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Putting a building on the former site of a park at the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu hardly seems the best way for a railroad company to boost business. But a year ago executives at East Japan Railway (JR East) decided to take a chance on the idea.

Since the A-Factory building opened for business in Aomori city last December, it has attracted a stream of visitors and generated the kind of buzz that land developers can only dream of.

Early on, JR East decided the building would showcase products from the Aomori prefecture. Once that…

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