Sports World Retrospective

Mike GristFeatured Story, Haikyo, Izu, Theme Parks 30 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 made there over the past 2 years, I came across lots of photos I never posted. Here are some of them.

The tubes shot from on top of the white water chute. You can see the red roofs of the hotel buildings at left.

I visited Sports World three times while it was still standing-

The first was in summer 2008– almost my first solo haikyo and first overnight haikyo stay. It was thrilling, strange, and of course beautiful.

My second trip was a fly-by visit with Canadian Mike tacked on to an autumn 2008 camping holiday in Izu. We arrived by car 30 minutes before sun-down, and it was very strange to walk so casually around a place I’d been so in awe of the first time.

The final time was in autumn 2009, when I returned with Mike and another explorer Paul, and I focused on HDR photos and looking for areas I hadn’t seen before.

It was my favorite haikyo because it was so big, so empty, and in such a beautiful location. On the last trip I just stood on top of the white chute ride and looked over the whole of it, breathing deep and feeling a weird kind of pride. Of course the place wasn’t mine to be proud of, but that’s the beauty of ruins. You can feel like it’s yours while you’re there, and since it’s a ruin there’s no-one to tell you otherwise.

Sports World circa 1990. At left are car parks, tennis courts, hotel and mini-golf course, center is the big wave pool, and right is the rapids and blue tubes.

Circa 2005 or whenever Google took this shot, rotated about 90 degrees.

That same shot topographically.

The main areas (as I see them) are circled in color. Area 1 is the entrance, BBQ hall, and wrecked cars. Area 2 is the hotel, gym, restaurant. Area 3 is the blue tubes, rapids, and white chute.

1. Entrance, BBQ hall, wrecked cars.

My first time in back in 2008 the main turnstile was thoroughly barb-wired off. I had to hunker down to slide underneath. My second visit, the wires were cut. My third, they were mostly all torn down.

White cloisters that would once have provided shade to queueing punters.

The view as of 2008.

On my first trip I only saw one side of the BBQ garden, the one that faced the main gate. I didn`t see the other side because there was a crew of people doing some kind of photo shoot, and I didn`t want to scare/disturb them by passing too close. On the second I went round, and saw the much more interesting graffiti-ed side.

The overgrown interior I saw the first time.

What I didn`t see the first time.

Overgrown interior view from the reverse. Fallen tables seem to be in about the same locations.

Round the side of the Game Center, beside the BBQ hall, were the wrecked cars. Two that were simply parked, and one that had been flipped. How was this car flipped? Did a group of people manually flip it? There hardly was room for anyone to get up enough speed to be able to roll it with a fast turn. Very odd.

The first time here I posed on each of the cars roofs. I think I`ll share that moment here.

No Mike posing 2009.

Mike posing 2008.

I stood on this one too. I`ll spare you all my posing shots though.

2. Hotel, gym, restaurant

My first time I spent the night in one of the hotel rooms. It was virtually untouched, nothing had been moved, though the balcony window had been slightly smashed in to gain access. I didn`t settle down til after 12, but lying there in the dark with nothing to do but listen to the weird screeching sounds coming from outside was maddening. The front door still locked, as did the balcony (though the glass beside the lock was smashed), but still I heaped up the chairs and furniture in front of them. I slept and had bizarre dreams of old high school friends breaking in to help me escape.

From the restaurant balcony, looking over the hotel blocks. In all that jungle is a big swimming pool.

From within the jungle, looking up to the hotel as though it’s a Mayan stepped pyramid.

Looking back towards the restaurant from the balcony of the room I stayed in. You can see the pool to the left.

What it looked like in its heyday.

Sun setting shot (sun off to the left slightly) over the restaurant balcony, from yet another room`s balcony.

3. Blue tubes, rapids, and white chute.

My first time to the park I found none of this, though I was there all night and most of the next day. The only way there was along a totally overgrown path that I took to just be more jungle, and not a path at all. My second visit I headed directly to it, and on my third blasted it with HDR.

The HDR tubes in B&W.

From amidst the tubes, looking over the white rapid run.

From alongside the rapids, looking up to the white chute and tubes.

