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Friday
Oct292010

Fake Disneyland in Japan

We were not behind the camera in this photo shoot, unfortunately  I've never been to Japan but this would be my second stop right after Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea.

"Nara Dreamland" is a cheap Disneyland ripoff that opened in 1961. It was closed in 2006— imagine that. Not only is it creepy for its current ghost town-like condition but it's terribly scary just how blatantly they ripped off Disneyland's design. They shamelessly recreated dozens of pieces of Disneyland but did so in such a mediocre way.  At the same time, as you'll see in the videos posted below, it was once a beautiful, happenin' place. Its opening day ceremonies lead you to think that Dreamland did for Japan what Disneyland did for the U.S.... Well it really didn't.

Photographer Kyle Merriman, based in Taiwan, spent 4 hours recently with friends in Dreamland despite rumors that the abandoned park was heavily guarded.

"We spent 4 hours exploring this incredible place, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. There were still areas of the park that were next to impossible to get to no matter how hard we tried. The main entrance, filled with shops, restaurants, makeshift police and fire stations, ticket booths and even a public hall was showing clear signs that the plant life wanted back what was once theirs," Kyle says. 

The color scheme is right up there with Old Town Kissimmee. Who doesn't love a whole lot of cotton candy pink and sea foam green??

Kyle ain't the only one touring the abandoned property, dodging guards, and ignoring warning signs. Urban explorer Florian, a German expatriate living and working in the Osaka area, has made his way into the park both during the day and at night.

Florian says, "all the 'If you see somebody entering Nara Dreamland: Call the police!' signs were replaced by new 'If you get caught we’ll fine you 100,000 Yen signs... Exploring an abandoned amusement park on a warm night in late summer is nothing but an amazing adventure – and I guess it is even more so if you can suppress the uneasy feeling of not being wanted there.  I can’t say that I really enjoyed shooting Nara Dreamland at night, but I nevertheless cherish it as an exciting and educational experience."

"'Wait a minute!', you might say at this point. 'If you felt uneasy all the time, why did you even wait for the sun to come up?' Well, the answer is simple: Since the sun rises at about 5.30am in Japan even in late September we though we could kill two birds with one stone and do a second round through the park, shooting it under way easier lighting conditions – and that’s what we did," said Florian. Read more on Florian's blog.

What did the Walt Disney Company think of this place?? What did Walt think of this place? He had to have know about it. Did he care? Was it considered a compliment? An insult?


Pre-abandonment

Theme Park Review tells of their Dreamland visit and how they showed up to what looked like a closed park with no visitors out front, though the place was open for business. They mention that at first glance the park looked nice but "take a closer look and most of the place looks like a dilapidated abandoned park. Most of the stores are boarded up, trucks are parked on the streets.  It's just bizarre."

Rewind to the early 60s:

 

Related posts:

Abandoned Disney: River Country Then and Now [Part 1]
Abandoned Disney: MK Fantasyland Tower
Abandoned Disney: Country Bear- Max 

 

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (30)

Absolutely amazing. It looks so similar to a color exploded, abandoned Disneyland, it's eerie. Even the boats look like they were stolen from one of the parks. I would have loved to have been with these guys when they were making their rounds. Along with the similarities to Disneyland, it would have been great to see the shape everything was in after only a few year of neglect. I guess I won't be complaining about a 3 hour downtime at a Disney ride anymore.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWDWFanBoyBrett

YES! I ran across an article about Nara about a year ago and started looking into it, it is VERY creepy, and sad, I would love to be able to get in there and get some pictures for myself when I make it to Japan. Hmmmm...... Anyhow, thanks for the post and all the great pictures!

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony J. Preston

This was really interesting! It looks like a pretty neat, if cheaply done, place in these photos. But a shameless copy of DL. Was there something resembling a monorail there? Thanks for the great post!

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

alongside the abandoned amusement parks of America, this ranks high on my list of places to visit...now if only i can get a job

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercasket salesman

Hey Fritz,

very nice round-up - and thanks a lot for linking to my blog! (I have to admit I really love Kyle's pictures, too - and I envy him for spending 4 hours there without running into security!) Nara Dreamland is a very unique place and I remember all my three visits (after it was closed...) very vividly. Too bad that vandalism becomes more and more a problem there, pretty much every building / attraction suffers from it. They should decriminilise it and offer guided photo shoots for 4000 Yen per person on the weekends - I'm pretty sure it could be a success!

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFlorian

What a trip on so many levels. Really, this is the best Halloween post I have yet seen.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphilphoggs

What an awesome Halloween related post! I had no idea this existed and must admit, I do feel pretty creeped out just looking at the photographs. Pretty interesting though!

