A meeting of ideas - art, culture and history combine at Japan's Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion

The structure displays traditional Arabesque and Japanese Asanoha patterns

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Mist-shrouded rooms, enormous projection screens and a personal virtual guide – Japan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai promises visitors an immersive experience that will leave them eager to visit the East Asian country.

Located in the Opportunity District, the pavilion was designed around the theme Where Ideas Meet in the hope that it will spark conversations on global issues.

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I took my starting point from the similarities we can see between Middle Eastern and Japanese geometrical patterns
Nagayama Yuko, Japanese pavilion architect

The structure covers an area of 5,161 square metres, with a three-dimensional facade design that combines traditional Arabesque and Japanese Asanoha patterns.

Most of the exterior is covered in Japanese origami shapes, which symbolises respect shown to other through Japanese art of origata gift-wrapping.

A water feature at the front of the building illustrates traditional Arabic and Japanese natural cooling techniques.

Nagayama Yuko, the architect of the pavilion, said she used one of the Expo’s themes – connecting – as inspiration behind the design.

"I conceived the theme of the architecture in particular as two types of connections: the cultural connection and the technological connection between Japan and the Middle East,” Ms Nagayama said.

“In terms of the cultural connection, I took my starting point from the similarities we can see between Middle Eastern and Japanese geometrical patterns, and explored this across a facade that is a new kind of geometrical 3D lattice serving as the structure and environmental filter.

“For the technological connection, I wanted to incorporate the element of water based on the water technology long utilised in the Middle East region.”

The National had a look at the inside the pavilion, before the official opening of the world fair on October 1.

The hour-long experience has five “scenes”, with each offering an immersive view of Japanese art and culture.

Personalised experience

At the start of the tour, visitors are given a smartphone that tracks their movement and serves as a personal narrator for their visit.

A wild flower, which represents Japanese hospitality and welcomes guests, is shown at the entrance.

The first scene takes visitors into a misty room with dim lighting, where enormous projections show Japan’s culture, including origami, cherry blossom season, anime characters and beautiful landscapes.

Ultrafine mist follows visitors into another dark room, where the second scene begins with projections that look back at Japan’s history and its transformation into a modern country.

Japan's story goes back more than 30,000 years, and it includes samurai warriors during medieval times, the Edo period when Japan invaded Korea, the Empire of Japan that started in 1868 and lasted until a democratic Japan was formed in 1947.

Miniature figurines

In the third scene, an exhibition of tiny figurines tell the story of Japan’s space exploration efforts, food and passion for anime.

However, a quirky take on the display made the show more creative, for instance, a “rocket” made out of corn – a common vegetable grown in Japan, a shuttlecock with a miniature astronaut figurine represented the Space Shuttle days and a spacecraft on an ice cream to illustrate a soft landing.

The fourth scene is another room with a projection screen that highlights global issues, such as poverty, climate crisis, unemployment and lack of education.

360° theatre

The last scene is the most immersive and involves a huge sphere that acts as a projection surface.

The walls around the entire room also show projections, with life-size anime characters that “run around” the room towards the end of the experience.

For the personalised experience, the smartphone chooses an avatar that best describes the visitors based on the displays they interacted with the most.

Updated: September 26th 2021, 6:07 PM
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