It’s 2pm and a blistering 38°C, but the moment you step into the Japanese Pavilion at the Expo 2020 site, a gentle breeze welcomes you. No, we are not indoors yet and there are no fans around. It is all thanks to origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, which has inspired the design of the pavilion façade. Designed by the Japanese architect, Yuko Nagayama, the white exterior uses natural airflow to cool the pavilion.
According to Isao Ando, the Pavilion Director and the Deputy Commissioner General of the Japanese section: “The façade brings together arabesque and origami motifs and represents the longstanding historical ties between Japan and the Middle East. The structure takes in traditional energy-saving systems from both cultures and can be seen as an example of sustainable architecture.”
Now, if you are not already awestruck, this is only the beginning.
The Japanese Pavilion is situated in the Opportunity Pavilion of the Expo 2020. Aiko Yabunaka, the Secretary General of the Pavilion, explained: “Our theme is ‘Where ideas meet’. We are creating an opportunity for people to meet and share ideas for a better future.”
From the go, you are in for a personalised visual treat. When we say personalised, we mean each person has a different experience. Here’s how…
On the first floor, at the entrance, visitors get a Sony smart device and open earphones. This will be your personal guide.
There is a mix of culture, history and technology with every step you take, in the pavilion.
At the start of your tour, you are asked to enter your details, like where you are from, in the smart device. Next, you are assigned a name or a character, mine was Hitorishizuka.
Every visitor is given a single virtual flower, a symbol of hospitality. Apparently, when guests visit Japanese homes, hosts place a single flower in a vase to welcome them. You receive it on the smart device.
Now starts your personalised journey that lasts almost an hour.
The first zone is ‘Encountering Japan’. Visitors walk into a room that uses mist and technology to create an immersive experience, as if you are standing in parts of Japan. After you learn about Japan’s journey through history, you are asked choose a door based on your intuition.
With every step you take, your device stores your behaviour data. From the door you choose, to the screens you watch at the second zone called ‘Culture and history’, and the time you spend at the various points in the third zone called ‘Innovation’, the smart device understands the issues that draw you most and designs your virtual avatar, using real-time graphic art.
The third zone is not solely about high-end technology; instead, it has drawn inspiration from both Nature and traditional culture. Here you can explore modern Japan and its future through a series of cute, elaborate miniatures using day-to-day objects. It is inspired from a feature in Japanese poetry called mitate, that uses metaphors to allude to various things.
In the fourth zone, ‘Issues’, visitors walk through an infinity mirror room which juxtaposes their own images with those depicting social and environmental challenges facing the world today.
In the fifth zone, called ‘Where ideas meet’, visitors get to experience the first step in a 360-degree theater integrating cutting-edge data technology with real-time generated graphic art.
The video projections in these zones use ultrafine mist creating three-dimensional art in an unprecedented immersive experience.
Here, you finally get to see your avatar. The issues that interested you are displayed together, and you are grouped with others who shared similar interests. Now, your character is given a goal, for Hitorishizuka, it was to build a society where no one is left behind, while another visitor was asked to focus on saving forests.
Japan is also the next country to be hosting the World Expo in 2025. In the final zone called ‘Designing Future Society for Our Lives – Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai’, the section focuses on how ideas, actions, and challenges of people from around the world can come together. Visitors are asked to share their ideas and messages to shape the next Expo.
The smart devices are returned at the end of the tour and according to the staff at the pavilion, they get cleaned and sanitised after every use.
Meet an astronaut or enjoy J-Pop
If it’s not just the technology that interests you, the Japanese Pavilion has interesting PR ambassadors that many are looking forward to. Pokemon, anime character Gundam, Japanese pop group Kanjani Eight and astronaut Yamazaki Naoko will be visiting the Expo 2020 Dubai and according to Aiko Yabunaka, might even meet and greet their fans.
Another interesting thing to look forward to are the official uniforms that are designed for the pavilion staff. Designed by fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga, the white costumes are sustainable and glow pink under certain lighting. That is not all, they are designed to represent the Earth.
And, good news for Japanese food enthusiasts! A Japanese sushi restaurant is also a part of the pavilion. The restaurant overlooks the beautiful white façade.