Nara Dreamland Heyday

Mike GristHaikyo, 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 & R. One of those vets- Gary Forberg- kindly digitized some of his slides and gave me permission to show them here.

So here they are, along with a few of my comparison shots of Dreamland as it is now. Thanks Gary for sharing these memories!

The main train station at the entrance- all-but unchanged now-

The Dream Station sign has gone, the window cladding has changed, but otherwise much the same.

A shot from up on the train station railing, looking over Main Street and the Matterhorn. I took a similar shot on my visit- but at night- and it was very poor. Instead here’s a comparison shot of Main Street.

On the corner of Main Street, as the sun rises.

The Matterhorn gondola ride, monorail, with a glimpse of pirate boat ride round the side, and a Chinese pagoda thing at right. Pagoda is gone, as is the awesome pirate boat.

Matterhorn, along with monorail and low roller-coaster around Matterhorn’s base.

This whole wooden boat is gone. Now there is a pirate boat ride in Dreamland- but of a very different character. The only thing like this I can think of is the boat at DisneySea.

A swirly pirate string ride- monorail in back.

Rowdy characters.

There’s nothing left of this wooden stockade either. The closest thing now is in the also-abandoned theme park, Western Village.

This last is Gary, standing at the train station rail in 1963, on R & R from Korea.

Thanks again to Gary Forberg for so kindly sharing these photos.

I’d also like to extend an invite to anyone else who may have more heyday photos of Dreamland, or indeed any memorabilia from that time including ticket stubs, postcards, business cards, and so on, to send them to me and let me share them here.

That includes:

– the US Air Force Bases in Fuchu and Tachikawa

Camp Drake in Saitama

the Negishi Racecourse in Yokohama

Western Village theme park

Russian Village theme park

– and anything else really.

I’d love to post heyday articles for all of these location- along with your memories if you’d care to share.


My email is michaeljohngrist @ (remove spaces around @)

See more haikyo here-

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Comments 9

  1. This entry is really nice Mike, especially with the contrast photos from the past included. Really wish I would have gone when I was living in Nara, but for some reason, it just didn’t have the reputation for being a particularly enjoyable experience at the time. Now that I see that it has closed, I’m feeling a little regret.

    1. Post

      Thanks Lucas, and yeah, I can imagine it might’ve been a bit of a downer in its final years. By night it still seemed cool, though as the sun got up it just looked a bit sad.
      Though look on the bright side- you could still go!

  2. Thank you very much for this wonderful post. I’ve been to Japan several times over the past decade and handn’t heard of it. I have been to Tokyo Disneyland. Thanks to Gary for the photos and for his service in the military.

    1. Post

      My pleasure Steve, really it’s just good fortune that Gary was game to share his photos. I guess you wouldn’t have heard of it because it was really fading in its last years- not a competitor at all to bigger newer parks like the Disneys or Universal Studios in Osaka.

  3. So terrific to see your photos and read your posting. My father was stationed at Yokosuka from 1968 to 1972. My parents took us to Dreamland a couple of times during those years. My eighth grade class went on an overnight field trip to the park in 1971. I was curious to see if the park still existed when I found your website. Thanks so much.

  4. I noticed the clock was changed on the main train station from roman numerals to numbers. Sort of interesting. Was the clock still working when you took your shots did you notice?

  5. Thank you for your effort in posting the old photos. My older brother went as a kid when my family was stationed nearby. It is a family joke because everyone there called it “DreamaLand”!

    Thanks again. 🙂

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