EXPO 2005 Aichi, Japan

Nestled in the hills outside of Nagoya, Honshu Island, Japan — and running through Sept. 25 of this year — the 21st century’s first international exposition, EXPO 2005 Aichi, is crawling with robots: a marching Dixieland band, a Tyrannosaurus rex, a lovely but animated “Actroid” who answers questions in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese and, for active mothers, a child-care robot. There are more, and they represent the future. A well-preserved frozen mammoth and the recently discovered skull of a seven-million-year-old hominid represent the past.

Almost every aspect of EXPO will educate children and adults alike. The giants of Japanese industry, among them Toyota, Hitachi and Mitsubishi, and 122 countries are represented. There are so many interesting things to see and do that the Interactive Fun Zone — with a Ferris wheel, Ghost (horror) House and Disk-O ride — is an afterthought. It’s more fun to climb trees with ropes, manipulate robots and create artwork.

Just getting to the site is a 21st-century experience. There is no private parking nearby, but visitors can ride to EXPO on Linimo, a 3-car train that levitates above the rails using maglev technology — very quiet and smooth. The Linimo connects EXPO to Nagoya Central Station by a subway line and a Japan Rail line, serving EXPO’s main entrance, its North Gate. The trip from Nagoya to EXPO takes about 45 minutes.

North Gate is at the top of a mile-long elevated corridor called the Global Loop, which connects six Global Commons — with pavilions representing the five continents and Japan — and the two Corporate Pavilion areas. The boardwalk makes it easy to pick and choose attractions and offers benches, human-powered trishaws and a battery-operated 3-unit Global Tram. EXPO also provides wheelchairs and baby carriages.

Two gondola routes (overhead cable cars) give great views. One, the Morizo Gondola (free), connects two EXPO sites. As it passes over houses, its windows become opaque for privacy. The Kiccoro Gondola (¥500, or near $5) takes people from one end of the main site to the other.

The blockbuster corporate pavilions are closest to the North Gate. In the JR Central Pavilion, 3D glasses are handed out for a spectacular “ride” on trains through film. The Mitsubishi Pavilion poses the question “What if the moon didn’t exist?” and answers it on the huge IFX Theatre’s screen, again with 3D glasses. The real treat for kids is the “Robot Station” with dozens of interactive robots.

In the Hitachi Group Pavilion guests walk through the habitats of some of the Earth’s endangered species, then each don super-3D glasses that allow them to put an endangered black rhinoceros into the palm of their hand.

Many consider the Toyota Group Pavilion to be the tops with its 7-piece marching robot brass band. They maneuver just like a football band, all the while playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Each of the 122 nations represented shows its best. The Egyptian Pavilion, for example, looks like an ancient temple and holds a golden sarcophagus and other ancient treasures. Each pavilion is special.

There are rides, daily entertainment, souvenirs, cotton candy, Japanese treats, ethnic restaurants and more.

The best place to purchase postcards is at one of EXPO’s three post offices. The post office at the West Gate will put your photo on Japanese postage stamps. Who can resist that?

To learn more about EXPO, visit www.expo2005.or.jp. For more on visiting Japan, visit www.japantravelinfo.com.

Oakland, CA

The next international exhibitions will be EXPO 2005 Zaragoza and EXPO 2010 Shanghai. (The last was EXPO 2000 Hannover.) For info, contact Bureau International des Expositions, 34, avenue d’Iéna, Paris 75116, France; phone +33 (0) 1 45 00 38 63, fax 00 96 15 or visit www.bie-paris.org.