With one year to go until its opening, preparations for the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka are gathering pace as multiple nations have broken ground for self-built pavilions in recent months, though concerns linger over lack of public enthusiasm.

A recent survey of Japanese companies and entities involved in the expo showed that, at present, 82 percent find it challenging to generate momentum for the event, scheduled for April 13 through Oct. 13 next year.

"We have entered into a crucial phase to entice people to attend the expo by presenting compelling exhibition content over this one-year period," Shuji Okuda, director of the international exhibitions promotion office at the industry ministry, told Kyodo News.

Expo 2025 has been plagued with concerns over inflated costs, notably in the development of the venue, which have nearly doubled from the previous estimate to 235 billion yen ($1.5 billion). The cost-sharing will be split evenly among three parties -- the central government, the Osaka prefectural and city governments, and the business community.

Dimitri Kerkentzes (2nd from R), secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions, and Hanako Jimi (2nd from L), Japanese minister in charge of the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, pose for photos in Tokyo on April 11, 2024. (Kyodo)

While the government has set up an expert panel to review costs and operating expenses by holding a meeting every three months to prevent the expo from falling into the red, efforts to stoke public interest in the event are gaining steam.

Many participating firms and governments are expected to soon unveil in detail what kind of experiences they plan to offer guests.

The Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition announced earlier in the week that over 100 events are planned at the expo venue on Yumeshima, a man-made island in Osaka Bay.

Many of the events are intended to introduce local charms. The western Japan prefecture of Tokushima, for example, will perform its signature summer dance, Awa Odori, while Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan will host a tasting event featuring its local produce.

Some overseas participants plan to showcase their music and dance performances on designated national days.

Hiroshi Osaki, co-chair of the event planning committee for the expo, said he hopes the Japanese word "matsuri," meaning festival, will become well-known around the world, as the theme of the expo events is festivity.

According to Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, the challenge has now shifted from construction, including tackling delays of self-built pavilions, to operations.

"I have visited the site and it is an incredible progress that has been made since my last visit here in November," Kerkentzes told reporters after meeting with Hanako Jimi, the Japanese government minister in charge of the event, in Tokyo earlier in the week.

"I'm sure that construction will be completed on time," he said.

The organizer has moved back its target date for completing the construction of self-built pavilions by overseas participants to October from July.

Construction work is under way at the venue for the 2025 World Exposition on Yumeshima island in Osaka Bay on April 4, 2024. (Kyodo)

Among over 50 nations planning to build such pavilions, 36 had selected construction firms and 14 had started construction work as of April 12.

Difficulties in procuring construction materials stemming from soaring material prices have somewhat eased now, Okuda said, while adding that labor shortages remain a concern.

Japan introduced an overtime cap for workers in sectors including construction this month to improve standard work conditions, raising the need to secure more workers to produce work hours equivalent to those before the rule change.

The country "on a nationwide scale, maintains a certain level of construction workforce capacity," Okuda, an industry ministry official, said, adding, "We will be able to secure necessary workers in time by gathering them from other areas."

Rising personnel costs have also led to a 1.4-fold increase in operating expenses from an earlier estimate to up to 116 billion yen, with the organizer planning to cover a large portion of the expenses with ticket sales revenue targeted at 96.9 billion yen.

Sales of advance admission tickets began in late November, and as of April 10, about 1.3 million were sold. The organizer expects to sell 14 million of the target of 23 million in advance, with 7 million to be purchased by corporations.

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