Expo ’70, Osaka, 1970.

1970sKobe-OsakaMuseums & Expositions/Exhibitions
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Aerial view of Expo ’70, Osaka, 1970. Back-caption: “On an 815-acre spread on Senri Hills, Osaka, 76 nations from all over the world participate in the grand display of ‘Progress and Harmony for mankind’. At center is the Symbol Zone, dominated by the Tower of the Sun, surrounded on both sides of by the 80+ national and corporate pavilions. To the left of the expressway running through the Expo site is ‘Expoland’, where thrill-packed amusement riding facilities are available.”

“Expo ’70 is a landscape of glittering laser beams, clicking computers and clanking robots demonstrating — upon close inspection — that all that glitters, clicks and clanks is not necessarily advanced technology.

“As befits a world exposition In the country that made the transistor famous, the 815-acre fairground is a treasure house of electronic gadgets and gimmicks. Dazzling applications of advanced optical and acoustical techniques and computer-controlled entertainment beguile the eve and ear.

“The site also contains a variety of improved ways to enclose space and move people.

“… At least half a dozen pavilions have works of art incorporating laser beams and reflecting surfaces.

“The Mitsubishi Pavilion [below] uses a ‘smoke screen’ – a reflecting screen made of a controlled flow of smoke – to show films. Mitsubishi officials say that the screen will eventually be cheap, clear and easy-to-use and will have a wide variety of applications.

“The Japanese steel industry pavilion is a concert hall of the future, containing 1,300 loudspeakers for the highest kind of fidelity imaginable. The equipment permits the playing of music on as many as 12 channels simultaneously, compared with the two channels used by the usual stereophonic equipment.”

“Glittering, Clicking, Clanking Expo ’70, in Japan, Emphasizes the Practical Use of Modern Technology”, New York Times, March 22, 1970

Mitsubishi Future Pavilion, Expo ’70, 1970. See descriptions above and below. The pavilion exterior (inset photo, lower-right) was representative of the famous Hiroshige ca. 1830 woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.

“Tange Kenzo’s basic plan for the expo site aimed to create the future city: the Symbol Zone – its information center – would be the tree-trunk; the monorail that is suspended in the sky and the moving sidewalks, its branches; and the exhibition spaces that lie in between, blooming flowers … The Festival Plaza, which lies north of the tower, was designed by Isozaki Arata’s group to combine the characteristics of the town square, a theater, and an environment (kankyo).

Tower of the Sun, Expo ’70, Osaka, 1970. “The brilliant Tower of the Sun rises through the large roof of the Symbol Zone which spreads its wings to the sky.”

“… Many of the pavilions soar into the sky and burrow into the underground. The exhibition rooms center around projected images, are dark and labyrinthine, and the spectators wander up and down the womb-like space, as if in a funhouse.

“… Together with the Japanese Pavilion, another exhibit which reveals the ideology of Expo ’70 in its purest form is the Mitsubishi Future Pavilion [see below]. Here the image stands not only as a simple mechanism for reproduction. Its large scale manages to pull in the viewers. A belt conveyor crosses the sky, like a hanging bridge, and the images projected on the screens left and right are amplified by mirrors placed above and below, and in back and in front, violently assaulting the viewers.

“The first scenes show a storm at sea, then a volcanic explosion, and are meant to tell the story of how the Japanese people have fought the threats of nature since ancient times. The scene that then follows shows the monitoring of a typhoon from a space station and the fantastic landscape of an underwater city … At the end, the viewer is presented with a scene of nature and technology in perfect harmony; a residence of the future, placed on an ample lawn with a view of Mount Fuji, inside which we find an array of gadgets, starting with an electronic brain.”

Expo ’70 as the Ruins of Culture (1970), by Haryū Ichirō & Ignacio Adriasola, 2011

Representative Pavilions & Exhibits

Tower of the Sun, Expo ’70, Osaka, 1970. From the back caption: “The Symbol Area is composed of the Tower of the Sun rising out of the grand roof (designed for the Festival Plaza) with the Tower of Mother and the Tower of Youth under the roof. The past, present and future of mankind will be the theme for the exhibitions in this area.”

Japan pavilion, Expo ’70, Osaka, 1970. “The five-wing pavilion designed after the Expo symbol mark, largest of the structures on the site, stands impressively on an 8,000-square-meter lot, or 1/10,000,000 of Japan’s total area.”

“Osaka was chosen as the site for the 1970 World Exposition by the Bureau of International Expositions in 1965. 330 hectares in the Senri Hills outside Osaka had been earmarked for the site and a Theme Committee under the chairmanship of Seiji Kaya was formed. Kenzo Tange [chief architect of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics venues] and Uzo Nishiyama were appointed to produce the master plan for the Expo. The main theme would be Progress and Harmony for Mankind. Tange invited 12 other architects to elucidate designs for elements within the master plan.

“Two main principles informed the idea of the master plan. The first was the idea that the wisdom of all the peoples of the world would come together in this place and stimulate ideas; the second was that it would be less of an exposition and more of a festival.

“The designers thought that unlike previous expositions they wished to produce a central, unifying, Festival Plaza where people could meet and socialize. They called this the Symbol Zone and covered it and the themed pavilions with a giant space frame roof.”


Inside the Soviet pavilion, Expo ’70, Osaka, 1970. The docking of Soyuz spaceships in the Kosmos section of the pavilion. The two most popular national pavilions at Expo ’70, the American and the Soviet pavilions, both highlighted the exploration and future development of space. Expo ’70 would be the last world exposition attended by the Soviet Union.

“Expo 70, the world’s fair held in Osaka, Japan, from mid-March till mid-September 1970, was a showcase for world culture and innovation and it brought the latest in technology, design and architecture to the Japanese city. Osaka Expo was the first Expo hosted in Asia and it was an incredible example of engineering and architectural finesse thanks to unforgettable temporary pavilions.

“The exhibition, whose theme was Progress and Harmony for Mankind, was Japan’s showcase to the world and proof of its superior technological skills. The 76 nations (plus a British Crown Colony − Hong Kong), as well as three American states and one German city, that took part in it were eager to match the host country, if not technologically then at least architecturally, with the exhibits they displayed inside. The expo was, therefore, an amazing conglomeration of structures, many of them daring in their designs and concepts.

“… The Expo site is now a Commemoration Park. Most of the pavilions were destroyed, but a few elements (such as the Japanese Garden) remain, and the mysterious Tower of the Sun still stands tall. In addition, a time capsule was buried there, to be opened 5,000 years later, in the year 6970.”

Expo ’70 Osaka: A Futuristic Experience, The Culture Trip, 2016

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