Nara Dreamland: Japan’s last abandoned theme park

Mike GristHaikyo, Nara, Theme Parks 118 Comments

Nara Dreamland is the epitome of many haikyo dreams; an abandoned theme park with all its roller-coasters and rides still standing. I’ve heard many stories of haikyoists arriving only to be either deterred by the cameras, sensors, alarms and fines, or actually physically expelled by the furious security guard. For my visit I decided to bypass those risks altogether, and entered by night. You can buy prints here. Orion (you can see the 3 stars of his belt) behind the Dreamland castle. Buy prints here. Nara Dreamland opened in 1961, inspired by Disneyland in California. For 45 years its central …

Japan’s abandoned Jungle theme park #1 outside

Mike GristHaikyo, Izu, Shizuoka, Theme Parks 19 Comments

Japan’s Jungle Park is an immense abandoned green house, an indoor botanical garden sheltering nearly 10,000 square meters worth of sweltering tropical habitat. It was built in 1969, and its peak of operation came in 1973 when it received 750,000 visitors per year. By 2003 over 10 million people had passed through its vast and humid acreage, but its facilities were showing their age and fewer and fewer people were coming each year. It was closed in the fall of 2003, and has lain fallow there like a giant white tent for the past seven years. Jungle Park`s main entrance.

Japan’s dying Ceramic Land theme park

Mike GristHaikyo, Nagasaki, Theme Parks 27 Comments

During Japan’s real estate Bubble in the 1980’s, theme parks were the investment to make. They couldn’t fail. Sink millions into expensive construction, land, and man-power, and ride the surging economy to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. All those decades of post-war militaristic industrialism had finally paid off, and people were finally taking more leisure time and traveling further afield to enjoy it- you couldn’t go wrong with a theme park. Except of course, you could. The Bubble burst like an over-ripe peach and all the wacky ideas that before had seemed so bright- The …

The sadness of Namegawa Island

Mike GristChiba, Haikyo, Theme Parks 37 Comments

Namegawa Island is a big failed bird theme park, one that up until fairly recently held its own against the twin Disneys standing astride the Chiba peninsula, past which any bird-aficionados would have to run the gauntlet to reach it. It sits perched on a precarious jag of forested coastline, completely blockaded from the mainland by a wide swath of mountains stretching from edge to edge, accessible only through tunnels that are now thoroughly gated and barbed.

Ruins of Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan

Mike GristHaikyo, Theme Parks, Yamanashi 21 Comments

Gulliver once rested in the shadow of Mt.Fuji, bound and nailed to the ground by the hair. His giant body was the main attraction of the now defunct and dismembered Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, built in 1997, closed in 2001 due to defaulting bank loans, and demolished around 2007. Perhaps a contributing factor to its ultimate failure was the proximity of Kamikuishiki- a small village that was the main base for the cult Aum Shinrikyo at the time of their deadly 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. Tourists on a day-trip with …

The ruins of Sports World Water Park

Mike GristHaikyo, Izu, Theme Parks 10 Comments

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 …

Japan’s abandoned Russian Village theme park

Mike GristChurches / Shrines, Haikyo, Niigata, Theme Parks 30 Comments

Japan’s Russian Village Theme Park sprawls empty and forlorn atop a small hill set back from the main road, shrouded by a thick raft of cedar trees that hide its embarassing failed extravangance from the world. Built 2002 and abandoned after just 6 months, the endeavour was ill-fated from the start: a theme park in the middle of nowhere with no rides. Russian church in Japanese mountains. Now its giant fake mammoths rest unseen in their dark and musty show hall, the vibrant blue onion-domes of its vaulting ‘Russian’ church slowly tarnish to white, and the shops once filled with …