The Bubble Economy (1985-1995): World City Expo Tokyo ’96 Pamphlet (1994)

The Bubble Economy (1985-1995): World City Expo Tokyo ’96 Pamphlet (1994)
Fig. 1. Cover of the pamphlet. P. 1.

The World City Expo Tokyo 1996 was a fairytale to many. Partly because of its utopistic nature; partly because it did not actually happen in history. It was abruptly cancelled just ten months before its commencement.

Apart from being a showcase of Japan’s finest technologies and design, the World City Expo was essentially a campaign led by Suzuki Shunichi (governor of Tokyo at the time) to promote Odaiba as the model town of Tokyo. The following is an elaborated plan of Odaiba designed for the Expo, with ample attractions distributed in all four districts of Odaiba.

Fig. 2. Illustrated directory of Odaiba for World Expo 1996. P. 2-3.

The venues for Tokyo World Expo was concentrated in Aomi and Ariake South, the southern parts of Odaiba. Northern Odaiba (Daiba and Ariake North) was mainly for commercial, sports and recreation.

Fourteen attractions were listed on the map. They are translated as follows:

  1. United Nations Plaza: an entertainment space to promote exchanges between cities that gather.
  2. Oikos (Heritage) Park: a reproduction of ancient cities around the world.
  3. Future City: an imaginative world of future technologies.
  4. Corporate Pavilion: showcasing companies as the producers of the city.
  5. Wonder City: a play station with virtual reality and computer games.
  6. Meteor Station: the main gate of the expo inspired by the Roman Colosseum.
  7. Art City: world of art, film and music to showcase Japan’s creativity.
  8. Frontier Hall: special event hall with shows and performances to be held.
  9. Public Square: a green open space as a public event space and sports venue.
  10. Water Square: a performance stage with fountains and fireworks.
  11. Japanese City Hall: an information and cultural hall featuring Japan’s cities.
  12. Industrial City Hall: a showroom of Japan’s traditional crafts and newest technology.
  13. Theme Hall – Tokyo Metropolis Plaza: an exhibition about Tokyo’s past, present and future.
  14. Theme Hall – Environmental Plaza: a three-dimensional theatre about the universe.

The pamphlet embodied a characteristic Japanese spirit with its illustrated style – it was almost like a directory for Disneyland. After all, the World Expo was nothing but a romantic imagination of Odaiba, dreamt by the whole of Tokyo.

Fig. 3. Back cover of the pamphlet showing ways of access and ticket information. P. 4.



アルベース (@netsurf_ALbase), “中止になった世界都市博覧会のパンフレット。” Twitter, June 8, 2017,

1 Comment on “The Bubble Economy (1985-1995): World City Expo Tokyo ’96 Pamphlet (1994)

  1. These Japanese sources look very provocative. It is perfectly legitimate for you to analyze this World City Expo event through the popular advertisements and propaganda materials. But do make a conscious effort to account for the intentions by the government as the propagator of such an event, especially its economic and political motives. Are they using the Expo to legitimize the expenditure incurred in Odaiba? Were they trying to generate economically viable uses and build more programs for what was an expensive development? Don’t forget, governments often use global events to spearhead infrastructure projects and seek legitimacy domestically. Please take time to elaborate, translate, and develop strong arguments for Odaiba and a focused topic on Tokyo. It is imperative for you to cite these sources correctly.

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