NAGOYA - Japan's first outdoor Legoland park opened in Nagoya on Saturday, with the major new attraction raising hopes that more foreign tourists will visit the area and deliver an economic boon to the country's third largest business region.
With children's tickets priced higher than Tokyo Disneyland's, Legoland Japan offers various rides inspired by the Danish construction toy and serves meals including whimsical block-shaped fried potatoes in the seaside premises.
"We want children from all over the world to come to Nagoya and make unforgettable memories," Torben Jensen, president of Legoland Japan Ltd., said at an opening ceremony.
Visitors can stroll down a miniature town, called Miniland, which has models of landmark buildings in Japan, such as Tokyo Station, Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto and a 2-meter-high Nagoya Castle.
Some 10 million pieces of Lego plastic blocks were used to complete the miniature town, according to the park's operator.
Children can drive go-karts, ride a roller coaster and take a "submarine" tour through a real fish tank in the 9.3-hectare park in the Kinjo Wharf area.
Jensen told reporters recently that the park's operator plans to expand the size of the premises, open a Legoland hotel and build new attractions to increase the number of repeat guests.
Legoland Japan will also enhance cooperation with foreign travel agencies that are contemplating selling package tours whose prices include entrance ticket fees, Jensen said.
A local think tank expects the new theme park could give an economic boost worth 96.8 billion yen ($865 million) to Aichi Prefecture, whose capital is Nagoya, and other areas in fiscal 2017 starting Saturday.
Ryoichi Namba, economist at the Chubu Region Institute for Social and Economic Research, said that the park, which is only 17 minutes by train from the Nagoya shinkansen bullet train station, will attract a lot of foreign tourists as only the second Legoland in Asia after one in Malaysia.
The institute urged the park's operator to make efforts to encourage guests to come back after their first visits by rolling out new projects and increasing investment to keep their business on track in fiscal 2018 or later.
Namba said "it is premature" to forecast how successful the new Legoland business will be in the long run, but there is a concern that the 5,300-yen ticket price for visitors aged between 3 and 12 could discourage repeat guests. Visitors aged 13 or older pay 6,900 yen.
Tokyo Disneyland, meanwhile, charges 4,800 yen for visitors aged between 4 and 11. Universal Studios Japan, a major amusement park in the country's second largest business area including Osaka, charges 4,723 yen for the same ages.
Japan already has Legolands in Tokyo and Osaka, but these are indoor theme parks located inside shopping malls. The Nagoya park, the first full-scale outdoor theme park of its kind in Japan, follows in the footsteps of seven similar parks abroad.