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 …

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 …

SunLovePrice Haikyo

MJG Entertainment, Haikyo, Tokyo-to 8 Comments

At the time of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in March I was teaching at a composer’s office 10 minutes west of Shinjuku. During the quake and aftermath it was a bit crazy, but soon things calmed down and it was time to go home. All the trains were stopped so I started walking, and on the journey ran across this little haikyo- the Sun Love Price pachinko/restaurant combo. I dipped in, but with just my iphone camera in the dark interior I could only get blurry photos. A few weeks later I returned to shoot it properly. I think it …

Volcano Museum 5. Documentary

MJG Featured Story, Gunma, Haikyo, Haikyo in the Media, Museums 9 Comments

Well over a year ago now a Belgian film-maker called Jeroen Van der Stock got in touch with me about making a haikyo / ruins documentary in Japan. He had the concept but seemingly no solid structure at that time, so we met up for coffee to discuss ideas. I went along because it seemed a kick- I’ve had other meetings about haikyo books and TV shows that fell through quickly- so I didn’t have high expectations. A year and a half later, Jeroen has pulled the first stage of his haikyo documentary vision together. He got funding from a …

One-armed Ultraman

MJG Entertainment, Haikyo, Statues / Monuments, Tokyo-to 3 Comments

Ultraman is a Japanese icon, guardian of Tokyo against all kinds of horrible invaders since 1966. His branding can be found everywhere, from plastic bento lunchboxes to bikes, cell-phone straps, and kids’ ride. My buddy Scott was out walking the streets near his home in northern Tokyo and stumbled across this one-armed Ultraman. It doesn’t really qualify as a haikyo since it seems that it may still function, despite the missing arm and rust-coated surface. 10-yen will give your kids a ride into battle with whatever crazy alien-suited baddie the Man had to face. Scott very kindly took these photos …

GUEST HAIKYO – Okinawa’s grandest ruin

MJG Featured Story, Guest Haikyo, Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Okinawa 4 Comments

This is the third part of Paul’s Okinawa explorations, see part one (abandoned cactus theme parks) here, and part two (the Rekio hotel) here. Day Three Along with Sports World the Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel is one of only a handful of ruins in Japan on the scale of a small village. Such is its grand positioning on the hillside the hotel can be seen from literally miles away … my first response upon seeing the ruin, something along the lines of: “Woah!” Originally scheduled for opening to coincide with the World Fair Expo ’75, construction of the hotel was never …