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Despite what appears to be firm opposition from the agriculture ministry, American Malls International, a Washington-based developer, seems hopeful of opening a huge shopping mall in Moriya, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on June 24, Herbert Miller, chairman of the board of AMI, said his company plans to develop eight regional malls that he said would reach 75 percent to 80 percent of Japanese consumers. “AMI is bringing America’s most successful new value retail and entertainment mall to the great untapped retail and entertainment potential that exist here,” he said.

At the moment, he said, his company is considering Moriya and another site in the Kanto region, while studying several locations in the Chubu and Kansai areas. The one planned in Moriya is scheduled to become the world’s largest shopping mall.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said in April that it is opposed to that particular plan, noting that the proposed site is designated as a special farm promotion zone and that the purpose of land use should not be changed. Asked about how he is going to handle the situation, Miller said he will be patient.

“The mall development process is difficult anywhere in the world,” he said. “What we’ve learned in Japan for the past two and half years is to be patient, to work with the communities, to reach for consensus and try to find solutions which meet the needs of both (local and national) authorities.” Miller said that AMI has so far received letters of consensus from a majority of land owners — 158 out of total 315 — concerning the change of land use at the planned site. He said that those letters are now being studied by local authorities and his company has yet to receive any official reaction. Acknowledging that the approval process will be very slow, he said he hopes to open the first mall in Japan early next century.

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