Japan’s dying Ceramic Land theme park

MJG Haikyo, Nagasaki, Theme Parks 26 Comments

During Japan’s real estate Bubble in the 1980’s, theme parks were the investment to make. They couldn’t fail. Sink millions into expensive construction, land, and man-power, and ride the surging economy to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. All those decades of post-war militaristic industrialism had finally paid off, and people were finally taking more leisure time and traveling further afield to enjoy it- you couldn’t go wrong with a theme park.

Except of course, you could. The Bubble burst like an over-ripe peach and all the wacky ideas that before had seemed so bright- The Russian Village, Gulliver`s Kingdom, Sports World, now were black spots on the company ledger that had to be redacted from public view.

Glorious pylons in back echo the building`s form.

And redacted they were. They weren’t sold, they weren’t re-purposed, they were just left to fumigate on the sidelines of reality, far enough off the beaten path that even locals don`t really remember what they were supposed to be in the first place.

Ceramic Land is one such place, though one more resilient than its compadres. Located in a Kyushu town famous for its flowery gardens, it is still barely clinging to a tenuous thread of life. Nobody goes there anymore, there are not even any people in the ticket booths to collect fees, though hastily amended signs show prices have been dropping for years (from 3,000 yen entry down to just 200). In a few years the owner will give up on mowing its expensively manicured lawns, and the place will be left for the animals and vandals.

So new-looking, but only a single couple stroll the grounds.

Museum of fictitious historic things? My Latin’s not what it once was.

Comfortable seats for no-one to sit in.

I actually didn’t even go to this place, though I wish I had. It was Su Young who found it, completely by chance, when we went to Kyushu at the end of last year. She felt sick, so I left her to chill out at a comfortable-looking train station while I hurried off to explore the Kyu Nagasaki Shipyard.

She found this place advertised in old brochures in the train station. Upon asking local old folks pottering around the town they told her the place was shut down, though it turned out not wholly. She was able to walk the grounds in almost total solitude. We had been to France and seen the Louvre earlier that year, and it`s weird to imagine that space as empty as this was. Huge, and empty.

I actually saw the big blue central cupola over a rise fromthe train as I raced back to pick her up. Happily she felt better. So- all credit to SY for the photos and the find. Domo!

Central blue cupola.

Flanks, filled with, what? Nothing to compare to Michelangelo`s David or the Mona Lisa, I wager.

Serious carving going on here.

This place is actually quite similar to the very large Dutch themed park, also in Kyushu, called Huis Ten Bosch. It’s a huge flower garden filled with Dutch bits and pieces, including a full-size replica of the Huis Ten Bosch itself, some kind of Dutch royal palace.

Very impressive, but apparently it itself is also flagging, and possibly on the way out. There just isn`t enough draw to go there, to look at reproduction buildings and flowers.

Here`s the Huis Ten Bosch site, if you’re interested to learn more.

The inner courtyard.

Fountain still works, how bizarre.

The east wing.

Here’s your proof it’s in Japan.

Over the west wing.

The Dutch town square- all gift shops and cafes.

Closed.

Grand, indeed.

Google map.

Theme parks are doubtless one of the most interesting ruins to explore. While this wasn’t wholly a ruin, I’m sure it will be soon enough. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

See a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.

See my collection of Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:

[album id=4 template=compact]

Comments 26

  1. Fascinating. It is like seeing the opening scenes in “Spirited Away.”

    When visiting Japan a few years ago we ended up in a mostly abandoned theme park a short drive from Kure. I wish I could remember details, but I just don’t know the roads enough. I think it was along the water. A European village theme — maybe Swiss. Mostly closed but a few things open. There was a huge pirate ship model (Swiss ?!?) the kids could play on. Also a very large white “moon bounce” air-filled thing the kids could bounce on. Maybe theme park is not the right word. Maybe a theme retail and recreation center. I also was told it was built during the boom times.

  2. Congratulations, amazing location! I’ve read about it, but haven’t been there (yet) – are you sure it’s closed for good and not just on some winter break? The working fountain would have freaked me out…
    BTW: Thanks for the RTs!

  3. Oh, and I did a quick research on the park Steve mentioned: I think it’s called Kure Portapia Park, has a Spanish theme and is run by the city now after it failed miserably with its original investors.

  4. The central palace reproduction is really impressive. Spooky for the place to be empty.

    Nit pick: Tradition would suggest that these ventures became red spots on the companies’ ledgers rather than black. 😉

  5. Thanks for sharing the photos. I went there in Golden week but it was totally empty, no ticket center and shops were closed. One thing- it is hard to get there without a car as it is far from the station, no sign and is out in the middle of nowhere.

  6. reminds me of photos of Coney Island, Brooklyn in the 10s, 20s and 50s, the glory of Dream land, etc…Anyway, great pics as usual sir!
    Loco

  7. Amazing story, amazing photos. Very evocative and strange.

    I was quite distracted by your use of the backtick throughout the article. It seems very out of place in an otherwise carefully crafted essay. Will you consider using the normal apostrophe (‘) or better yet, the typographer’s apostrophe (’) next time?

  8. Post
    Author

    HDinOregon- Ah I see, yes, thanks for the tip!

