Japan’s abandoned animatronic John Wayne

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, People / Culture, Theme Parks, Tochigi 10 Comments

Japan’s abandoned wild west theme park Western Village (closed in 2007) is filled to the tip of its ten-gallon hat with animatronic cowboy dolls. A Stagecoach-era John Wayne with cyborg heart exposed stands by the park entrance, silent now that the tourists have stopped coming. Animatronic John Wayne with hair peeling back to reveal flesh-toned speakers reprises his Stagecoach (1939) role. Hidden away in the Sheriff’s office, Clint Eastwood drawls in lazy Japanese about how he ran the bad guys out of town. Down the boulevard a ways is the WESTERN SHOOTING GALLERY, filled with card-players, insouciant drunkards and brassy-lipped …

Western Village: Japan’s Abandoned Cowboy Theme Park

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Japan, Theme Parks, Tochigi 30 Comments

Western Village is a quantum pocket of the Old West Disneyfied and transplanted wholesale from the American collective unconscious, replete with a $29 million replica Mount Rushmore, Western saloon, ghost house, jail, post office, shooting gallery, actual fake Rio Grande, and vast Mexican barrens. It was built in 1975 and shut down in 2007, likely due to its remote location and the pull of other nearby parks like Disneyland sucking away its tourist base. Now it’s a ruin, or haikyo, open only to urban explorers willing to take their chances clambering over the stockade wall. Animatronic John Wayne, cowboy ghost …

Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand

MJG Books, Featured Story, Jabbler's Mons, Stories, Writing Leave a Comment

by Michael John Grist It was nearing high-tide on the Sheckledown Sea when Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand finally bashed his way out of the belly of the whale. Ashen face covered with gobbets of blubber and gut, he slithered down the black rubber side of the beached leviathan, a river of purple slime showering down on his head. He gasped, coughed up a wad of bloody kelp and brine, then slumped himself starfish-splayed on the beach. Soon enough the jubilant cries of his crew carried raucously over the sand, as they moored the 6-oar gully, hefted up the smelting cauldrons, …

Jan Jornmark Sweden’s premier urbexer

MJG Architecture, Featured Story, Haikyo, Haikyo in the Media 3 Comments

A while back Sweden’s premier urban explorer Jan Jornmark got in contact with me about doing some haikyo together in Japan. He was on tour for his third book (on the heels of two bestsellers of mostly Swedish ruin- you won’t find them on Amazon unless you search in Swedish), coming hot from Detroit and looking for some cool stuff in Japan. Jan’s a fascinating guy- a professor in globalization, expert on bubbles and economic collapse- whom companies that own old buildings in Sweden PAY to go into their buildings prior to refurbishment and shoot the ruins, then prep a …

Killin Jack the Malakite

MJG Featured Story, Jabbler's Mons, Stories, Writing Leave a Comment

by Michael John Grist It was gone All Hallows by the Grammaton’s gong when Killin Jack the Malakite mobbed down the last of the Bunnymen. He was stalking spires up the Seasham cathedral that night, hopping from ladder-top to gargoyle round the copper-roofed cloisters, swerving in to the dome-top graveyard in the middle. The Bunnyman was knelt in a moonlight lozenge midst the marble gravestones, shovel in his hand and a clothy bundle at his feet, white glow bathing his silver fur pristine. Killin Jack padded cross the open cobblestone courtyard, shadow-casting, watching. The Bunnyman’s long velveteen ears twitched, and …

Tokyo’s Urban Battleship

MJG Architecture, Featured Story, Haikyo, Japan, Residential, Tokyo-to 15 Comments

Tokyo’s urban battleship glides through the ever-changing cityscape like a predatory shark- its mad crescent fin stocked with slate-grey torpedoes and radar foils- hunting out fresh prey for the saw-blade teeth ratcheted down its flat-iron side. Built in 1970 by the retired Imperial Navy general Watanabe Youji, the urban battleship building (GUNKAN) was apparently inspired by a World War 2 sea-battle, where Watanabe’s cruiser faced an American submarine off the coast of the Philippines. The entire crew expected to die, stared down the barrel of death, but ultimately survived.Sailing for fresh apartment blocks to bomb with water-tank torpedoes. Gliding through …

Clay Head

MJG Featured Story, Stories, Surreal, Writing 2 Comments

by Michael John Grist There’s a giant head in my living room. It’s made of grey clay and it sings through the night. It sings songs about America. Sometimes boogie-woogie or the Big Bopper. It sings Buddy Holly. It sings about the plane that crashed and sometimes the song about the crash. It sings about whiskey and rye. I don’t know why the head sings. I don’t know why the head is in my room, or why I let it stay. The head doesn’t wake me up when it sings. It sings so low and so slow and so deep …