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 …

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 …

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 …

Japanese Bread Vending Machine

MJG Food / Drink, Japan 2 Comments

You can buy a lot of things out of vending machines in Japan. Vast ranges of tiny plastic toys, Calorie Mate snacks, hot drinks, cold drinks, hot soup, cooked food (chicken and chips at motorway services), oxygen canisters (at the top of Mt. Fuji), manga (in train stations), beer, cigarettes. Infamously some machines sell panties. Many are outfitted with cameras to scan ID cards (for beer and tobacco), scanners to read Pasmo and Suica cards for digital payment, and security cameras enabled with direct lines to the police in the event they witness some kind of crime. They also sell …

The Butcher’s Milk Carton Stationery

MJG Featured Story, Japan, People / Culture Leave a Comment

Nogata is a little town in the west of Tokyo famous for two things: 1- The train station Gundam statue is near it in Kami-Igusa. 2- The father of the butcher down the street by the police box across from the station makes wicked stationary items out of milk cartons, and gives them away if you buy more than 600yen worth of meat. I teach a group of lovely retirees in Nogata, and one of them brought this excellent, sturdy, and very pretty desk-organizer to class to show off show and tell. She had heard about it from a TV …

Pumpkin Pudding Yoghurt Drink

MJG Food / Drink, Japan 3 Comments

I had never drunk pumpkin in my life before today. I wonder if anybody else has? If you’ve spent any time in Japan there’s a good chance you’ve eaten a fair bit of it, both savory and sweet. You may have had it in ice cream, you may have had good old Pumpkin Pie (though that’s surely more American), or you may have had Pumpkin Purin. Have you drunk it though? From the front art it’s pretty hard to tell this is a Pumpkin drink, though if you look top right you’ll see the green lid of a pumpkin. The …

Okamoto’s Myth of Tomorrow in Shibuya Station

MJG Japan, People / Culture Leave a Comment

The Myth of Tomorrow is an epic painting by renowned Japanese painter Taro Okamoto. It is massive, 30 meters long and 5.5 high, painted some 43 years ago, lost for 31 of those, and now on permanent display in Shibuya Station. On display in Shibuya station. I first saw the Myth of Tomorrow (Asu no Shinwa) in 2007, when it was on display at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art. I was on a museum-going jag at that time, and had been to the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art just a little while earlier- so I knew a bit about …