FUKUOKA -- A life-size "Mobile Suit Gundam" statue greeted shoppers who had waited since early morning on April 25 to get their first look inside a new shopping mall on its opening day here.
The LaLaport mall, the first of its kind in Japan's Kyushu region, opened in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward. It was developed by real estate giant Mitsui Fudosan Co., Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. at the former site of a fresh produce market. With five above-ground levels, one basement floor and a multistory parking lot, it has a total floor space of 206,500 square meters. It has 222 tenants, among which 57 businesses are making their first forays into the Kyushu region, and consists of nine themed zones including sports and flowers.
The mall's tenants include the Fukuoka Toy Museum, where visitors can play with toys from around the world, and KidZania Fukuoka, an edutainment facility for children to experience doing various adult jobs, which is slated to open on July 31.
Larger tenants include "Gundam Park Fukuoka," where the about 25-meter-tall statue stands and fans can experience the world of the popular manga and anime series. And there is also grocery store "Market 351," operated by wholesalers at the former fresh produce market.
On the opening day, figures affiliated with the mall cut the ribbon at a 9 a.m. ceremony. As soon as the mall was opened at 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, people were seen taking photos of the Gundam statue and relaxing on indoor and outdoor plazas.
(Japanese original by Norihisa Ueda, Kyushu Business News Department)