Photo/IllutrationYumeshima, a man-made island in Osaka's Konohana Ward (The Asahi Shimbun)

One poem in Hyakunin Isshu, a classical anthology of 100 “waka” 31-syllable Japanese poems, each by a different poet, has to do with the shoreline of Osaka.

“Suminoe no/ Kishi ni yoru nami/ Yoru sae ya/ Yume no kayoiji/ Hitome yokuramu” (As to Suminoe’s/ Shore rush the waves/ Why every night/ Upon the path of dreams/ Do I hide from others' eyes?).

Yumeshima (dream island), a man-made island in Osaka, was named after this poem.

The history of Yumeshima is as melancholy and unhappy as this love poem.

Osaka first made an unsuccessful bid to host the Summer Olympics with a plan to build an Olympic village on the artificial island. It then crafted a plan to develop a mammoth business district there, but the ambitious vision failed to become reality.

After many frustrating years of failed attempts to find a meaningful use for Yumeshima, Osaka now has a very plausible plan to carve out a future for the island in Osaka Bay, as the city has won the race to host the World Expo in 2025. Yumeshima will be the venue for the event.

“I will never allow (the island) to be called a negative legacy again,” Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui has said.

He must have been more than delighted to know that the artificial island will finally become something other than a burden for the local government.

It will be the second world fair to be held in Osaka Prefecture 55 years after the first one was held in 1970.

For Japanese who remember the huge event, the previous Osaka Expo is now a nostalgic memory of the good old days.

Back then, there was a certain amount of skepticism and criticism about the costly event, as there is today.

In an article written for the Asahi Journal magazine, critic Ichiro Hariu said only the business community and the government had worked (to host the event). The decision to make a bid to host the expo was made “before we knew it, and now it is around the corner,” he wrote. “If this vast amount of money were spent on better public works projects ...”

Such criticism was probably drowned out by exalted celebrations of Japan’s rapid economic growth.

Hariu’s criticism may be more relevant today. Honestly, I don’t know if I should celebrate Osaka’s successful bid.

The construction of necessary infrastructure and facilities will cost some 200 billion yen ($1.76 billion) and will be mostly financed by taxpayer money, according to Osaka officials.

After the end of the fair, Yumeshima is expected to be covered mainly by a casino resort.

This is a reality behind all of the excitement and enthusiasm about the event, whose theme is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.”

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 25

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.