Nakajima told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

The Expo was held from March 15 to September 13 under the theme ‘Progress and Harmony for Mankind’. The 1970 event also saw the first Emirati participation in a World Expo, when Abu Dhabi had a pavilion.

Though Nakajima’s house was close to Osaka, where Asia’s first World Expo was held, he could not beat the huge crowds and get in.

“There were so many people. It was impossible to go. I still remember how the American pavilion was popular as everyone wanted to see the stone from the Moon.” At that time, the US pavilion’s biggest attraction were photos and artefacts from the Apollo 11 moon landing, including an authentic piece of moon rock.

“It was also the first time I tasted a frozen Lychee fruit. I had never seen that fruit before,” said the ambassador, adding that the exposition helped him see a world outside of Japan.

“Now, I am very excited, and I feel a little nostalgic about Expo as it reminds me of my younger days,” ambassador Nakajima said.

For Japan, Expo 2020 Dubai is an experience to look forward to and learn from as the next Expo will be held in Osaka in 2025, he added.

Nakajima urged the younger generation of Japanese to take the ‘golden opportunity’ to come and visit Dubai and understand the culture and business atmosphere.

“I want the Japanese people to come and see how people from so many different cultures come here and live and work hard and coexist peacefully. This country is very tolerant to other cultures and very advanced.”

Speaking about the Japanese pavilion, the ambassador said it would give visitors ‘a sense and feel’ of what is behind the Japanese mind, its people and its famous brands like Toyota and Sony, as well as manga and anime, to mention a few.

“Japan is also very multi-cultural. We have imbibed different aspects of European culture yet retain the authentic ‘Japaneseness’.”

He said the pavilion would bring Japan’s cultures closer to people. “As we are farthest east from the European centrist point of view, Japan is for many people, still a magical land...a far-away country. I hope people will feel closer to Japan and its culture after visiting the pavilion.”

The Expo is also an opportunity for Japanese businesses to expand collaborations and investment opportunities in Dubai, Nakajima added.


Combining Arabesque and Japanese architecture, the pavilion represents the long history of connections and cultural exchange between Japan and the Middle East. It will showcase Japan’s vibrant art, culture, technology and traditional hospitality.

A soft, thin layer material inspired by Japanese traditional paper art Origami serves as the pavilion’s shade from the sunlight.

The expanse of water in front of the structure cools the area and reflects on the three-dimensional façade.

The botanical design uses low-energy-consuming materials and sprays water to cool down the temperature inside the pavilion.

“Our theme resonates with the overall theme of the Expo, ‘Connecting minds and creating the future’, and that is what Japan wants to show the world,” said the envoy.


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