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The abandoned Nara Dreamland: An amusement park in Japan inspired by Disneyland

David Goran

Nara Dreamland was a theme park near Nara, Japan which was built in 1961 by a company called Nippon Dream Kanko. Its president, Kunizo Matsuo, wanted to build a similar park to California’s Disneyland that catered to the Japanese.

Nara Dreamland in 1961. Source

Nara Dreamland in 1961. Source

 

Nara Dreamland entrance. Source

Nara Dreamland entrance. Source

The park looked almost identical to Disneyland: its entrance looked the same and it had the familiar Sleeping Beauty Castle at the hub. It also had a Matterhorn-type mountain (with a Matterhorn Bobsleds-type ride, called Bobsleigh), and the skyway running through it, as well as an Autopia-type pubs and a monorail. The park also had its own mascots, Ran-chan and Dori-chan, two kids dressed as bearskinned guards.

Nara Dreamland, an abandoned attraction park in Nara, Japan. The city of Nara can be seen in the background. Source

Nara Dreamland, an abandoned attraction park in Nara, Japan. The city of Nara can be seen in the background. Source

 

The park has been abandoned since 2006. Source

The park has been abandoned since 2006. Source

 

Screw Coaster at Nara Dreamland. Source

Screw Coaster at Nara Dreamland. Source

The park contained several rides prior to closing, including: Fantasy Coaster, Bobsleigh (a steel roller coaster modeled after the Matterhorn Bobsleds).

Figure-8 monorail, Screw Coaster (an Arrow Development designed double corkscrew steel roller coaster), Kid’s Coaster and Aska (a wooden roller coaster based on The Cyclone at Coney Island) which was considered as the best attraction of Nara dreamland. Other rides included a Jungle Cruise styled ride, a small powered coaster, a carousel and a log flume. For 45 years they pulled in the big crowds.

In its heyday, the park welcomed 1.6 million visitors a year, but these numbers slowly started to decline. Source

In its heyday, the park welcomed 1.6 million visitors a year, but these numbers slowly started to decline. Source

 

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Not many amusement parks of this size are abandoned with everything inside. Source

Not many amusement parks of this size are abandoned with everything inside. Source

 

 However, due to the declining number of visitors every year (as little as 400,000 visitors a year), the park was shut down permanently in 2006. But the theme park was never demolished. It has been standing vacant for 10 years, in much of the same state as it was when it was closed.

 

The wooden roller coaster, Aska. It was the biggest wooden roller coaster in Japan. Source

The wooden roller coaster, Aska. It was the biggest wooden roller coaster in Japan. Source

Strict zoning laws prevent the site from being used for residential, commercial, retail or hotel developments, making the property largely unattractive to investors.

The Castle at Nara Dreamland Theme Park. Source

The Castle at Nara Dreamland Theme Park. Source

Even after its being abandoned, the wooden roller coaster Aska remains the most popular destination for all ‘visitors’. As there are no plans yet for the future, it will remain one of the decaying visions of misplaced dreams.