The Kappa Pia Theme Park in Saitama prefecture was in the process of being demolished when I went to see it. The grand rusted roller-coasters, creaking tea-cup rides, teddy bear-winning sideshows and themed restaurants I’d hoped to see were all gone, leaving nothing but troughs of rumpled mud and occasionally a bare concrete platform with rust-pocked rivet marks where a ride had once been tied down. Now, any record of the park’s existence at all must be gone. I only wish I’d gone there sooner to see it in all its faded glory.
I went to the Kappa Pia Theme Park in December of 2007, with friends Mike and Jason. It was the first leg of our first haikyo trip together, the second leg being the Mt. Asama Volcano Museum, the final leg the Nichitsu Mining Town. We set off from Tokyo in our rented car in the early morning, a box of Krispy Kreme donuts on our laps, following our sat-nav reader and assorted maps.
We arrived there at about noon, only to find demolition crews had already been at the park, and were still at the park, clearing and knocking things down. We drove through the big metal security gates without blinking an eye, past the workmen standing around their JCB, and up unpaved dirt roads (happily we had 4-wheel drive) until we were hidden out of view.
We debated the legality of what we were doing for a while. Then we just thought- to hell with it, if they kick us out, they kick us out. So we got out of the car, and started to explore.
That’s a one of the remaining things, at the entrance to the park. All the rides, ticket booths, roads, and most of the buildings were gone, but for a few bits and pieces.
That’s Mike standing where the Jungle Mouse ride used to be
Near this was the only building in the park, what must have been the entrance restaurant/gift-shop area. We wandered around in there for a while, wondering if the workmen would come for us, but they didn’t so we started to relax and snap some shots.
After exploring that building, we headed deeper into the park. We walked up some kind of nature trail, and saw this lonely sign at the top:
Further on in towards the back end of the park, we walked straight past a crew of guys cutting down trees. They looked the other way as we passed. It was a little surreal, like we were ghosts and they couldn’t see us. If we were Japanese, I’m sure they’d have cleared us off instantly. But being foreigners, they didn’t know what to do.
At the back was the pool area, of course stripped of all buildings.
This was a donut pool, where you go in on an inflatable inner tube/air donut and ride around with the current.
Mike’s in the right of the shot. The wave pool was dry, and the wave machines had been removed. The walls were covered with graffiti:
Down at the wave-machine end we could go through the railings to where the machines used to be, prompting this prison bar shot by Jason:
Jason’s on the left, Mike in the middle, me on the right.
It was around this time that one of the Japanese workers headed over our way. He was obviously coming to talk to us, since we were in the back of the park where they weren’t doing any work at the moment. I went to meet him and explained to him that we were University students doing a documentary. He said a bunch of stuff in Japanese, which I gathered meant basically- ‘you have to leave’.
So we tried to leave. At the exit though the gates were closed. We weren’t sure if they were locked, or if the police had been called, or what the situation was, so- afraid to cause further offence- we pulled up at the workers’ trailer to ask for permission to leave. I jumped out of the car, knocked on the screen-door glass, opened it a crack, and asked in Japanese- ‘Is it OK for us to leave?’
The old man sitting eating his bento lunch-box turned to me and spat out- ‘Shut up! You shouldn’t have come in in the first place!’
I didn’t fully understand at the time though, and smiled and explained again that we were University students and we were sorry.
He didn’t make any move to get up and open the gates, so I closed the screen-door and turned away.
We drove over to the gates and found them unlocked, then by a happy coincidence a Japanese worker on the other side pulled in and opened the gates for us.
As we drove away, Jason called out- ‘See you tomorrow!’ in Japanese.
The guy who let us out must have been pretty confused.
The report on the second leg can be found here: Mt. Asama Volcano Museum.
Here’s a gallery of all the photos:
Location – Saitama.
Entry – Zipping in straight past the security guys.
Highlights – The wave pools, walking by workers like we were ghosts, getting kicked out and Jason yelling- ‘see you tomorrow!’
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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