With Japanese capital Tokyo slated to host the 2020 Olympic Games, fellow city Osaka hopes to keep up the momentum by hosting the global Expo exhibition in 2025.
Osaka is expected to formally announce its Expo bid within the next few months, and developers and city planners are anticipating the potential positive effects of increased investment if the bid is successful.
There is already a precedent for a Tokyo-Osaka one-two punch, one that Osaka officials hope to repeat. Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964 with Osaka following suit with the Expo in 1970. “We already had the Tokyo Olympics followed by Expo, and we saw a lot of economic growth after that. We would like to apply what we learned the last time,” says Hiromu Matsuda, manager for bay area development in the development & coordination division of the City Planning Bureau in the Osaka city government.
Winning the Expo bid would be a major boost to development plans for the proposed site of the event, the man-made island of Yumeshima, where there are plans for an integrated resort facility that would include one of Japan’s first casinos, pending an expected relaxation of the country’s gambling laws.
Yumeshima is one of two major development projects in the works in Osaka that were promoted at the recent MIPIM 2017 international property exhibition in Cannes in mid-March. The other was Umekita, a mixed-use scheme due to be commercialised in 2023, and international partners are being sought for both.
“We already have 20 bidders, including international ones, and we will pick a developer soon,” says Mr Hiromu of the Umekita project. “Half the space will be green space – midori in Japanese – as we want to offer a balanced life for residents.” A new underground station is to be built to connect the area to the airport.
Opportunities for investors will expand further if Osaka succeeds in landing the Expo a second time. “We are already seeing a lot of interest from international investors in the infrastructure to support these developments. The Expo project site will be run by the public sector but we want to make sure that foreign businesses visiting, as well as tourists, are satisfied with it,” says Mr Hiromu.
Osaka will first have to ward off competition from the likes of Paris, which has already submitted its Expo bid.