Once the site of a World’s Fair held in Osaka, Expo '70 Park is an interesting place to visit in the city due to the variety it has on offer. Expo '70 Park, officially known as Expo Commemoration Park, is a large complex in the north of Osaka that combines beautiful gardens with informative museums and some satisfying shopping. This means that all sorts of international visitors will find this park appealing no matter where their interests may lie.
Here’s all you need to know about visiting Expo '70 Park so that you can add it to your Osaka itinerary when travelling with your Japan Rail Pass.
Table of contents:
History of Expo Commemoration Park
In 1970 the city of Osaka was host to a World’s Fair known as the Japan World Exposition or Expo '70. The Expo was such a resounding success and the first of its kind in Asia, making it quite an achievement for the city.
To honour that success, the expansive Expo grounds that cover 264 ha were adapted into a commemorative park for Expo '70. The park was designed to be a cultural hub that emphasized the importance of the natural world through different elements, from gardens to recreation areas.
Interestingly, Osaka is due to host the World Expo for the second time in 2025.
Gardens at Expo ’70 Park
Two of the main attractions you’ll find when visiting the Expo ‘70 Commemorative Park are large gardens that cover much of the grounds. They are the Natural and Cultural Gardens and the Japanese Garden, with each offering visitors something different.
The Natural and Cultural Gardens
The larger of the two gardens at the Expo ‘70 Park in Osaka is the Natural and Cultural Gardens. Covered by lawns and woods, it's popular with visitors due to its seasonal flowers and open spaces for picnics. However, it’s best known for the 5,000 cherry trees that blossom each spring. As such, it’s one of the busiest places in Osaka during Hanami.
Probably the most famous landmark in these gardens is the Tower of the Sun. Standing at 65 metres tall, this artistic sculpture was built for the original Expo and has become somewhat of a symbol for the modern park. Designed by artist Taro Okamoto, the sculpture features three masks representing past, present and future.
The Japanese Garden
Helping keep part of the original Expo alive, the Japanese Garden is the garden in the park and was actually an exhibit created by the government for the 1970 exposition. It consists of four parts that reflect the landscaping styles and techniques of the ancient, medieval, early modern and contemporary eras of Japan. At its centre you’ll find a peaceful pavilion and a still pond shaped like the kanji character for “heart”.
Museums at Expo ’70 Park
Along with its gardens, the other main places to visit in the Expo ‘70 Commemorative Park are several museums covering various cultural areas. They include the National Museum of Ethnology, the Expo ‘70 Pavilion and the Japan Folk Crafts Museum.
National Museum of Ethnology
Probably the most important of the museums in the park is the National Museum of Ethnology. This museum opened in 1977 and explores cultures and aspects of life from all over the world. Exhibits are divided into nine regions from around the world and touch on aspects of humanity like music and language through artifacts, video and audio displays.
Osaka Expo '70 Stadium
Next we have the Expo ‘70 Stadium, a preserved pavilion that now hosts a memorial museum for the 1970 Expo. Inside this original building you can learn about the 1970 exposition through an extensive collection of artifacts, photos and videos. Through it you get a snapshot of this moment in Japanese history and the culture of the time.
Japan Folk Crafts Museum
Also housed within one of the original Expo pavilions is the Japan Folk Crafts Museum. Just as its name suggests, this museum highlights traditional crafts like ceramics, textiles, paintings and lacquerware. It’s found within the Natural and Cultural Gardens near the boating lake there.
One of the newest aspects of Expo ‘70 Park is the arrival of the Expo City shopping and entertainment complex just south of the main park entrance. A three storey indoor shopping centre sits at the centre of this complex, but also includes sports fields, a hotel and the Redhorse Ferris Wheel, the tallest Ferris Wheel in Japan. Within the shopping centre you’ll find over 300 stores covering Japanese and international brands, as well as restaurants, food court and IMAX cinema.
Tips for Visiting Expo ’70 Park
- Each attraction and museum comes with their own entry fee and times, meaning you can pick and choose where you spend your time in Expo ‘70 Park.
- The two gardens have a combined entry ticket that costs 250 yen and are open from 9.30 to 17.00.
- Museums in the park are all open from 10.00 to 17.00, with last entry at 16.30. Ticket prices are for each museum individually and range from 200 to 700 yen.
- Expo City is open 10.00 for everything but restaurants which open at 11.00. Restaurants and the Ferris Wheel are the last thing to close at 22.00.
Visiting Expo Commemoration Park with the JR Pass
To reach the park by public transport, first use your JR Pass to reach Osaka Station. From there use the Midosuji Subway Line of the Osaka Metro to get to Senri-Chuo Station. Then you’ll need to transfer over to the Osaka Monorail until reaching the Expo Memorial Park stop. Unfortunately, only your journey to Osaka Station is covered by your JR Pass.