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Monday, June 20, 2005

Aichi Expo

We got back a few days ago from a short trip to Nagoya, a city about a 2 1/2 hour drive away from Takayama. We were there for the Aichi Expo, or World Expo, which is being held in Japan this year. We went there so I could do some research/reporting for a story I'll be doing for Popular Science about some of the new robots on display at the Expo. I'll be writing and illustrating the thing and I'm psyched for the opportunity. Also, it was suh-weet having a press pass... being able to cut lines, snag fat press packs and generally lord it over the common folk.

Funkiest Damn Robot, Ever
Plus, there were some REALLY cool robots....

Macho Mekka
...and some silly ones...

...and some downright bizarre ones. In fact, to watch the fembot engage me in some rather SEXUALLY suggestive banter, click here.

But I'm not going to write now about the robots too much, you'll just have to wait until my article comes out (in the October issue) to learn more. Nagoya itself is a fine city, although it's a bit like Buffalo, NY... it gets no respect. The people there talk funny (even I, with my limited Japanese could hear it; kind of sounds like nyah, nyah, like cats mewling) and a very well defined local cuisine. In fact, tebasaki, or Japanese buffalo wings were invented in Nagoya.

But it's also notable for having some of the damn finest tonkatsu I've ever laid lips on. For those who don't know, tonkatsu is like a pork veiner schnitzel, but oh so much better.

And this is the place to get it, Yabaton. Or as I refer to it, 6 floors of pig heaven.

So the robots were great and Nagoya was interesting with lots of good places to eat, but the Expo itself.... meh. I mean really, what's the point. International travel is fairly inexpensive these days and the internet is also a good source for finding information about places you might be interested in seeing. Hell, we both found the Epcot center at Walt Disney World to be more engaging than this equally artificial showcase of nations.

There are ways for a World Expo to be interesting though, great architecture and good food... both of which are experiences that, while they can't hope to fully convey the flavor of something as complicated as a nation, can at least create a lasting impression. If you're going to serve outrageously overpriced food, at least strive for either quality or authenticity. I mean, really... in the Africa pavilion they were serving Egyptian curry. I repeat, Egyptian. curry.

And architecture is were an Expo can really distinguish itself. A few examples:

London 1851, the Crystal Palace

Paris 1889, the Eiffel tower

Seattle 1962, the Space Needle

Yemen pavilion
Aichi 2005, the Yemen pavilion...

To be fair there more attractive buildings at the Expo than this one, but damn that's some shabby bizness.

Yemen pavilion
They could have at least sprung for a spellchecker.


Oh well, at least the robots were cool.
Toyota pavilion