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Robot rendezvous.

Robots acting in skits, a train floats above its track, a 75- by 120-foot television screen, buildings shaped like mountains and machines: these are some of the electronic wizardries and architectural marvels exhibited at Tsukuba Expo 1985, Japan's $3-billion world's fair.

It opens March 17, runs through September 16, at Tsukuba (pronounced scuba) Science City, a recently created industrial research city about 90 minutes northeast of Tokyo by train and bus.

If you'll be visiting Japan at that time, you might allow a day for the expo, accepting its high-tech vision of the future as a striking contrast to the timeless gardens and ancient shrines on your itinerary.

Tsukuba Expo celebrates the latest generation of consumer electronics, from sophisticated telecommunications systems to robots who paint portraits. It's also a showcase for products still in the development stage, such as the Showscan system that heightens the reality of filmed images by vastly increasing the number of frames shown per second.

More than 40 countries are participating. When we toured the site earlier this year, we saw a frenzy of activity as swarms of construction workers hoisted full-grown trees into place, laid the last paving bricks, turned fountains on, installed terminals, fine-tuned ride mechanisms, and tested gigantic video monitors. A view from the top

The 250-acre complex takes your breath away. Pavilions, rides, and exhibits line up along two major north-south axes running past a sleek 15-story glass-and-steel observation tower--a good place to head for first. From the top, you can locate the pavilions you don't want to miss.

Double-peaked Mount Tsukuba frames your view on the north. The structures stretched out below your complete for attention in a chorus line of gigantic geometric solids, bright colors, and structural pyrotechnics. You'll see buildings a packaged as electric yellow cubes, gold spheres, brilliant blue cones, and wedges covered in mirrors.

Other buildings leap and stretch in butterfly curves or soaring, cable-taut masts. Monorails and gondolas slide across the sky. All in all, it looks like the movie set for a science fiction epic. Pavilion highlights: eight to catch

U.S. Pavilion. The sculptural tent-like roof, suspended from tall poles, covers a medly of high-tech exhibits, including one tracing computer development. A model of the first American manned space station is on display. You'll also see how state-of-the-art computers can respond to voice commands and compose music (of sorts) on the spot.

Fuyo Robot Theater. A central dome and roller-coaster curves identify this building where robots perform a variety of skits, from a courtship scene to a soccer game. Unlike conventional robots, these are encased in skins of sinuously curved plastic; some resemble friendly grasshoppers.

Fujitsu Pavilion. A two-story waterfall floods the front of this building. An inner hall contains Fanuc Man, a 15-foot-high, 20-ton yellow robot who can assemble a miniature of himself. A theater presents worldwide news simultaneously translated into English, French, and German.

Kurumakan. Here, in a five-story drum encased in a cube of steel webbing, you'll see future automobile prototypes. In Disneyland style, "space rider" cars lift you to the top for panoramic views of the expo, then descend through a series of computer-enhanced photographic scenes.

Electric Power Pavilion. Straining cables linked to a central laser tower symbolize the sun's radiant energy. The building contains "The Adventures of Electro-Gulliver," a ride that takes you through major sources of energy, from volcanoes to hurricanes to the sun itself.

Shueisha Pavilion. Like an international Mount Rushmore, a craggy facade contains huge faces and symbols from ancient civilizations. Inside exhibits amplify the historical theme.

Jumbotron. Sony's vast television screen, visible from all parts of the expo, presents television programs as well as shows performed on the stage directly in front.

HSST. Japan Air Lines' high-speed prototype train floats over its track by means of magnetic-levitation devices. You can take a short ride, but expect a long wait. Getting there, hours, and cost

Accommodations in the Tsukuba area will be scarce. Best advice: stay in Tokyo. Trains run from Tokyo's Ueno Station to Banpaku-chuo Station every 10 to 15 minutes; the 55-minute ride costs 800 yen ($3.25) one way. Buses run every few minutes from Banpaku-chuo to the expo; the ride takes 25 minutes, costs 460 yen. The expo is open from 9:30 to 7 from March 17 to April 25, 9 to 9 from April 26 to closing on September 16. Adult tickets are 2,700 yen ($11); 15 to 22 years, 1,400 yen; 4 to 14 years, 700 yen. Japan Travel Bureau International Inc. offers a dray-trip package from Tokyo hotels for 13,000 yen (about $55 per person, including expo ticket). For details, call the nearest JTBI office: (808) 923-5622 in Honolulu, (213) 433-5907 in San Francisco.

For expo brochures and other information, write or telephone the Japan National Tourist Organization: 2270 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu 96815, (808) 923-7631; 624 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles 90017, (213) 623-1952; or 360 Post St., San Francisco 94115, (415) 989-7140.
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Title Annotation:Tsukuba Expo 1985 - electronic world's fair
Date:Mar 1, 1985
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