And that`s largely it. All the other photos I took you can see on the three other posts I made on Sports World, linked below.

All that is except a few shots I took of some concept drawings of a potential future for Sports World, one that never came about. But who knows, perhaps in some alternate universe the plans went ahead, Sports World was saved, and these towers stand.

Sports World with grand towers.

Sports World with swan boats in the rapids.

Various concepts, presumably dug out as last ditch efforts to halt Sports World`s plunge into bankruptcy.

Sports World, RIP.

See the other posts on Sports World here:

1- Overnight solo stay

2- Fly-by visit to the Water Park

3- Return in HDR

See a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.

See my collection of Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:

[album id=4 template=compact]

Comments 30

  1. Yea, I heard this news myself from Florian. But it’s still based on hearsay. Part of me doesn’t want to believe it… Anyone actually confirmed it with their own eyes? Would be very sad if it’s true…

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      1. Ahh :(. That settles it then. A sad day indeed. I had a chance to visit myself a few months ago but passed it up because of the long train ride. You can never really be sure with haikyo. Disturbingly as well, I’ve been seeing quite a few old haikyo houses being torn down in my city and threats of other locations going the same way. Perhaps they’re finally cracking down..?

        1. Strange trend, you’re not the only ones who noticed it.

          Oddly enough, Korean urbex has gone the same way. I moved out here with a shortlist of places to visit. The stumbling on whole neighbourhoods I doubt will ever end, but as for the big sites, most seem to have been demolished in the last year.

          Sad I never did get to go do a summer visit and see Sports World completely overgrown. It’s rather easy to navigate in early Spring.

  2. It was actually chronos who sent me an e-mail – along with photo proof. I wanted to go there in summer as a combined Mt. Fuji / Sports World trip, but in the end I didn’t go… darn. It was one of the few haikyo left in Japan I really wanted to see!

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      I`d love to see that photo proof- I guess I`ll email chronos and see if he wants to share. Though actually it probably is just depressing to look at…

  3. I’ve lived in Japan for two three year stints – 1987-1990 (Bubble) and 1995-1998 (post-Bubble). I guess I’ll never understand why places like this in a country very short on recreation facilities failed. I don’t remember exactly where Sports World was located, so did being relatively distant from greater Tokyo contribute and did they just charge too much, both contributing factors to the demise of Seagaia.

    I live in Seattle. Our summers are crap compared to Japan’s in terms of warmth. That being said, we’ve got two hugely successful seasonal water parks here that are in no way as nice as Sports World looked (and they don’t have tennis courts or a golf course). That one shot showing the poolside bungalows looks as nice as many places in Hawaii, and it wasn’t a thousand dollars and six hours away.

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      It`s the same question that often puzzles me Jeffrey- Sports World really was in a gorgeous location, not so far away from Tokyo, and well-outfitted. Any photos of it I’ve seen from when it was in operation though show it to be virtually empty, with only a few people wandering around, looking lost in its largeness.

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      Thanks for sharing your photo link dietmar. It’s definitely strange to see it in winter, with all the greenery stripped away. Looks much sadder and lonelier.

  4. Sports World is gone? Damn… Yeah I’d like to see the photo proof as well, post it if you get it Mike.
    Glad I made it there twice though! It was definitely one of the best haikyo I ever went to, maybe even #1.

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      I haven’t seen full photo proof yet, but I did see some shots where part of the jungle had been fully cleared, and holes made in the buildings- presumably some kind of prep for destruction. Maybe they were looking for the metal rebars, to speed demolition?

  5. I definitely would’ve like to have paid another visit to Sports World … a good reminder that the ruins we put off to see “later” may just be gone by the time later comes around.

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      Exactly, a phenomenon I’ve been stung by before. Though now the only place I can think of that remains is Gunkanjima, and I don’t think (short of a huge earthquake) that it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

  6. Great site, I love looking at your images,

    I was talking to my Japanese language tutor about sports world. She remembers seeing a programme about sports world when she was still living in Japan.
    I just found the site on google maps. It still looks like the same image as above, But google aren’t that quick at updating their images…

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      Thanks, and right, I saw clips of one program where a J-pop band ran down the water slides at Sports World. I guess it was on youtube- maybe that was the program your tutor saw.
      Does anyone have the link?

