Expo 1970 in Osaka may have closed to the public more than 45 years ago, but the former Expo site continues to attract visitors. Today, locals and tourists alike have another reason to visit, with the opening of a 123-metre Ferris wheel – the largest in Japan and fifth largest in the world - in Osaka’s Expocity. The Redhorse Osaka Wheel provides riders with a breathtaking view of the Tower of the Sun, the iconic symbol of Expo 1970.
Since Expo 1970 came to an end, the original site has been partly preserved and partly renovated, allowing it to hold onto the Expo’s legacy while offering new activities to attract visitors. The 330-hectare site boasts a range of attractions, including the memorial park, a children’s museum, and ‘Expocity’ – Japan’s largest commercial complex in which the Redhorse Osaka Wheel is located.
I’ve written before about how many Americans are unaware that expos (or “world’s fairs,” as we tend to call them here) still happen. Similarly, the millions of people who live in countries that have hosted expos in the last couple of decades are sometimes unaware of America’s contributions to the medium throughout history. Walt Disney’s story is emblematic about how 20th Century United States history and world’s fair history are intertwined.
I see it as part of my mission to keep world’s fairs and the United States from drifting apart. Fortunately, working at the Walt Disney Family Museum, I have the privilege of interacting regularly with other folks who are also passionate about the power of places.
As a child, visiting relatives in St. Louis, Missouri here in the United States, I’d often hear references to the 1904 World’s Fair that was held there. Officially known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Americans have tended to use the term “world’s fair” much in the same way that we refer to football as “soccer.”
I’d later find out that not only did my great-grandmother attend the world’s fair, but I discovered that the hospital I was born in was on land that was part of the site. For folks in St. Louis, the event is still an important part of the city’s identity. It not only helped St. Louis shape its identity, but pointed the way forward for the city and the nation.