Technology in harmony with nature... at a Japanese expo.

Vinod Jacob

More than 22 million people visited the AICHI Bampaku expo held in Japan's Nagoya City in the Aichi Prefecture.

Aptly themed "Nature's Wisdom", the expo attempted to make countries and the corporate sector pause in their rush to catch up with technology, to rethink and rekindle the wisdom of nature. It tried to generate awareness on issues of pollution, global warming and energy use.

The highlight of the expo was not so much the theme but the way in which the concept was put into practice. The venue was a park where the woods, the terrain and the water bodies were utilised to the maximum extent possible in their natural state.

The expo was divided into two sections, Seto and Nagakute, highlighting the different facets of nature and the ways in which we can live in harmony with nature in an industrialised world.

Living with `Satoyama'

The Seto area, located inside the woods, offered a miniature view of our environment. It focused on the traditional Satoyama system. Satoyama, which means a small mountain village in Japanese, encompasses the self-sufficient lifestyles led by these villagers in the olden times.

All the pavilions in the Seto were made out of natural materials. At the Civic pavilion, made entirely of wood, citizens and NGOs held discussion inside a theatre on subjects ranging from `Wonderful world tour on a bicycle' to `Slow is beautiful', `Movable tea house' and `My alternative Expo'.

The nitrogen dioxide content in the air at the expo site and in the forest nearby were measured and tabulated. Bonsais were kept on display to represent nature in a small pot. The Seto area showcased some of the traditional values, cultures, and living styles of the people who lived in close contact with nature.

Living in harmony

The Nagakute area consisted of pavilions put up by corporates, showcasing technology's progress. Different countries also showcased their culture and tradition. To top it all each pavilion offered relishing food at its restaurant.

The forest experience zone helped visitors get acquainted with the animals and plants in the forest and to learn to live in harmony with them. A forest school attempted to describe the school of the future, where natural study aids would be used, like in the olden days.

A big attraction at the expo was the display of the frozen remains of the pre-historic mammoth excavated near Siberia. A giant seamless screen was used to project panoramic scenes of the earth. A walled pathway filled with plants and flowers formed the lung of the expo area.

The global loop

With the theme `Tree of Life' the Indian pavilion was centred around a two-storey high pillar reminiscent of the Bodhi tree, under which nature's wisdom was transferred from generation to generation. Silk cloth, spices and other Indian specialities were on display with sales on the first floor. The restaurant `Bollywood Masala' offered delicious south and north Indian food, along with special Kashmiri dishes. The Japanese, who are fond of curry rice, couldn't have asked for more.

The centrepiece of the Bangladesh pavilion was the decorated cycle rickshaw, while the Nepal pavilion featured a beautifully carved wooden temple which was auctioned at the end of the expo. The Pakistan pavilion had a replica of the Karakoram mountain range.

The Uzbekistan pavilion's theme was based on the old silk route. The pavilion was divided into four sections to correspond with the four seasons and showed how people adjusted to extreme climatic conditions.

Besides the pavilions of various European countries, there was a Central American pavilion displaying different kinds of sand from that region. The African countries too came together under a single pavilion, highlighting the diversity and solidarity of people.

The US pavilion celebrated the third centenary of Benjamin Franklin, American's first diplomat and scientist, and the country's accomplishments in space missions.

Corporate pavilions

The JR (Japan Railways) pavilion displayed the world record setting Maglev train for a maximum speed of 581 kmph. The JAMA (Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association) pavilion projected the relationship of cars with society, culture, lifestyle and nature. A giant wheel portrayed images of different automotive cultures down the years.

The Mitsubishi and Hitachi pavilions were entertaining, showing visitors their latest technology.

Toyota showcased its clean transportation with the IMTS (Intelligent Multimode Transit System). Its FCHV (Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle) bus was used to shuttle people between the Nagakute and Seto areas of the expo.

PICTURES BY THE AUTHOR

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 14, 2006)
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