Wangan Road
Funabashi City (Chiba prefecture), Japan

Construction commenced on Nippon's first United States-style, regional-class shopping mall in November of 1979. A 42 acre site, situated 15.1 miles east of central Tokyo, had been selected by the Mitsui Real Estate Development Company.

As with the land on which the TAMAGAWA TAKASHIMAYA mall had been built, the site of the prospective LALAPORT FUNABASHI center had also served as an amusement park. The parcel, on a stretch of reclaimed land along the northern rim of Tokyo Bay, was within Funabashi City, a subdivision of the Chiba prefecture.

LALAPORT FUNABASHI was officially dedicated April 2, 1981. The 2-level, fully-enclosed complex encompassed a total of 2,115,400 square feet and was anchored by a 5-level (687,600 square foot), Osaka-based Sogo department store and 2-level (208,000 square foot), Kobe-based Daiei ["diy-ay"], which sold groceries, electronics, home furnishings and apparel.

The shopping center, which was one of -if not the- first 2-anchor Japanese malls, was also Asia's largest retail complex at the time. It housed two hundred stores and services and included an adjacent drive-in movie theater, play house and culture center. There were also two multi-level parking structures and a rooftop deck; the capacity of all these being 4,000 autos.

LALAPORT FUNABASHI was well served by the area's transportation grid. The Higashi-Kanto Expressway ran along the south perimeter of the property and the Keisei ["kay-say"] Electric Railway's Center-Keibajo-mae (later Funabashi-Keibajo-mae) Station was 3 tenths of a mile northeast.

Transportation options to and from the mall were expanded further with the inauguration of revenue service on an extension of the East Japan Railway's Keiyo Line. The Minami-Funabashi Station, located 2 tens of a mile southeast of the retail hub, opened for service in 1986.

A 3-level expansion was added to the mall that was completed in March 1988. Adding 570,000 square feet, it featured a multiplex cinema (the nation's first shopping mall movie house), Food Court and the 14-floor Mutsui Building office tower.

This extension, known as LALAPORT 2, joined the original structure, which was known henceforth as LALAPORT 1. With the expansion, the name of the entire complex was changed to LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY.

Retail rivals included AEON NARITA CENTER (2000) {19.8 miles northeast, in Narita City, Chiba prefecture} and VIVIT SQUARE (2004) {located directly northeast of the LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY site}.

A second expansion of LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY, known as LALAPORT 3, was dedicated April 20, 2000. Expanding the mall by 350,000 square feet, it consisted of 3 levels and seventy stores. Following the shuttering of the gigantic Sogo department store, its area was divided into ninety tenant spaces, with the building, renamed LALAPORT WEST, re-opening in September 2001.

Daiei, on the east side of the mall, closed in November 2004. Like the old Sogo store, it was subdivided, with fifteen new tenant spaces created. The store structure, renamed LALAPORT EAST, re-opened in February 2005.

The remainder of LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY was also renamed. The mall proper of LALAPORT 1 became LALAPORT NORTH; LALAPORT 2 and LALAPORT 3 would be known collectively as LALAPORT SOUTH.

Mitsui Real Estate Development followed its TOKYO-BAY complex with five other LALAPORT shopping centers. In order of their completion they are LALAPORT TOYOSU (October 2006), LALAPORT KASHIWANOHA (November 2006), LALAPORT YOKOHAMA (March 2007), LALAPORT IWATA (June 2009) and LALAPORT SHIN-MOSATO (September 2009).

Today, LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY envelops 3,035,400 leasable square feet and houses five hundred and forty stores and services. The mega mall has an auto parking capacity of 8,200 spaces. Present tenants include The Gap, Toys "R" Us, Zara, Cecil McBee, Banana Republic and Armani Exchange.

"Keiyo Line" article on Wikipedia
"Keisei Electric Railway" article on Wikipedia
"Sogo" and "Daiei" articles on Wikipedia