Exploring Japan’s deserted Mount Rushmore

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Statues / Monuments, Theme Parks, Tochigi 5 Comments

Disneyland has the grand pink Sleeping Beauty castle. The wizarding world of Harry Potter has Hogwarts. Japan’s abandoned Western Village theme park has a 1/3rd scale replica of Mount Rushmore. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln- Japan Outside Mount Rushmore As grand-central-structures-that-pull-their-thematic-landscapes-together go, it’s an odd one. First off, you can hardly even see it from within the park. Instead it fronts …

History of the Western Village Amusement Park, Japan

MJG Haikyo, Theme Parks, Tochigi 0 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 …

Cowboy haunted-house and Mexicoland, Japan

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Theme Parks, Tochigi 18 Comments

Japan’s haikyo theme park Western Village (closed in 2007) takes its cowboy conceit in some unexpected directions; most interestingly of all the Wild West ghost house. Within its silent black-velveted walls we can find all manner of creepified Western stalwarts; skeletal pistoleers, death as a frontier dentist, zombified tomahawk-wielding Indians, and of course cowboys with their pants down. Hmm? Yes. …

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) …

Western Village: Japan’s Abandoned Cowboy Theme Park

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Japan, Theme Parks, Tochigi 29 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 …

The ruined conference center built into a cliff- Yamamoto

MJG Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Tochigi 4 Comments

The Yamamoto Grand Center is a gracefully aging architectural foible, tucked away in a quiet corner of Tochigi prefecture on a die-cut volcanic crag. Warm spring winds blow confetti cherry blossoms through its many gaping windows, fluttering with old receipts and leaflets in zephyrs around its stacked and musty furniture. In the Grand Hall, weeds grow up in molding grass …

The Pearl love hotel, overgrown with brambles

MJG Haikyo, Sex Industry, Tochigi 10 Comments

The Pearl Love Hotel Haikyo in Tochigi is a wreck in camouflage, deeply nested underneath a blanket of scraggy brown vines. Rooms lie in embers, grown through with ferns; once-bohemian beds, chaise longues and chandeliers lie scrapped, dropped, and despoiled with the nests of birds, spiders, and the homeless. The grand two-story executive suite still maintains some of its sordid …

Ashiodozan 3. Factory and Train Station

MJG Ghost Towns, Haikyo, Mines / Factories, Tochigi 19 Comments

Despite 400 years of powering Japanese industry, of mining, processing and shipping one of the most essential early industry elements in some of the hardest and most dangerous conditions around, Ashio is remembered far more for its flaws than for its accomplishments. Ask any Japanese about Ashio, and they’ll give you a response straight from their high school history textbooks: …

Ashiodozan 1. Shrine and Apartments

MJG Churches / Shrines, Ghost Towns, Haikyo, Tochigi 20 Comments

Life in Ashio would never have been easy, and certainly not at the peak of production around 1910 when 39,000 people called it home. Crammed into a narrow river valley, blasted by freezing winter winds while living in uninsulated plywood apartments, many would have turned to the ‘kamisama’ or Gods for spiritual succor. Japanese religious beliefs are a little complex- …

Ashiodozan Ghost Town

MJG Ghost Towns, Haikyo, Tochigi 9 Comments

Ashiodozan copper-mining town in the mountains north-east of Tokyo is infamous in Japanese history as a site of extreme environmental damage- so much so the town was mostly abandoned 40 years ago, the mines and factory shut down, and new standards in environmental care called for at the highest national levels. Now it’s a ghost town. When I visited in …