Ruins of the Future: Yanobe Kenji Revisits Expo ‘70

Gunhild Borggreen


When the contemporary Japanese artist Yanobe Kenji was a boy in 1971 and his family had just moved to Ibaraki prefecture north of Osaka, he would ride his bicycle for about five minutes from his home and arrive at the abandoned site of the Japan World Exposition (Nihon bankoku hakurankai). Also known as Osaka banpaku or Expo ‘70, the event that took place from March to September 1970 was a grand, national performance which served, among other purposes, to increase the economic growth that Japan had experienced since the early 1960s, and to consolidate Japan’s international position by repeating the success of hosting the Olympic games of 1964…

At the time when Yanobe passed on his bicycle, less than a year after the Expo ‘70 had ended, most of the buildings, pavilions, and infrastructure from the Exposition had been torn down, leaving only a few selected buildings and monuments among heaps of scrap and broken concrete. Yanobe’s personal childhood experience at Expo ‘70 was therefore not mirai no toshi, city of the future, but rather what Yanobe terms ‘mirai no haikyo, ruins of the future.’

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