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Sunday, March 19, 2000

Thousands turn out for Flora 2000


Staff writer

AWAJI ISLAND, Hyogo Pref. -- Under a bright sunny sky and with a cool breeze blowing off the bay, the Japan Flora 2000 international flower, gardening and landscape exhibition opened Saturday morning on Awaji Island.

Sponsored and supported by Hyogo Prefecture, the agriculture and construction ministries, and the International Association of Horticultural Producers, Japan Flora 2000 is the largest exhibition of its type to be held in Japan since the 1990 Osaka Expo.

Over 14,000 visitors reportedly poured through the gates during the first half hour and Hyogo officials said that several thousand more were expected by the end of the day.

Hyogo Prefecture, the exhibition's main supporter, expects 5 million visitors by the time the exhibition ends on Sept. 17.

Japan Flora 2000 is divided into five zones and features pavilions, gardens, restaurants and shops from 76 countries, as well as high-tech real-time and virtual-reality videos of plant life from Europe, Asia and South America.

Those feeling a bit peckish can visit the array of open-air food stalls that serve everything from Indian curry to Egyptian kebabs. And for those who prefer other amusements, a full-scale amusement park and pony rides are available, as well as souvenir stands selling food and hand-made crafts from Asia.

The longest lines, though, were at the exhibitions featuring flowers from Europe, including Britain, Holland and Denmark.

"I've been to Holland several times and was really looking forward to seeing the tulips," said Yuriko Santo, 54, from Kobe, who said she arrived at 7 a.m., 2 1/2 hours before the opening ceremony.

Also popular were the international pavilions, which featured flowers, gardens, and houses from 14 different countries.

Hyogo prefectural officials are counting on Japan Flora 2000 to boost tourism in the Awaji Island area and hope that it will attract international conventions.

The Yumebutai international convention center, opened on Feb. 9, sits on one edge of the exhibition. Over the next several months, flower, gardening and landscape exhibitions and symposiums are planned.

The fact that Japan Flora 2000 is being held on Awaji Island has drawn complaints about the lack of transportation access. During the course of the exhibition, direct bus service will be available from several locations in Kobe and Osaka, as well as Nagoya.



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The Japan Times

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