    Steve- Sounds cool, do you have the location actual? I’d love to go check it out, or if it’s in Kure Hiroshima (is there another? I have no idea)- perhaps pass on the location to someone who lives nearby to go shoot. Thanks for sharing here!

    Florian- Ok, you already beat both me and Steve to the punch and found it! Is it abandoned- will you go check it out? It’s more in your range than mine I think.

    David- Agreed, looks like it’s very close reproduction. Red spots- you got me there, quite correct 🙂

    tokyob- Cheers for link!

    SY- Thanks for taking the photos and sharing with me in the first place! I’ll take you out for that nice dinner I owe you as soon as you get back from holiday!

    Loco- Thanks, I’ll pass the compliment along to SY. And I went to Coney Island once, or where it used to be at the tip end of New York. Felt a lot like the moment in the movie Dark City where he’s searching for Shell Beach. Empty and seemingly abandoned. Cool though. I had some kind of corn dog that was totally alien to me (we don’t have them in the uk).

    Zonjinenko- How true, and thanks!

    Sarah- Thanks, and I think this must be the first time I’ve been remonstrated for my use of the backtick 🙂 I don’t know how it happened, I just pushed the regular apostrophe mark on my keyboard. I think I fixed it now. Thanks for commenting to let me know!

  9. Another great article, Michael! The history of the theme park boom is also really interesting. I knew about the Russian-themed amusement park, but didn’t realize that there were so many other obscure theme parks around. Some of my friends went to Huis Ten Bosch and really loved it. Is Huis Ten Bosch considered to be another theme park like this? Thanks again for this awesome piece!

  10. Post
    Author

    Florian- Ah, good research, thanks!

    Sharmila- Thanks for your comment! But sorry, I don`t give out locations.. 🙁

    Houma- Huis Ten Bosch is pretty similar to this one yeah, though Huis is much bigger I gather, and for the moment more popular. Thanks for your comment, I`m glad you enjoyed the article!

  11. Production companies can use this as a location for a drama set in Europe or something. The architecture is rather amazing, and is so far amazingly kept. I’d love to see it. I like the solitude.

  12. Huis Ten Bosch has made a comeback under new ownership, and actually claims to be profitable now…though in no small part due to all of the Chinese tourists that they now cater to.

  13. After hours of research i’ve finally dicovered the real name of the park, Its called Arita Porcelain Park, According to some websites its still working, as a Chinese and european Ceramic and Porcelain museum, i hope this info helps.

  14. Hi Michael! I have been reading your posts for a while now; I’m a big fan. I am actually currently at the Arita porcelain park (posting on my iPhone) and it is very much still “active”… Although there are only a handful of people milling about, and only some stores are open. It is really beautiful, so before it truly becomes a haikyo, I’d suggest anyone in the area to come visit.

  15. wow its beautiful! I want to go there now!!! why is everything I want to see always in kyushu XD i want to see this and the Huis tens bosch park. now i have even more reasons I want to go to Kyushu! there is also an Italian theme place in kyushu too it seems all the European replicas are in kyushu.

  16. I was wondering, would you happen to know the exact address for this place, or even a website? I can’t seem to find any information on this place, not even at least on Wikipedia. Just a few photos, and the actual real French Louvre that this place is based on. Let me know if you happen to know the address. I tried looking for it on SY’s site as well and came up short. Wanted to pin it on my map. Nice photos.

  17. Ah, nevermind, it seems the issue was that you have it listed as the wrong name. This place is called Arita Porcelain Park/Museum, not Ceramic Land. I have gone ahead and pinned it on Google Earth for personal notes.

    Also checked the official website for this place, and it would appear that it is no longer working. Guess they didn’t feel the need to keep the site going, but there is at least a WikiPedia with SOME information, so that helps.

    Thanks again, and lovely photos.

  18. Oh yeah, last comment, but this place actually isn’t a replica of the Louvre in France. It is made to replicate a small German village, as well as the Zwinger palace in Dresden, Eastern Germany. Though I get how the two could easily be mistaken since they both look alike. But the Louvre has that Pyramid thing and this place does not. If you take a look at the original Zwinger, you will be able to see that’s what this place is replicated after.

    Info about Arita Porcelain Park can be found here, though it’s not much:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arita_Porcelain_Park

    More info about the Zwinger can be found here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwinger

  19. We just visited here this month and quite enjoyed the place. Unlike all the other cheesy theme parks, this one was obviously well built. The castle or whatever it is looks to me like it was likely built by European craftsmen, I dont think a Japanese construction company could pull it off. Anyway, it is now being used for weddings, and in fine shape. We took our dog to the back garden and let him run around off leash as nobody was anywhere to be seen. They also have an Arita Porcelain Outlet store where we bought a ton of dishes for ridiculously cheap – 3 new high quality tea cups for 500 yen, etc. Because we ended up buying so much, I bartered with the Manager to reduce the price on an expensive large plate and he easily complied. There is also an enormous souvenir shop with lots of quality hand made food items, and a sake / shochu tasting corner where the old guy serving got me a little drunk 🙂 Anyway, cant really call this place haikyo, it is still in operation, albeit poorly promoted and poorly used. They should make it in to an artists village!

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