Theme parks are supposed to foster happy memories of childhood, but sometimes these seemingly blissful places can turn into something far more mysterious and macabre. Nara Dreamland theme park was once meant to become the nation’s equivalent to Disneyland, but instead it gained notoriety as Japan’s abandoned theme park.
Left to rot and decay over the years, the abandoned Japanese theme park was like something out of a creepy post-apocalyptic film. For a decade it was an infamous destination for urban explorers and thrill-seekers, who left the theme park with captivating photographs and stories about Nara Dreamland. The park was finally demolished at the end of 2017, but the haunting photos taken by intrepid and curious adventurers will never let us forget the strange history of Nara Dreamland.
The Park Was Left To Rot
Beyond fences of rusted barbed wire, Nara Dreamland sat abandoned by the world and exposed to the elements for a decade. Instead of dismantling the rides and various buildings, everything had been left exactly as it was on the day the park shut down in 2006. Things quickly fell into disrepair, and Dreamland became a creepy echo of its once vibrant and exciting self.
As adventurer Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle said:
"It was an extremely eerie feeling to be in this enormous amusement park all alone. You could faintly hear the traffic from the streets around it but, otherwise, the only sounds were the birds in the trees and my feet occasionally stepping on some gravel. I could tell that the weather and nature were having their way with the whole complex – paint was peeling off, weeds were growing, rust was forming. But that made everything even more interesting with the texture of time."
It Tried To Be Disneyland But Money Got In The Way
It all started in the 1950s when Japanese businessman Kunizo Matsuo took a trip to the US. There he was so captivated by Disneyland that when he returned to his country he decided to build his own in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. Unfortunately, preliminary talks with Walt Disney soon came to an end because of a disagreement over licensing fees, and Matsuo was left with a group of engineers with half-begun plans.
Alright, so it couldn’t be Disneyland exactly – but there was no reason they couldn’t build something inspired by Disneyland, and so they got to work. Only a few years later, Nara Dreamland opened its gates on July 1, 1961.
It Was A Total Rip-Off Of Disneyland
Nara Dreamland wasn’t just “inspired” by Disneyland – it was a total rip-off. Huge sections of the park were nearly identical to the original: the park entrance was almost the exact same design, with a classic train depot, Main Street, and a castle that was a low-budget version of the famous Sleeping Beauty Castle. There was even a mountain that looked awfully similar to the Matterhorn – unsurprisingly this mountain also housed a bobsleigh ride, called – very originally – “Bobsleigh.”
The Rides Were Almost Identical
It wasn't just the buildings and a mountainous bobsled course that were "reminiscent" of Disneyland – nearly every ride in the park was a total knockoff. There was a monorail, a jungle cruise, a log ride that should have just called itself Splash Mountain, and even a very, very familiar looking teacup ride.