A common misconception about Japan is that it's so densely populated that every single town is just like Tokyo; urban, people all crammed together, few empty spaces. Not only are there still tons of rural places in Japan, but there are even abandoned places, places that were simply left behind to rot. The Japanese call these places haikyo (haikyo 廃墟).
Some of the creepiest of all haikyo in Japan are amusement parks. Places where poeople used to gather to have fun or go on vacation now sit vacant to rust and become overrun by nature. And while not all of Japan's abandoned parks are as creepy as rusty ol' clown car above, some of them come pretty damn close.
Why do so many amusement parks fail? It seems kind of strange that so many amusement parks would simply just close shop.
There are a bunch of different reasons why amusement parks go out of business:
- Bigger Parks: Places like Universal Studios and Disneyland have put a lot of smaller parks out of business. Why would you go to some no-name amusement park when you can go see freakin' Mickey Mouse?!
- Failing Banks: Lots of smaller parks were financed by banks that gave bad loans, or failed for other reasons. With those banks gone, the amusement parks couldn't afford to stay open.
- Other Asian Parks: Lots of new amusement parks are opening up all across Asia too, which has brought attention and attendance away from Japanese amusement parks. Countries like China and South Korea are experiencing a kind of amusement park boom, while Japan's amusement parks have kind of peaked. Lots of these failed amusement parks have been either abandoned or torn down completely. Lots of people have taken it upon themselves to explore these abandoned parks and provide us all with nightmare fuel. Let's take a look at some of the creepiest abandoned amusement parks in Japan.
Takakanonuma Greenland was an amusement park that opened up in the mid-70s and quickly closed down. In 1986, the park tried to open back up again after being closed down for about 10 years, but quickly failed again. Since its final closure, the park and its huge roller coasters have become overgrown by local plants and nearly completely rusted over. Still, that hasn't stopped intrepid explorers from climbing all over these rabies hazards.
And for some reason, nearly every picture I've found of Takakanonuma Greenland has been in a dense fog. While some might attribute this to the local climate or the time of year these pictures were taken, I'd like to say that there's so much fog because this place is creepy as hell.
It's hard to imagine now, but when Disneyland first opened up back in 1955 it was a pretty big deal. There weren't really many other amusement parks that were as big or that paid such attention to detail.
Some people visited Disneyland to try to capture all the magic. Some people built their own.
Nara Dreamland, which was built in 1961, was in a lot of ways a straight-up copy of the original Disneyland, complete with jungle cruise, monorail, and main street. If you compare maps of the two, they're pretty much identical.
In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland finally opened. After Disney had an official presence in Japan, Nara Dreamland began its long and slow decline. The killing blow came when Universal Studios opened up its own park in nearby Osaka in 2001. Nara Dreamland closed down shortly thereafter in 2006.
The park itself is still standing and largely untouched, so there are lots of unofficial visitors exploring and photographing the park.
Gulliver's Kingdom was an amusement park based off the classic British book "Gulliver's Travels," which follows a British sailor who travels around the world finding strange and interesting civilizations. You might recognize the book's most famous scene where the main character, Gulliver, is tied to the ground by an army of tiny people.
Unfortunately, Gulliver's Kingdom had its own set of unique problems. The park didn't have the best neighbors ever. Not only was it right by Japan's infamous "suicide forest," and was close to Kamikuishiki, a town that was home to the Aum Shinrikyo cult that launched a terrorist attack on Japan in 1995.
Needless to say, the area wasn't a huge tourist attraction. People probably even avoided being in the area.
The park opened in 1998. Very few people came to visit, so the park was forced to close in 2001. The thing is, the park wasn't demolished until 2007, which meant that for six whole years it became overgrown, decayed, and vandalized until it had reached a nice, ripe state of creepiness.
For a less terrifying Gulliver's Travels experience, you can always watch the God-awful Jack Black movie (or, y'know, read the book).
Koga Family Land
Koga Family Land (also sometimes unfortunately known as Koga Family Rand) was yet another small, independent amusement park that failed in the mid-90s. It stood abandoned for nearly 20 years before finally being torn down in 2008.
Up until the park was torn down, many different buildings and rides remained, including a restaurant, a cart ride, and a Ferris wheel that made terrifying noises when the wind blew.
Check out this video from Florian from Abandoned Kansai to get a good idea about how empty this place is:
If you want to read up more on haikyo, check out these awesome sites: