Saturday July 30th, 2005

World Expo 2005, Aichi, Japan. All Day 7 Pics

Biiiiiig day today, got up at 6:15 to get a shower etc, all meet for breakfast upstairs at 6:45 (still telling myself that it’s REALLY breakfast at 5:45 pm on my real schedule) for a very nice buffet style affair without too many unidentifiable things. I did avoid what looked like the “egg soup” though.

It was about a 40 min bus ride from Nagoya to Aichi. I tell you, the Japanese have this mass people-moving thing down! There was parade of buses, (Nagoya Station happened to be under our hotel so no walking) leading to the event site. Apparently 60% of Japan lives in the Tokyo metro area, 30% in the Osaka/Kobe area, leaving 10% for all the rest; Nagoya falls into this category and it’s still huge, with big modern downtown buildings and a sprawl that makes it seem much larger than St. Louis or Cincinnati.

First stop was at the care center for a wheelchair for Mom, which turned out to be a tremendous help in getting into certain events and exhibits with priority seating. For instance we got into the Toyota robot theater show on the first seating, when there is almost instantly a 3 hour wait from the get-go. This show was amazing, utilizing robots that as far as I could discern, actually played trumpets, trombones, tuba, marching french horn and a set of electronic drum pads! The show incorporated a lot of great lighting effects and some new robots that wrap themselves around the operator, and can operate with the operator in an seated upright position, or the wheels can slide apart and the operator is essentially in a recliner operating this thing. There are all kind of light strips on this thing which can dynamically change color continuously throughout the spectrum during the performance. There were a number of dancers that crawled from holes in the floor during an “earth forming’ number as well as a dancer who what hung from the ceiling (about 100ft up!) on some kind of a harness with swivel points on his hips. He was hung from a small arm attached to a rigging point, with long cloth ‘curtains’ hanging down and disguising the rigging wires. He used this to great effect while the guide wires at the top made him fly around in circles making the cloth look like big outrigger ship sails. The dancers ended up getting into these robots, and made then part of the show.

Water jets in the floor of the theater that were so precisely controlled, that at the landing point there were drain holes no larger than 6 inches and these streams just poured right into these drain holes, no muss no fuss! Also some fire jets shooting up puffs of flame in time to the music.

There were a million great photo-ops during the show but photos were not allowed so all I could do was sneak a photo of the empty theater before the show started.

We were trying to get the hard to get into shows out of the way early, so we next went to this animated movie, but before you saw it, they scanned your face twice, made a contour map of it, and then you appeared as a character in the movie (for about 3 seconds!) Cool that they can do it on the fly like that. Movie was pretty good computer animation but the story was kinda lame, a theme that would repeat itself at the end of the day…

Next up was to go to some of the exhibits from each of the countries; they were grouped by region, Asia, South Pacific etc. Some were really elaborate, well done exhibits, and others were excuses to try and sell you cheap bracelets. Lots of ethnic food for each region, but most of it went untried (one can only eat so much, and it was freakin’ HOT all day).

We started with the eastern pacific rim countries, then made our way over to the Middle East area. There was some dancing out front of the Saudi Arabian exhibit which was a pantomime of a knife fight. Why am I not surprised?

We had some lunch, and took a ride on the Wonder Wheel, a half inside, half outside Ferris wheel, each car had it’s own air conditioning system! There were some murals and slides about conservation and then we were treated to some really nice aerial views of the whole Expo grounds, since we were on a hill to begin with and now 100ft in the air. All the big aerial shots came from here, and we only had to wait an hour!

Middle of the afternoon and early evening saw us at the North/South American exhibits where we saw a Merengue dance lesson at the Dominican Repuplic, a tango demonstration in Argentina, and visited the Mexican exhibit which was REALLY well-done. When you first come in they had one of those “misters” you see to keep you cool by spraying you with a fine spray of water. But it was hung across the top of the entrance-way, and was SUPER fine water droplets which was backlit by a light that was projecting moving silhouettes of birds flying on the spray which acted like a projection screen! It was a great effect. Even better (almost) was that they had a REAL Mexican restaurant attached and we immediately went in there because Holly and Jerry always lament the lack of Mexican food in Japan. So we go in and Jerry is already there sippin’ a strawberry margarita! Figures…

The theme of the Expo was how man can be more in harmony with nature, and one of the concepts proposed was the “bio-lung”, a way to create more oxygen in urban areas where space is at a premium (like in Japan). It is a vertical wall a couple feet thick with panels of real grass and big leafy plants growing from it. So it has a small footprint on the ground but big footprint in the air. Seems like a more sensible way to combat the supposed global warming than crippling the auto industry, but what do I know…

At the end of the day there was a the big multimedia show “Evening at the Koi Pond”, an outdoor show on such a scale that it could only really be appreciated from about 100 yards away. This show was a technical triumph in many ways but was overall, well completely lame! Either the elements that comprise the art of good storytelling don’t apply in Japan, or it was another case of brilliant execution of a still-born idea. Show was 1/2 hour long but only really had enough spectacle to keep you interested for 10min.

The good stuff? Well the “projection on water-spray” idea was taken all the way out… Imagine a fan shaped water spray 2 stories high that you could project crisp images, laser outlines on. In the center of the lake, surrounded by dry ice fog, was a 30-foot model of a female snow monkey (jury is still out on whether is was inflatable or not).

They had good use of their performance space by launching (on tethers) helium filled models of the Earth and Moon from the hillside behind the screen, at various times large floating fish or alligators or boats that were lit from the inside with various colors, and of course this water as screen idea is amazing in and of itself. So the story is really obtuse slow because of needless repetition of small ideas that didn’t develop, so when it was all over you just said “what the hell was that all about anyway”?

Kind of a weird note to end an amazing day on but all in all, it was really incredible!

Thank you Holly and Jerry (Horry & Jelly)

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