For Expo 2025, the venue would be designed to include open spaces where the latest technologies,
expositions and events would synergize to create a unique environment.
Prof. Mr. Shinya Hashizume
Professor at the Osaka Prefecture University Organization for Research Promotion
Director of the Osaka Prefecture University Research Institute for Tourism Industry
Special Advisor to the Osaka Prefecture and to Osaka City
Mr. Shinya Hashizume was recently appointed to the position of special advisor to the Osaka Prefecture and to Osaka City. He is currently Professor at the Osaka Prefecture University Organization for Research Promotion, and Director of the Osaka Prefecture University Research Institute for Tourism Industry. He also occupies the position of Visiting Professor at the Osaka City University Urban Research Plaza. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering. JAPAN and the WORLD editorial team met with Prof. Hashizume to learn more about his vision of Osaka and the Kansai region as a whole.
—You have occupied many different positions in the past. In what activities are you especially active at present?
World Expos. Specifically, I am dealing with the World Expo 2025 in Osaka. I am playing a central role in developing the basic concept and drafting plans for the site from the initial stage. In 1970, the first World Expo ever held in Asia took place in Osaka, my hometown. During six months, 64 million people—a record-breaking figure for the time—visited the Expo. It was a top-class international event for a country that was transiting from the stage of postwar recovery to a phase of high economic growth. I was in the fourth grade of elementary school at the time. I still remember how surprised I was when I saw the technology and how deeply moved I was to get in touch with the cultures of various different countries. I dreamed of someday working in a field that had connection with such a fair. Later, in college, as I studied urban planning and architecture with teachers who had participated in planning the 1970 Expo, my dreams expanded into something bigger. So, I am very excited to be able to participate in developing the basic concept for the second World Expo to take place in Osaka.
—Much has been published about Osaka and the Kansai Region. How would you characterize this part of Japan?
About half of the roughly 70 books I have written are about the life and culture of that part of the country: Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. Osaka being the center, the Kansai Region is made up of Nara, Kyoto, Kobe, Shiga, and Wakayama. With their distinctive and long history, these areas have long been a vibrant center of Japanese culture. Japan has developed in its own way, creating aesthetic awareness and value criteria while absorbing diverse cultural elements from all over the world. I am proud of this creative spirit, which is the heritage of my own home region.
—You are a special advisor to both Osaka Prefecture and the City of Osaka. What are your thoughts on the future of Osaka?
Last year I published a book named Osaka no jidai wo aruku (Walking through Osaka’s era). In the 1920s and 1930s, the city was called Greater Osaka. As industrialization progressed, it merged with nearby towns and villages to eventually become one of the five most populous industrial cities in the world after Paris, London, Berlin, and Chicago and the most populous industrial city in Asia. Back in the days, renovation of old Osaka stimulated the conversion of surrounding agricultural land into factory and residential sites. At the same time, efforts were made to complete the road and railway infrastructure as well as creating parks and amusement facilities. Large Western cities provided precedents for official and private models. For instance, Berlin was a reference for the construction of a central market place and Leipzig for a trade fair. German cities were references for social welfare systems. And New York beaches and baseball parks were models used in the construction of office buildings and urban development. It is important to note that, in these cases, Western models were not simply imported and copied. They were reinterpreted in a Japanese fashion before being deployed in the urban areas. The Osaka main street, Midosuji, was free of utility poles and led the way in the implementation of street lights. The subway was under construction and gingko trees were planted on both sides of the street. While learning from American markets, Osaka created a new business type in the form of the “terminal-station” department store. The building of the donjon of Osaka Castle, in itself a kind of history museum, was unique. On the basis of surviving pictures, a pseudohistorical exterior was newly designed in a building that used the latest construction technology of its day. Advanced techniques were combined with historic background to create a culture-tradition fusion in a monument the people can be proud of is an inspiring idea typical of Osaka.
Thus, Greater Osaka had already grown into a rich urban center that could compete with large Western cities. Then came the air raids of the World War, which turned the city into ruins. Postwar recovery was splendid, but in recent years Osaka has faced the challenge of revitalizing its development. Finally, about 10 years ago, it began recovering its characteristic features. Now, Osaka’s University and research industry (in medicine and life science for instance) is pulling the region upwards. Osaka is emerging from the shell of the 20th century industrial city. In the years to come, it will no doubt become a youthful city, inhabited by plenty of talented people.
—What is the importance of holding the World Expo 2025 in Osaka and what will it do for the Kansai Region overall?
