The public and private sectors in Osaka are making it increasingly clear that their ambitions are not confined to creating a major tourist attraction at Yumeshima itself through the 2025 World Expo and the IR, but also to leverage this activity to reignite the stalled development of the wider Osaka Bay area.
Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura made this vision clear in remarks he delivered on February 21 at the opening ceremony for a new theme park called Solaniwa Onsen Osaka Bay Tower, located near Bentencho Station in the city’s Minato Ward. This new facility, centered on hot springs and restaurants, aims to recreate the atmosphere of late 16th century Japan, when Osaka was at the center of political power.
Universal Studios Japan, one of the Asia’s largest theme parks, is also located in the immediate vicinity of Yumeshima.
In January 2018, the Osaka city government announced the sale of four plots of land in Sakishima—an island facing across a narrow channel to Yumeshima—to Ark Real Estate, a local developer, which plans to construct a 22-story, 600-room hotel, a shopping center, a restaurant complex, and a sports facility near Cosmo Square Station, which is currently the terminal station on Osaka’s Chuo Subway Line, but will ultimately become the subway station next to the future Yumeshima Station.
Also gearing up for the new era of VIP service is Hotel Lodge Maishima, located on the other island facing Yumeshima, which has just launched a program whereby couples can reserve a private helicopter to watch waterfront fireworks displays from above. The full plan, including the suite, champagne, bouquets, and other extras, costs JPY500,000 (about $4,460) per night.
The Osaka port facilities themselves are also likely to be expanded to allow a sharp increase in the number of major cruise ships that can visit. Indeed, there is talk of making the area into a “superport” that can serve alongside Kansai International Airport as one of the main gateways to the region.
To a significant degree, the World Expo and the IR are simply allowing Osaka to revive development plans from the 1980s that faltered when Japan’s asset bubble burst, leading to the cancellation of similarly ambitious projects for Osaka Bay.