The Sports World Water Park in Izu is a well-hidden gem in the crown of Japan’s abandoned theme parks. Tucked away from the main theme park down a slim passage over-awed by rabid weeds, it gallops down the adjoining valley’s steep side in a furious rush, its brilliant blue umbilical water-slides snaking and inter-twining through the verdant green jungle canopy. Around its circumference the huge oval water-flume meanders bleached-white through pathways furred over with prickly weeds. Jutting up from its center and half-eaten by scraggly brush, the five-story speed-slide stands like a silent sentinel over the withered park, its roller-flumes speeding down only into clumps of thorny bush.
I returned to the Sports World Theme Park several weeks ago, at the tail-end of a camping weekend with friends. The first time I went was some 4 months ago, by train, at night, alone, with backpack and camping gear in tow. It was the first overnight stay I’d done in a haikyo, and as you might expect I felt very isolated, very alone, and very much in tune with the place.
This time I came with my friend and fellow haikyo enthusiast Mike, by car, a few hours before dusk fell. The vibe was completely different- the difference between haikyoing alone and with friends, between going by train and going by car, and between going by night and by day is massive. It’s not scary, it’s just sad.
I felt sorry for the place, as we cruised so quickly and irreverently through areas I tip-toed fearfully through last time. I felt angry when I saw how the gym area and restaurant had been vandalized far worse in the few months since I was last there. I felt sad at how this once giant, terrifying black mark on the map had been reduced to a 2-hour tourist stop-off by car, a side-show, an embarrassing mistake unable to defend itself against even punk vandal kids. It had been de-fanged and de-clawed, some of its majesty robbed, and that was a real shame to see.
All that said, it was good to be back, even with poor and rapidly dimming light.
We started off with the main hotel entrance, the very last place I went to the first time around. Down in the gym area- I immediately noticed things had been trashed far worse than before. I didn’t take any pictures of the greater destruction, it was too depressing a prospect, suffice it to say most of the floor to ceiling windows in the ballet area were smashed, weights machines had been tipped over and staved in, and amateurish crude graffiti was scrawled all over the walls.
Next was the restaurant, which was in serious disarray: numerous ceiling tiles had been torn down or left hanging, chairs and tables had been smashed, up-turned, and burnt, most of the windows and mirrors again smashed, and the long white curtains torn down.
It made me feel really bad, and I began to wonder if I had in any way contributed to it, by posting a map to the location online. I resolved to immediately take down all the maps from my site- which I have since done. While I realize the people who did the vandalizing were probably local kids who wouldn’t know my website if it kicked them in the head, it does strike me as odd that the greater damage was done only shortly after I’d been there. The place had been abandoned for many years before I went, and wasn’t in too bad shape. Shortly after I arrived, it was trashed. So- from now on, no maps.
I took Mike to the hotel room I stayed in alone- it was as untouched as before- the coffee table and chair still by the deck where I’d sat for my breakfast, the remote controls still sat perfectly aligned beside the TV. We enjoyed the view for a moment, then hurried on.
It’s not surprising I missed the Water Park the first time, it’s tucked down a thin over-grown pathway with no signs pointing towards it. Once we found it though, it was impressively big.
At the top of the hill were the entrances for the ‘Surf Coaster’. After posing for a few obligatory shots sat in the chute jet-ways, we descended the hill alongside the giant blue water-slide tubes, snapping photos, skittering along to beat the falling dusk.
At the bottom Mike and I went our separate ways. I climbed down into the water-flume and walked along it until I came to the outlet for the great blue water-slides.
Chased on by the impending darkness, I hurried over to the huge white speed slide and climbed it’s rusted metal staircase to the top. The slide went down on metal rolling casters, straight into what was once the flume pool, now a shock of shrubberies.
Around that point it was getting too dark to do much more. Mike and I trained our cameras to zoom at each other and practised our HALO-style head shots, me up the white slide-tower, him down in the flumes. None of the shots were any good.
We hurried back through the park as darkness descended, stopping so Mike could take dim shots of some impressive graffiti and the upturned car, then we were back in our rented car and headed back to Tokyo.
Down the mountain roads we had a few spine-tingling moments of solitude, feeling like the last human beings alive in an empty world, surrounded by darkness but for our headlights on the ethereal low mist that had sprung up suddenly around us, silent but for the low and somber tones of Godspeed You Black Emperor rumbling through the car’s stereo. At the peak of these feelings of intense isolation, we rounded a dark corner and had to swerve out of the way of a dead body lying naked in the middle of the road.
We were both stunned, and staring wide-eyed into the rear-view mirrors, we guessed it must’ve been a dead pig. Perhaps it had fallen out of a meat van? Either way, it gave us a huge jolt, and we were happy to soon rejoin the main road and civilization, even if it did mean a few hours of grinding traffic before we were home.
Location – Izunagaoka, Izu
Entry – By car, just before dusk, past the guys racing remote control cars and riding skate-boards, in through the main entrance.
Highlights – The great blue Surf Coaster, revisiting my old room.
Extra – You can see Mike’s post on the same topic here, including video.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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