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At first, it seems odd that Boeing's first 787 Dreamliner test plane is the main attraction inside an exhibition center that opened this month at the airport in Nagoya, Japan. It may seem even odder that all the retail and dining venues in the hall have a theme … from Seattle.
But it makes sense when you consider that Nagoya-area aerospace manufacturers build 35 percent of the parts for each 787 aircraft — including wings and fuselage sections that are ferried from the Nagoya airport to Boeing assembly plants in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, and North Charleston, South Carolina. The oversized 747 cargo planes carrying them are dubbed "Dreamlifters."
In 2015, Nagoya's Chubu Centrair International Airport received the first 787 Dreamliner test plane (known as the ZA001) as a gift from Boeing. The airport built the newly opened, multistory "Flight of Dreams" aviation attraction and commercial complex around it.
"Japan is one of the most important and special overseas visitor markets for Seattle, and this permanent exhibition provides a unique opportunity to highlight our destination to millions of potential Japanese visitors," said Tom Norwalk, president & CEO of Visit Seattle. "An opportunity of this magnitude rarely becomes available, let alone in a key visitor market."
Visitors pay admission (about $11 for adults; $7 for kids) to gain to admission to the "Flight Park" on the first floor, where the ZA001 is the center of a variety of interactive and hands-on aviation-related activities.
The second- and third-floor "Seattle Terrace" looks out over the historic airplane. It's lined with well-known Seattle businesses and retailers, including Starbucks, Fran's Chocolates, Beechers Handmade Cheese and Pike Brewing.
CNBC recently got a look at what visitors will find at Nagoya's airport's Flight of Dreams.
The first floor Flight Park invites visitors to learn more about the ZA001 and general aviation concepts. Visitors can tour the plane's cockpit, download an app that encourages a scavenger hunt for all the 787 airplane parts and, for a small extra fee, try flying in a flight simulator.
There's also an animated, walk-through version of the 787 Dreamliner assembly line at Boeing's Everett factory, which is the world's largest building by volume.
Flight Park visitors can sketch and scan airplanes that are then projected on a 3-D dome. In another area, visitors can put on crew uniforms and practice being an airline employee. And everyone in the exhibition hall can take in a twice-hourly video and sound show that projects images and colored patterns onto the 787 and across the entire floor of the hall.
The first official Boeing store outside the U.S. is located adjacent to the first floor Flight Park. In addition to popular items imported from the U.S. inventory, 35 percent of the merchandise for sale is unique to this site.
Visitors can spend time folding paper airplanes, and then perfect their understanding of aerodynamics by launching their creations into an illuminated tunnel. The space changes colors and emits sounds in response to the path of the plane: The farther it flies, the more "feedback" the space offers.
While there are no direct flights (yet) from Nagoya to the Emerald City of Seattle, flights between Nagoya and Tokyo are just one hour. Next March, Japan Airlines is expected to join Delta and ANA in offering nonstop service between Seattle and Tokyo.
Starbucks, Fran's Chocolates, Beechers Handmade Cheese, Eltana's bagels, and even Seattle's legendary sushi chef Shiro Kashiba have opened outposts of their local eateries inside Nagoya airport's Flight of Dreams.
Chef Ethan Stowell, who has more than a dozen dining venues in Seattle, joined in with a Pizza & Pasta restaurant that features employees making fresh handmade pasta in the front window.
"Businesswise, what we get out of this is a bit of advertising, marketing and that 'feather in the cap' thing," said Stowell, "But more than anything else, it is cool that Seattle wants me to be one of the businesses representing the city. It is pride of place."
Dining and retail venues at Flight of Dreams paid special attention to the finding the right mix of Seattle and Japan.
"While the menu is one any Seattleite would recognize and enjoy, we did slightly alter some portion sizes to make them more appropriate for the Japanese market," said Chris Anderson, a vice-president at Beechers Handmade Cheese.
The Pike Brewing Restaurant & Craft Beer Bar even created a special beer label for its Nagoya branch. Co-founder Charles Finkel told CNBC the Flight of Dreams outpost offers many of the same beers and menu items served in Seattle. It is decorated with more than 600 items of American "breweriana" handpicked from the company's vast collection.