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJo

That is probably the creepiest thing I've seen today. A look down an abandoned over-run Main Street. Something out of a nightmare.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Glass

Thank you for freaking me out. I make movies, and it seems like the perfect location for a zombie film. It's sad though that I don't live anywhere near Japan. It looks like a nuclear testing town designed my imagineers. Really, really scary stuff. I always have dreams about scarier looking Disney theme parks, none of them were as terrifying as this.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean

I really thought this was like a Halloween joke or something, I couldn't take some of these pictures seriously. But WOW was I wrong. I can't believe how eerily similar they are. I'd love to visit!

October 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

That is awesome!

Splendid China in Orlando did the same thing. The park closed and they just left it there with a security guard to watch over.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonnie

a hideous trainwreck ... i had no idea this nightmarish abomination existed.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermark

Disturbing.

Imagine if Disneyland/Disney World ended up that way some day?! (It won't) Creepy!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

OMG! What an incredible WASTE of money and equipment! It's unconceivable that an entity/business could literally throw away money attempting to rip off such a beloved icon as Disney and then abandoned it to rot and rust!

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Ross

Eric: Well, the concept worked for 30 or 40 years - then Universal Studios Japan was opened in Osaka and kicked Dreamland out of business. I guess in the 60s the place was state of the art, but the last decade must have been an embarrassment for everybody involved.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFlorian

Nice post--I was told it had been torn down, but not so! Visited in 2003 when it was still open, it's even more of a paradise now than it was then!

November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Barbee

Wow, if anyone knows of whether or not legal action was ever taken by The Walt Disney Company or Walt Disney Imagineering can you please post some kind of examples. I can't believe that it made it all the way to 2006! Is it known for what exact reason the park closed its nauseatingly colored doors?

November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHudak

WHAT A RIP OFF!

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Mess

That honestly creeped me out! I had trouble falling asleep thinking about it! But I would like to see how much like Disneyland it was. Does anyone have a map of this abomination?

July 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily Oriotis

I want to go there and film a 'Last Man on Earth' movie, this one poor pitiful man wandering through a post-Apocalypse Disneyland. I may have to go write a script!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Alex- I'd watch that

May 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Walt Disney would be ashamed.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Melissa, AFAIK Walt Disney was directly involved in the development of Nara Dreamland. A couple of months ago I added a Nara Dreamland FAQ to my blog - if you are interested in the history of NDL I recommend reading it.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFlorian

Where are the children, I see very few? On the 'Jungle Cruise' the say 'Americana' and all you see is desert and cactus??? Very weird?

March 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercherylntexas

I wonder if that is where Spirited Away was supposed to be set....

July 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

After World War II Japan’s industry was booming. People worked hard and needed some places to relax. The United States were not only occupiers, but also the helping hands for the reconstruction of the country – and the new role models. In the second half of the 1950s a Japanese businessman called Kunizu Matsuo, president of the Matsuo Entertainment Company, visited the States and the brand-new amusement park Disneyland in Anaheim near Los Angeles – and was quite impressed. Something like that would be perfect for Japan, he decided. He became a mediator for the Japanese Dream Sightseeing Company (JDSC) and had direct contact with Walt Disney. The plan was to bring Disneyland to Japan – not to Tokyo, but to the old capital Nara (710 – 794), the cradle of Japanese culture. Matsuo also was in direct contact with Disney’s engineers to create the Japanese version of Disneyland. But Nara Disneyland never came true. Towards the end of the construction phase JDSC and Disney couldn’t agree on license fees for all the famous Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck and Goofy – so the Japanese side created their own mascots and abandoned the idea of Nara Disneyland. I have no idea how JDSC and Disney settled in the end (I’m sure JDSC had to pay quite a bit of money for Disney’s “help” even without getting the permission to use Cinderella & Co.), but while Nara Dreamland opened in 1961 it took Disney another 20 years to finally open Tokyo Disneyland on April 15th of 1983. Coincidentally (?) this year marked the beginning of the downfall for Nara Dreamland – the number of visitors began to decrease and JDSC including Nara Dreamland was bought by the supermarket chain Daiei in 1993. Eight years later, in 2001, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) opened in Osaka, just about 40 kilometers away. USJ annihilated Nara Dreamland and the once so glamorous place was forced to shut its doors on August 31st of 2006.

August 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

We lived in Tokyo in the late sixties and I had the chance to visit here a couple times as a young boy. The place seemed larger than life back then, It had all the little kid entrapment's of color and music. The workers were extremely nice to us even though we didn't speak the language and I remember going home with arm loads of toys both times. I had no idea what a Disney was but I can tell you that the feeling back then was the same as the first time I went to a Disney park.

August 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhoward

What Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi did to Detroit, Disney and Universal did to Nara Dreamland.

April 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Wish i could someday go to those wonderful places with my family. Bet the experience will be awesome.

January 3, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterfake id

I don't care if it's fake, as long as it's almost the real thing, I mean, who get's a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel some part of the world in order to just have a taste of experience. Fake iPhone, fake id, fake disneyland. It doesn't matter!

January 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHee J. Teague

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