As far as I can think back, I was always fascinated with Japan, amusement parks and tacky, mass-produced kitsch.
All of these obsessions seem to have met at "Nara Dreamland", or "Nara Dorīmurando" as the Japanese would say it.
clicking on pics increases the magic!
"Nara Dreamland" opened in 1961, near the city of Nara. It is always said that the Japanese like to copy things, while making them better in the process. "Dreamland" on the other hand just copied "Disneyland", there was nothing better about it.
Some parts of "Dreamland", like the entrance and train-station look like a carbon copy of its Californian inspiration. The whole layout of the park, the castle and most of the rides are also copied.
The fact that the park opened just six years after Disneyland shows what an impact Disney´s ideas must have had worldwide. Upon closer inspection "Dreamland" might have taken the ideas but certainly not the imagination and devotion that made Disney parks such a lasting success.
Where Disney´s imagineers went all the way to create convincing and immersive worlds, "Dreamland" used cardboard, concrete and plastic. This makes it so much more interesting for me.
Through the years, the park must have lost it´s artificial magic as the owners jusr added random rides and coasters without integrating them into the faux-Disney-look. With the opening of the immensely popular Tokyo Disneyland in 1983 the naive 20 year old forerunner in Nara must have appeared like an embryonic version from a parallel universe.
Neglect and dwindling visitor numbers took its toll on "Dreamland". Throughout the late nineties and early 00s the park was almost looking abandoned. By the end of august 2006 the "Dreamland" closed its doors forever.
Here you can witness "Nara Dreamland" on opening day in 1961. The resemblance the park had to Disneyland in this early phase is uncanny and amazing. The second video is even longer and shows more of original rides like the "Jungle Cruise".
The last video shows bits of Dreamland in its later days, when the crowds have gone and only a handful of school-children are stumbling across the cracked concrete.
A bizarre photo-trip to Dreamland, shortly before it was closed can be enjoyed here.