Nara Dreamland – the last big abandoned attraction park in Japan – is still standing 2 years later after my first visit ! Which is a good thing because it was supposed to be demolished. However, the guard seems to have became even more active than before : a bunch of Australians and Americans got caught recently. Japanese people definitely considerer this place as dangerous.
I decided to go back there for a third time to catch up on the sad quality of my previous shots. I therefore put on my pillow paw and run to the Dreamland on the fly…
It’s a wonderful summer day to visit the park. As I have never been to the official entrance and the parking of Nara Dreamland, I decide to go there first. There is nothing special as expected, but I did find a bunch of maps of the park, signboards with prices, and an abandoned hotel boring like hell.
But wait, we are actually not alone here. There is one guy walking towards us, with a big dog… could it be the guard!?
When he eventually gets very close to us, we realized that it is only a local having a peaceful pee-pee walk with his doggy. I asked him if there is any problem to walk on the abandoned parking and he simply said there is no problem at all. Cool! But now we will have to go to a completely different place to get into the park.
And here we are, back at Nara Dreamland! I have to say, I now feel quite at home in this place. After 3 visits, no more surprises, no unknown facts, mysteries or worries! It is really agreeable to walk around with this nice feeling.
Even the colours seem to be nicer and happier than before, and the Dreamland’s mascots are everywhere, sharing their good mood with us.
But the real reason of my return is… to visit the abandoned roller-coasters! This time, I really need to climb them and to take pictures from the top. I have an urge to execute this little craziness! Okay, for starters, let us take the safest one: the Screw Coaster.
THE SCREW COASTER
100% metal, rusty, but very stable. A little catwalk allows us to walk around easily.
The Screw Coaster’s wagons, with all this rust, must be inseparable with its rails already. Would it still be possible to rehabiliate this park and to restart the whole business? Certainly not. Then what is the future for this completely obsolete park? Its only business seems to be catching all the unlucky curious ones and to fine them 100,000 JPY each. Maybe that covers the guard salary and the various taxes for the land? And if they do want to protect this park better, why don’t they do something similar to the Fuchu Military Air Base or the Negishi Racecourse in Yokohama?
I walk on the burning hot rails and the summer heat goes up to my head immediately. Quick, let’s get this t-shirt off! Here! I feel much better half-naked and nobody will judge me here (at least, that’s what I was thinking at this moment).
First-class sensation: walking on the rusty rails of an abandoned roller-coaster, still a bit slippery with the morning dew, under a magnificent blue sky and the singing of the frogs (and the Japanese cigals)… a treat!
I always ask myself what’s the point of doing urban exploration, after 3 years into this hobby. Is it strictly for the photos? To share, in a journalistic way, previously unseen places and facts about abandoned places? To play Indiana Jones without taking too much risks? To push the limit of the forbidden just as a teenager getting his new secret girlfriend or smoking cannabis? Or is it to give ourselves an interesting identity, a pride, something that make us very special while making our blogs popular?
Those questions mostly come to mind when I visit places that don not worth more than a good lanscape. But at this very precise moment, here, those questions are completely swept away! Urban exploration? What else?
We have a few more abandoned parks in Japan but they are rather small. The only real equivalent of Nara Dreamland in the world seems to be the abandoned park of Six Flags in New Orleans.
A genuine abandoned Disneyland
An extraordinary and exciting aspect of Nara Dreamland is that it’s a copy of the very first Disneyland. They were even supposed to use the same name and the same characters, but various issues (among money is first) lead the park to use less interesting characters. Yes, what is this British Royal Guard doing in fron of the Cinderella Castle? Are we going to see Queen Elizabeth in there, enjoying some sushis?
It clearly seems that this park was lacking of a real, stable atmosphere. On the blogs, even in English, we can read about people’s visit to the park during its last year of activity. The park was already looking abandoned, sad, without any special character. On the contrary, nowadays the park is at the peak of its glory.
