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Nara Dreamland: An Abandoned Amusement Park

Nara Dreamland: An Abandoned Amusement Park

In the outskirts of Nara, the last bits of spirit is leaving of Nara Dreamland, an abandoned amusement park. It closed in 2006, after its number of visitors dropped dramatically in the opening of the new Tokyo Disneyland, as well as the more recent arrival of Osaka Universal Studio. The Nara government is demolishing Nara Dreamland very soon, to get some more space for parkings and such. So I went to pay my visit as soon as possible.

[bs_notification type=”info”]I have been visiting Nara Dreamland many times since I have written this article. Check the end of this article for more. It was actually not demolished until 6 years later ;)[/quote]

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Welcome to Nara Dreamland

Knowing that the official entrance being completely blocked, I had to find another way. Therefore the night before, I went around the abandoned amusement park to find a possible entrance. While driving extremely slowly around the park, a loud voice from a speaker took me by surprise. It was a message in Japanese. Scary! I could not understand a thing, but since it was a recorded message there is nothing to worry… isn’t it !? Later, I actually learned that this message is asking people not to dump garbage around here… Alright! 🙂

Nara Dreamland - Fence

The only entrance… at this time!

Then in the following morning, I still ended-up jumping crazily over the fence, as there seemed no any other way.I have to get in! After all I did not came all the way for nothing! After a short walk though the bushes, I arrived at Nara Dreamland’s official entrance.

Welcome to Nara Dreamland

Welcome to the wonderland! I can already fell that this is going to be an extremely good one, even though I was a bit worried. Some kind of security is supposed to be working here, and urban explorers have been caught many times in this place. Most people came here by night, but I really want my daylight pictures, so… that’s it.

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Good morning!

Dreamland was build in 1961, six years after the original Disneyland. The inspiration for this park actually came entirely from Disneyland, they even have exactly the same layout! Let’s visit it.

Main Street USA

Nara Dreamland - Main Street II

Doesn’t this remind you of Disneyland?

The main avenue really looks like Disneyland, with the Cinderella castle at the end. All the shops and restaurants are empty, but there are still tables and chairs inside. A real ghost town, to start with. Mmm, it seems there was also a Ghibli shop, called “My Neighbor Totoro”.

Nara Dreamland - Main Street III

Ran-chan and Dori-chan, the local and eternal lovers.

Wait! There’s a map of Nara Dreamland on the floor. Here it is!

Dreamland Map

The Map of Nara Dreamland!

I’m going to the center of the park now, in front of the castle of Cinderella. There was no Mickey around, but there were two original characters whom can be found everywhere in the park. A sign told me that they were called Ran-chan and Dori-chan.

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Let’s establish our HQ here! Wait… no.

This is actually the access gate to Fantasyland. But first, let’s go on the left, to Adventure Land !

Adventureland

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A coaster is calling in the back.

A wave pool and many standard water attractions can be found here. Information board said the park was looking for summer time staff, with a salary of 900 yen per hour, just to watch some Japanese girls wearing bikini.

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Let it slide!

From the top of this attraction, we could get a magnificent view of the entire park with the roller-coaster in the back. At the same time, it was really easy to be spotted from here. Better to go down quick.

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Let it slide, again!

Then, not far from them, the Screw Coaster. It is probably the second best attraction of the park, certainly one of the best subject to take pictures of.

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Would like to be a cat and run on this!

Fantasyland

This is the part behind the castle, and it is attractions for the family. The common magic cups…

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Yohooo, let’s see that

A closer look…

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That makes me a bit sick

The carousel…

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NDL Carousel

And the agonizing-looking horses in there…

Nara Dreamland - Horses

What’s wrong guys?

The Swan Cycle, some kind of flying little boats, and there are so many more attractions in there 🙂

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There is a cute viking there

And don’t miss the haunted house!

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Oh, so haunted.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland is the modern section of the park; with video-games, attractions accompanied by loud music in the background.

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Shinkansen of your dream

A little look inside it…

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Can’t let those kids alone!

The noisy but very fun Flash Dance.

Nara Dreamland - Flash Dance III

Flash, ohohhhh

And more interestingly, its woody roller coaster! Here is Aska, the most famous attraction of Nara Dreamland.

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Aska waiting in the back

Its name comes from Aska, a neighbor city of Nara which was a former capital of Japan more than 1500 years ago.

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Aska, the best wooden roller-coaster! Maybe

The praises of this roller coaster are common and recurrent on the Internet. Thus it is amazing to see it being left behind, slowly taken over by the plants.

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Good morning from up there!

The woody rollers-coasters have an advantage over the ones made of steel: they shake more. Also, they make sound like a big monster which makes it even more interesting and impressive.

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This part doesn’t feel very safe

I would have loved to try this one! They are getting rare so the cost of maintenance must be very high.

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Well, it’s scary, let’s go

That’s it for now. The sun is too high, so it is better to leave now. But actually it was way more difficult to get out than to get in. There were too many people around the park, plus the guard must be high on coffee and vitamins with his eyes wide opened now. I therefore jumped and run very quickly ouf of the park, never looked back, jumped into my car and drove away. That ended my aventure at the city of Nara.

