Asia News: John Williams Returns To Japan; Osaka World Expo; Blackpink Winds Down Tour In Seoul

NEXT GEN RIZING: K-pop boy group ‘RIIZE’ perform during their debut showcase in Seoul on Sept. 4. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)


John Williams Conducts First Japan Concert In 30 Years

Famed film composer John Williams made his first Japan concent performance in 30 years when he conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra on September 2 as part of the annual Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival in Nagano, Japan.

According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Williams, who is 91, conducted some of his most famous movie themes, including those for the Harry Potter films, “Schindler’s List, “E.T.,” and, of course, “Star Wars.”

Just before the encore, Williams invited Ozawa, 88, who was in a wheelchair, to join him on stage. The two conductors have been close friends since Ozawa was music director of the Boston Symphony.

The Saito Kinen Orchestra was founded by Ozawa and Kazuyoshi Akiyama in 1984 to honor the legacy of Hideo Saito, who co-founded the Toho Gakuen School of Music. Initially, the musicians in the ensemble were graduates of the school.

Osaka To Invite 1M Children To 2025 World Expo

On August 30, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported that the Osaka Prefectural Government plans to invite more than 1 million children, ranging from 4 years old to high school age, to the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka for free.

Each student who qualifies will receive a one-time free admission ticket. The newspaper estimates that the cost of this largesse to the Expo will be about $14 million, though the prefectural authorities may ask individual municipalities to cover the cost of tickets for children who want to visit the Expo multiple times when it is held in 2025 from April 13 to October 13.

General tickets for the Expo will go on sale in November, and there is some worry that the bad publicity that has been surrounding the Expo all summer will act as a brake on initial sales.

Though the Expo starts in less than two years, no construction of pavilions has begun yet due to labor and material shortages.

Reportedly, 153 countries and regions have announced plans to participate. Of these, about 50 have said they will construct their own pavilions.

The rest will be built by Japan, and it is assumed the Expo will end up paying for much of this construction. As of the middle of July, no country other than Japan had applied for a building permit from the Osaka city government, which is required before construction begins.

Experts say that construction will need to begin by the end of the year by the very latest if the Expo is to start on time.

Another problem is that local construction companies don’t seem keen on taking any work for the Expo, since they don’t necessarily think they’ll get paid—or, if they are paid, it will be far into the future.

Since the Expo was announced in 2018, the cost of construction materials has increased by 30 percent. Even worse, labor costs have doubled. The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reports that some participants have already started scaling down the designs for their pavilions.

In addition, next year new labor laws will go in effect in Japan limiting the amount of overtime that construction workers can work, thus putting even more pressure on contractors, who will want to conserve their labor pool for projects that are more lucrative.

Consequently, it is believed that the Expo organizers are going to have to guarantee payment and come up with the money themselves if they want the facilities to be ready in time.


Blackpink Tour Finale In Seoul

K-pop girl group Blackpink will play the finale of their highly profitable Born Pink tour at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Sept. 16-17, the first time they wil perform in the South Korean capital since last October.

Tickets went on sale Sept. 2 and, naturally, sold out in a matter of hours. Obviously, a lot of people who want to see the shows were unable to secure seats, including one person who one might think would have an easier time of it: Jisoo, a member of Blackpink.

A number of K-pop fan sites related the story of Jisoo trying to buy tickets the conventional way with the notion of giving them out to some of her fans. However, like regular people, she found herself confounded by tech difficulties and rules put in place to prevent scalping.

She even went online in a bid to gain assistance for working the system, but by the time she was able to get to the seating selection part of the process all seats were sold out. Later she posted a message saying that she would try again to access “cancelled tickets” and then give them away to fans via a lottery.

When one fan responded to her post with the comment that they had managed to secure a ticket, she wrote, “Lucky you. I have a spot on stage. I can see the members’ nostrils.”