Nara Dreamland – the dream of urban explorers in Japan
Welcome to the fourth segment of our column “6 unusual but fantastic places in Japan”! For the fourth installment we decided to go to some place eerie and mysterious, a place of dreams and nightmares. Today’s topic is something that is also on this author’s bucket list and that most urban explorers in Japan know about. The eerie atmosphere and the unique sights in this abandoned theme park are the main reasons for its appeal. The abandonment of this theme park paved the way for some sort of demi-world, generated between the last cheers of joy of visiting children and the rebirth of nature taking over the yellow brick roads. Welcome to Nara Dreamland.
Before we go deeper in the mysteries of Nara Dreamland, it is important to talk about urban exploring, or haikyo (廃墟) in Japanese, and what it’s all about. Some readers might even wonder what’s so special about urban exploring and whether or not is legal.
The answer to that first question is quite simple. Imagine yourself entering a place that has been deserted for years for an unknown reason but everything in that place is left just the same way as it was on the day it was deserted. Even though outside this location time passed in a normal way, time in this location stood still for years and years. The only thing that changed, is the atmosphere. Slowly all things in this location wore down and received some sort of eerie filter turning the building, or theme park in this case, in a unique place in our constantly evolving world. That is what’s so special about urban exploring, the thrill of walking around in a place that hasn’t been alive with people for years. That and also the thrill of doing something illegal of course. Because, the answer to question number two, urban exploring is considered trespassing a.k.a. a crime.
To make things clear, Inari does not encourage its readers to commit crimes. However, if you ever get the opportunity to visit Nara Dreamland, don’t hesitate to take it. Just remember to be careful and quiet and don’t be stupid. There are a fair amount of stories online about urban explorers who got caught or arrested, so whatever you want to do, do your research first and take your time to plan everything before going to a location and once you arrive. Google Earth and Google Maps are your friends! Also, don’t forget that it’s possible that certain abandoned places are guarded or are turned into a fortress so no one can enter. If you get caught, the fines can get as expensive as €950.
Inari is not responsible for anything!
The story behind Nara Dreamland
The Nara Dreamland Theme park was built near the City of Nara in 1961. It was inspired by the famous Disneyland in California and attempted to recreate its magic. Sadly after years of the amount of visitors diminishing, Nara Dreamland was shut down on the 31st of August in 2006. An extra cause for the abandonment of Nara Dreamland was the success of the Tokyo Disney Resort and the Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, only about 40 kilometers away. Instead of selling all the rides and attractions, the owners decided to do nothing with it and just abandoned it, making it look like suddenly everyone disappeared. In one day time, the moving rides and crowd were replaced with stillness.
There are actually a couple of things to see at the Nara Dreamland. First of all, you have the park in all its abandoned glory. Attractions ranging from wooden roller coasters to carousels and buildings like restaurants are worn and overgrown with the lush plant life. The carts of the different roller coasters are even still on the tracks. Secondly, to the east of the Nara Dreamland are the Eastern Parking Lot and Parking Garage which aren’t that spectacular but very easy to enter. You just have to step over a rope. Finally, you can also enter the abandoned Nara Dreamland Hotel that is located on the northern side of the parking lot. With its observation tower to watch the park from up high, it’s definitely worth entering. If you are lucky, you can find a way into this fortress and explore the entire building. Just be careful of the guard that passes by on his scooter frequently.
How to get there
To find Nara Dreamland, you have to get to Nara first. Nara is easily reached by train via Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka. The address for the Nara Dreamland can be found on Wikipedia so we decided to put it here as well: Nara Dreamland, 1900 Horen-cho, 630-8113 Nara. The rest you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Make sure to visit other places in Nara as well. They even have a festival where they put an entire mountain on fire.
This was our fourth unusual but fantastic place to visit in Japan. If you want to know more about the eerie Nara Dreamland, you can always leave us a comment, send us a mail or visit this page if you want to see even more photos.