Update: I lived in Nara for one year, went back to Nara Dreamland 20-30x more, so I have two articles more about it. The Abandoned Roller-coasters of Nara Dreamland and Nara Dreamland: The End of a Dream.

  • Wow…I didn’t even know you had been in Nara two years ago!  It’s quite amazing…similar to Six Flags New Orleans.  The first photo is very nice!  I didn’t find the park’s colours to be bad, but the mist really helped to add an element of mystery to my own photos.  🙂

    • But apparently Six Flags is much bigger, right? That was Tong said, he was a bit surprised to find out that Nara Dreamland was actually a relatively “small” attraction park. Haha, in this 2 years-old article, as I wasn’t happy with the original colors, I switched everything to HDR and deleted the raws! That’s why the pictures here look a bit odd… though I don’t dislike them. I will write another post about Nara Dreamland with more recent pictures, hopefully it will be better.

      • Hmmm…comparing sizes is difficult.  Nara’s park area is larger, but Six Flags’ overall area is larger.  Check out these Google Maps: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=30.051111,-89.934417&ll=30.051934,-89.935734&spn=0.010512,0.01929&t=h&z=16 (Nara) vs. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=34.7,135.824167&ll=34.699496,135.822816&spn=0.009985,0.01929&t=h&z=16 (Six Flags).  The square area is very similar, but Six Flags is more compact.

        It will be an interesting contrast to see the park without the mist!

        I should have contacted you while I was in Japan!  As you may have heard, our urbex plans for April 22-27 were completely changed on us after I had arrived, so I was lucky to even see Nara.  Luckily, I was able to spend time with a friend in Yokohama.  🙂

        • Haha, just got surprised and impressed by the isometric display on Google Maps while zooming on Six Flag! We don’t have this feature in Japan yet. Mmm, they actually look very similar those two parks. Which one do you prefer?

          Yes you should have, but I thought you were busy! Tong planned his trip with me for a while. I heard about your urbex plans being changed, but it was just about Matsuo, right? Or was it… much more? At least, yes, you went to Nara Dreamland, and it’s one of the best location 🙂

          • It’s difficult to say which park I prefer. They’re both very interesting! My all-time personal favourite photo is from Six Flags, so I’ll choose that location. 🙂  http://www.flickr.com/photos/motionblur/5895814044/

            Tong didn’t mention he was doing a trip with you…which is a little strange.  He asked in February if he could join me in Japan.  We made plans to meet up with Ikumi from April 23-27.  When Ikumi cancelled those plans, Tong didn’t seem as interested in meeting up.  We tried to meet up for lunch one day, but that didn’t happen.  At least now I know why he asked me how to get into Nara Dreamland!  😉

          • The picture is awesome! With such a picture, I understand that Six Flags it’s your favorite! 🙂

            Ha, sneaky Tong! But he’s rather the quiet type anyways, isn’t he? But I know he was really disappointed… as he really wanted to go to Matsuo Mine. And about that, thanks, it was easier getting in thanks to you. Actually the first time I went I just climbed the real fence, it was harder, but I thought it was a bit safer.

          •  Thanks about my star trails photo!  I was happy to assist with entering Nara too!  🙂

  • I will dig around for some scanned in photos I have of Dreamland. I don’t have them on my computers here in Lansing, but I probably have them on my computer at our retirement home in northern Wisconsin. I went there as a kid in 1965 or 1966 (I would have been 12 or 13) with a bunch of other kids that attended Chofu Junior HIgh and lived on the Kanto Mura base or on the Fuchu Air Station base a mile of two to the west of Chofu.

    • You have been to Dreamland too? That’s really interesting you went when it opened and that you took pictures there! I would really love to see… let me know if you can scan them and I will make them available for everybody to see. Thanks a lot Brian!

  • I believe it would be better if you didn’t change the colours of the photographs like you did with part 2 but they are still amazing! Congrats! 🙂

    • Of course Kostas ! Most photos are really ugly here but I am just keeping the article as it was my first explore of that place… too bad, but those are good memories as well.

  • CrazyGirl

    Imagine one moment if an attraction operator where to go inside this park for fun.
    Let’s hope there is no more electricity. lol
    But, it would be fun to see if these attractions still work! (I was an attraction operator and if I could I would really like to try making one of those coaster move again. It would be sooo thrilling! (lol))

    • Apparently there is still electricity in the park 😉 But I doubt we can actually activate those attractions still. Haha, you can try activate them as an urban explorer! Better run after that 😀

      • CrazyGirl

        If those attractions still have electricity, the only things needed are the keys for the operators and those for the mantaining crew and someone whose not afraid of going to check some parts of the attractions (check-up to see if, by exemple, the trains will, at least, stop). I’m not fond of heights… So only a small attraction, uh. (Laugh)

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I am Jordy Meow, I am a French photographer living in Japan. My interest is to discover and share information about offbeat and lesser known locations for foreigners coming or living in Japan. I published books and now preparing new beautiful series of guidebooks.

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