I have to tell the truth, I really like the fact that this park is considered as “dangerous” (watched, with a guard). Only the motivated explorers-photographers go there and have a great time. The taggers and the vandals just avoid it.
A ray of light burst through the sky to call me back to reality. Let’s stop the blablablah, we have to explore the wooden abandoned roller-coaster as well!
THE ASKA ROLLER-COASTER - 木製コースターASKA
It’s a condemned attraction. Not that old however (it was build in 1998), the company tried to sell it but failed. It’s now well too aged and decayed to survive a dismantling and a reassembling somewhere else.
The vegetation is thick here. Impressive roller-coaster! The Nara Dreamland FAQ of Abandoned Kansai states that the ride is longer than one kilometer ! It’s going to be difficult to walk on all of it, so I will only try to get to its highest point (witch is 30 meters high).
After a few minutes, I reckon that the access to this highest point is significantly shorter the other way ! I therefore decide to jump from one to another ramp in the middle of my walk.
Aska is not in a bad shape after all, even though it’s not maintained anymore. However, a few planks don’t hold anymore… which makes the hike a bit more dangerous than expected. Good shoes are required, and it’s better to be scared of heights.
Another explorer in Japan, John Grist, stated on his website that the park still seems to be powered with electricity. I would be curious to know if we could indeed switch on this attraction again, to wake the big wooden monster up and to see those wagons running around…
Walking under the big ascent of Aska, I reckon the high complexity of the wooden roller-coaster structure. It’s a real maze of wooden planks, some kind of castle made of thin cards, very supple and with a smell of decayed resin.
This bend gives us a good sweet sight on the village of Dreamland, but it’s also one of the most dangerous spot. The planks are all cracking under my weight and I have to walk on the central rail where the train was running. It’s more stable in the middle but you still need to have another feet at another place to keep equilibrium. This is where stopped during my first visit!
And here I am, after a perillous hike, I am up Nara Dreamland and it’s wooden roller-coaster. The entrance (the DreamStation) is at the far left, in the middle we have the Main Street USA that leads to the Cinderella Castle, and behind is the water park. Far behind, we can even see the city of Nara, surrounded by moutains. Magical!
But what does this amazing roller-coaster look like !? Here is a photo that shows it well, with its big nice ride on the right. You can even see two little cameras at the top.
More impressive now: the descent! Here is the last sight before the train goes down.
The best thing about this wooden roller-coasters is that they shake when you walk on them. Their structure has a lot of elasticity – which not very reassuring – but for sure it give you the chills!
I climb back down. In front of Aska, there is another train station : it’s in fact a monorail with a very Shinkansen-look.
The sun is now setting more and more and… oh! Wait! There is a map of Nara Dreamland on the floor. Here it is!
It’s interesting to see the prices of each attraction here, and you can also see easily where all those pictures have been taken on the map. It’s quite a cool map, isn’t it?
Now, let’s go for a walk in Nara Dreamland by night!
NARA DREAMLAND BY NIGHT
Nara Dreamland has a lot of charm during the day but it’s always difficult to get interesting shots under the sun. However, by night, it’s another story… and the park turns out a real magical place. But one must be discreet, so shhhhhhh! And follow me… for this last part… in silence.
As I am going back towards the “exit”, I noticed somebody taking pictures of Aska with a little mirrorless. A tiny Japanese girl! Who seems to be a super nice person as well. Of course, I went to talk to her, forgetting completely the fact that I’m half naked…
I said hello to her and ask her if she has a meshi (a “business card”, but most of the haikyo explorers always have one with them, in case they encounter other explorer). Right away, she gives me a slightly scared face, reply to me that she does not have any, and walked away without looking back. What an eolian blast! What a pity. Anyways. On this tremendous failure of making a new friend, I leave the park a bit sad :’(
Did you like this walk and this batch of abandoned roller-coasters photos? I will see you soon for a new visit in another park. Meanwhile, you should have a look at the articles about The Gunkanjima’s Odyssey if you haven’t seen them yet.