Abandoned Dreamland

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Urban explorers have descended upon the abandoned ruins of Nara Dreamland, revealing in some detail the spectacle of a celebrated amusement park descending into ruin.

The park proper, as photographed by a Russian explorer:

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Nara Dreamland opened in 1961 in the shadow of Nara proper,  and closed completely in 2006 after flagging attendance and years of restricted weekends-only operation.

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Critics of China should take note – the park was originally built as a flagrant copy of Disneyland in California (almost down to the name), during a period of rapid development in which Japan’s utter disregard for intellectual property strongly resembled that of China today.

The Japanese developers initially received free technical support and the blessing of Walt Disney himself, with the understanding that they would be independently developing a uniquely Japanese park.

However, after it became apparent they had simply made a cheap copy of Disneyland whilst tricking Disney into helping them, Walt Disney is said to have been outraged and Disney was to harbour profound mistrust of the Japanese for years to come, going so far as to block the companies behind the project from participating in its own flagship Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983.

It is of course ironic that today it is Japanese companies in China complaining of precisely these kinds of antics…

The ruins themselves seem unlikely to endure much longer, as Nara is considering levelling the site for use as a parking lot for more cultural attractions such as the nearby Heijō Palace – although given the level of taste displayed in the park, a parking lot might represent some improvement.

Which is more impressive, the amount of expensive fixtures left to rot in the sun or the fact that so little of it has been looted or vandalised, is left to the observer to determine.

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