James Rouse may know a lot about building waterfront retail developments in America, but he is making his Japanese debut this week with a new retail complex in Osaka.

This Friday, the Japanese city will open that country's first festival marketplace -- an inner-city waterfront mall popularized more than a decade ago by Faneuil Hall in Boston and Harborplace in Baltimore.

Rouse and his Columbia-based Enterprise Development Corp., which has been involved in several such developments in the United States, participated in the project as development consultants, offering the Japanese advice on everything from construction to leasing.

This is not EDC's first project abroad -- the company has completed a project in Sydney and has several more projects in the development stages in Europe and Australia. But it is the company's first project in Japan, and according to EDC, it is one of the first major projects in which an American corporation has worked as a contractor for a Japanese government agency.

The Japanese development, called Tempozan, includes a marketplace with about 80 stores, 20 restaurants, a 170,000-square-foot aquarium, a nightclub and a game room. The complex is not designed to revitalize an economically and architecturally depressed urban area, according to a company spokesman, as has been true with most such developments in the United States. Rather, the project is aimed at providing entertainment for the millions of Japanese who live in and around the thriving city 250 miles southwest of Tokyo.

EDC was first contacted by the city of Osaka in June 1988 at the suggestion of the project's architects, Cambridge Seven Associates, the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm that also designed Harborplace.

EDC negotiated an agreement with the Japanese before construction to be paid a fee for its services and expenses rather than have any ownership in Tempozan, Rouse said last week in a telephone interview from Osaka.

In general, EDC prefers an ownership stake in its projects, said Martin Millspaugh, president of the international arm of EDC. But this project already was underway when EDC was contacted and ownership of the planned development was in place.

Working on a consultant basis is a "nice business to be in because there is no risk," said Clifford F. Ransom, managing director for the institutional brokerage department at Ferris Baker Watts of Baltimore.

"They turn themselves into a {consultant} and sell their expertise to developers all around the world," Ransom said. "That's a great way to make money to support the overall goals of the organization."

EDC is the income-producing subsidiary of the Enterprise Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Rouse after he left his position as chairman of the Rouse Co. of Columbia, Md., in 1984.

The foundation's mission, Rouse said, is to build "fit and affordable" housing for the poor and see that all low-income people "have the opportunity to move out of poverty." While the foundation is active, Rouse said EDC continues to be "financed entirely through debt ... and has not yet paid dividends into the foundation."

Despite its lack of ownership in the Japanese project, Rouse said the project was a valuable learning experience.

The Japanese organization that initiated the project -- a joint venture between the city and port authority of Osaka and several private Japanese companies -- told EDC, for example, that the project would be completely leased by April, Rouse said.

"Now, I didn't have too many encouraging words about that, but sure enough, it was 100 percent leased by April 1st," he said.

Furthermore, he said, the development was subject to no regulatory inspections during construction.

"This was a very difficult prospect by {American} standards," Rouse said, but it allowed for faster completion of the project because "there was no interference."

Construction of the $40 million Tempozan Marketplace did not begin until the spring of 1989, but was completed a full month before its scheduled opening this week.

"The Japanese are very, very good at doing things," he said. "We have learned the tremendous competence of the Japanese. They are remarkable people."