My view of the World Expo is to make Osaka an international and diversified city where younger generations can become even more active. The World Expo gives the youth of Osaka a chance to get in touch with people from all around the world and create a model of society based on new value criteria.
My view of the World Expo is to make Osaka an international and diversified city where younger generations can become even more active. The World Expo gives the youth of Osaka a chance to get in touch with people from all around the world and create a model of society based on new values. I hope it will be a place where people from all over the world can discuss their future with hope. To this end, on the basis of the idea of a “living laboratory” employing the latest technology, we are undertaking the task of producing an unprecedented fair that could only be created in Osaka. Communications technology will connect Osaka with eight billion people all over the world. Young people who, in this way, come into contact with new knowledge can shape their future.
The event is intended to win recognition from the world for the value of the Kansai Region and to promote it as a hot spot for tourism.
—One goal is to encourage a greater number of tourists to visit Japan. How will this influence the way of life and the culture of the Japanese people?
Nowadays, overseas tourism, not only in Japan, but all over the world, is skyrocketing. As China, India, and Southeast Asian countries experienced economic growth, many people started to travel overseas.
Nowadays, overseas tourism, not only in Japan, but all over the world, is skyrocketing. As China, India, and Southeast Asian countries experienced economic growth, many people started to travel overseas. Naturally, in a competitive spirit, Japan has set goals to achieve in the tourism industry. It can be said with certainty that Japan will be one of the best tourism nations by 2030. Actually, however, we cannot imagine what becoming a tourism nation means. Keeping in mind what other people expect of Japan while having our own image of the country, we must seriously consider what form it ought to take. Of course, lodgings and commercial facilities must be developed. But, in addition, we must give thought to how we, as an island population, accept the phenomenon.
We must give thought to the nature of tourism itself so that visitors’ trips here are more than just pure consumerism such as eating, taking photos, and going back home. This involves making towns more appealing and evolving into a sustainable tourist nation. We hope that, through contacts with visiting tourists, we can preserve the historical and traditional side of Japan while still being able to do business and mix cultures.
—Do you think that there is a competitive relation between Osaka and Tokyo?
People often talk of the rivalry between the two cities, but I think their citizens are not especially aware of it. Once, Tokyo was considered the political center, Kyoto the cultural center, and Osaka the economic center of the nation. Each had its individual economic sphere and regional identity. Now, however, Osaka and Tokyo are not rivals; they are two different, but complementary cities. Economic, cultural, and political concentration in Tokyo progresses. But to make best use of the strengths of Japan, new bases other than Tokyo must be created. Tokyo and Osaka must become one mega-region in which each part expands its distinctive areas of competence while the two complement each other. Otherwise, as the national population decreases, Japan won’t be able to compete with Asia in terms of influence.
—How does urban development influence population (demographic movement)?
In the past, when the population of Japan was growing, work and activity grew too. Consequently, the premise was that housing and the urban development should attain a uniform level all over the country. Now, however, the population is set only to decrease; and the government is introduced the concept of “compact city”. As in nonurban regions, the multiple nuclei model of urban development is thriving, it is likely that at the national level, population will concentrate in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka. This will increase regional economic and culture differences, thus contributing to decentralization. In Europe, each region values an architecture in line with local traditions and cultures. In the coming years, in a Japan where competition among cities intensifies, urban and regional units should no longer copy each other; they will require town-planning that is locally unique. In this sense, we can serve as a model for other countries facing a decrease their population. We must realize our own distinctive urban planning.
—In your view, what cities are ideal in terms of urban planning?
My ideal is a city that values sustainability while taking into account its diversity. A number of cities can serve as benchmarks in urban development. For instance, Barcelona, Spain’s second biggest city after Madrid, has a distinctive culture and strategy for economic promotion. In England, Birmingham and Manchester are developing in a sustainable way while being industrial cities employing large numbers of foreign nationals. Seattle in the United States has added numerous IT industries to its older aerospace industry. Melbourne is undergoing rapid population increase because it accepts many immigrants from other countries. Its successful renewal of the city center has resulted in a widely appreciated and distinctive lifestyle.
We [Osaka] can serve as a model for other countries facing a decrease their population. We must realize our own distinctive urban planning.
All of these examples share a strong will to change and take pride in towns embracing multiculturalism. I hope that we can be inspired from many cities of the world to regenerate Osaka, our hometown, and make it a wonderful city for everyone.