  7. Doing a little research on this remarkable Haikyo, I found some fascinating facts about the sad story of Ascot Sports World. I.e. the German maker of the wave pools actually still refer to the installment of the groundbreaking wave machines in Sports World. They could produce waves of up to 2 m. and are still available. Another dated and very old site cites prices and opening hours, to visitors in spe. I’ve even come across a photo of an employee entry card for the season ’96. A french urbex found manuals to MS Flight, and Golf Simulators. I guess this was the most sensible way to kill time as an employee In the desolated water park In the last months of operation.

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      That is fascinating- thanks for sharing your research here, Great Dane. I wonder if they recycled/reused the wave pool engines when they tore up the wave pools. At other sites, like Kappa Pia which I went to while it was being demolished, the engines were already long gone.

  8. Do you have anymore photos of Sports World when it was still in operation? If not can you direct me to websites that have pictures of Sports World when it was still in operation?

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  9. As i was sitting at work with not much to do in the past couple of days i stumbled accross your website. I felt i was there right beside you as i was reading your stories and looking at the amazing photo’s you have taken. I now hoave a sudden passion to visit ruin or abandoned places. I was so SAD that i took so long to find your website because i was finding myself wanting to book a trip to go to Sports World and then i stumbled upon your last entry 🙁 i sunk in my chair in dispare that there is nothing left of such an amazing park. I am always amazed at how nature always claims back what it lost. I will keep watch for any new and interesting places you may find in the futre. P.S. you should write a book…. I would read it! 🙂

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      Thanks very much for this comment, Lori, really makes my day :). I too get the exploring if I happen to glance at my old stories! Funny, that. I would go back to Sports World for sure, but yes, sadly it is gone.
      As for a book, thanks for your support- I’m working on it ;).

      1. Before i stumbled upon your website i was searching for Abandoned cities around the world. Some stories are so amazing that the history alone makes me want to travel. I realize that most of the theme parks you visited were only in the past 50-60 years, which i am still interested in but my love for history is growing daily. But as i said before your adventures are keeping me on my seat continuously following you on your trips. keep me posted on your new adventures and travels as well as that book 🙂

  10. For anyone wanting to find the former Sports World location, I was able to glean a clue from the kanji off the topographical map. Search for ???????? which is the name of the Nagaoka Cleaning Center. Drop the kanji into Google Maps and it’ll drop you right next to the sight when you zoom in.

  11. Well shoot. Apparently the kanji for that clue isn’t going to transfer through. Here’s the coordinates instead: 35.041381,138.916292

  12. I’m from Thailand. While I’m searching the haunted places in the world, I find this website. Normally, I usually see only pictures on website but your adventure is very interesting,so I start to read your story. I’m so excited. Your words seem to bring me staying in Sports World. I read every words. I really love it. I’m glad to read your review. Nice to meet you 🙂 Thank you to share your experience for everyone!

  13. I just visited the site of Sportsworld today – indeed it has been demolished. I took a few pictures if you want I could send them to you so you can upload them. Funnily enough, the sign is the only thing remaining.

  14. ok – this may seem bizarre but back in 1997 I lived in Izunagaoka – Numazu in Shizuoka prefecture. I used to work at the Sun Valley Hotel in Izunaguoka and we used to ride our bikes up a massive hill to a resort where we could use the gym and pools as a sister hotel arrangement. I swear this is the same place you are all referring to.
    You rode up the hill and entered the foyer and could access large gym, there was an indoor pool with maybe 2 or 4 lanes for laps and then there was a Japanese bath attached.
    When you walked to the left you could access the outdoor pools which were surrounded by accommodation that looks exactly like the pics above. The whole resort was surrounded by a beautifully manicured golf course.
    When we went there all the wave pools and slides were closed so we never got to experience those – but the pool was the perfect spot to chill on those hot summer days. I am going to get home a dig out my old photos of us living it up in the pool – I may even have a brochure somewhere in my memories box. Let me do some hunting and see what I can find!!!!

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