The Spirit of Dreamland

MJG Theme Parks, Zine 1 Comment

Several months ago now I was contacted by a reader of my haikyo book, Ruins of the Rising Sun (now retitled Japan in Ruins), who let me know that it, along with my website, had really meant a lot to her. Now, as a writer and photographer, that really meant a lot to me. Reaching out through words and photos was a huge part of not only why I wrote that book, but also why I wrote all the individual posts on this site that contributed to it. So, I wrote back, letting her know how touched I was by …

Nara Dreamland Heyday

MJG Haikyo, Heyday, Nara, Theme Parks 9 Comments

Nara Dreamland, Japan, was Asia’s first Disneyland clone- opened in 1961 and continuing operation until as recently as 2006. Over that 45-year span millions of people were entranced by its mimicked delights- the Matterhorn mountain, the fairytale castle, Main Street, etc… Even now many thousands are still entranced by Dreamland abandoned, as its rides grow dusty and weeds shoot up through its empty concrete boulevards. Some of those thousands have left comments on my main Dreamland page– sharing their memories, including several veterans who passed through US bases in Japan in the 60’s and went to Dreamland on R & …

Ruins of The Secret World

MJG Apocalypse, Fantasy Ruins, Game Ruins, Ghost Towns, Theme Parks 5 Comments

There is a city on the moon. 11 days are missing. The Earth is hollow. The tower of Babel never fell. These are just a few of the many premises of The Secret World, a stunning new MMORPG game that promises to plunge players deep into a Lovecraftian realm of mythology risen, a secret world the X-files only ever hinted at. MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, a game played online in a shared fantasy world like World of Warcraft. The Secret World, as yet unreleased, looks utterly awesome, with a taste of any and all mythological flavors- …

Exploring Japan’s deserted Mount Rushmore

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Statues / Monuments, Theme Parks, Tochigi 6 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 the nearby highway and bullet train tracks boldly, like a grand welcome sign that turns its back on you as soon as you enter. Second, it doesn’t fit all that well with the park’s cowboy theme. Did cowboys wage shoot-outs …

History of the Western Village Amusement Park, Japan

MJG Haikyo, Theme Parks, Tochigi Leave a Comment

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. The car park outside the …

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. There is more than one occasion of cowboys with their pants down. Each time they are displaying long and gruddy underjohns- perhaps intended to sync up with John Wayne with his fly unzipped. Maybe you can spy some of them …

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 …

GUEST HAIKYO – Okinawa’s derelict Cactus Theme Park

MJG Featured Story, Guest Haikyo, Haikyo, Okinawa, Theme Parks 1 Comment

The impetus for starting a series of Guest Haikyo posts came from a fellow haikyoist’s web-hosting disaster. Paul’s site Misuterareta (abandoned) was recently lost in toto when his blogging platform ‘Vox’ went under. It seemed a real shame, and I suggested putting excerpts of some of his content up on my site. Happily he ran with the idea, while at the same time starting the long process of getting his old posts back up in full on his new Misuterareta site. I haikyo-ed with Paul once, where we hit up Namegawa Island and the Yui Love Hotel, and he exhibited …

Sports World Retrospective

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Izu, Theme Parks 29 Comments

Sports World was a large sports and water park in Shizuoka, Japan. It was opened in 1988, closed in 1996 after the company went bankrupt, lived on as a ‘haikyo’ or ruin for 14 years more years, then was demolished early in 2010. It was my favorite haikyo in Japan, so it’s sad to hear that. It was one of my earliest explores, and also one of the most exciting- as I stayed in the abandoned hotel overnight. Hearing the news put me in the mood to make a retrospective post, in memorial. While sifting through the 3 trips I …