Home » Abandoned Nara Dreamland: Japan’s Almost-Disney

    Abandoned Nara Dreamland: Japan’s Almost-Disney

    Overhead Nara Dreamland

    With the success of Disney theme parks drawing crowds from all across the globe, several other competitors have tried to follow in the Mouse’s footsteps. Though some have found success and developed their own unique brand in the theme park world, there are others that were not quite as fortunate to have a long lasting legacy in the industry. There have been many closures of theme parks and amusement parks worldwide as a result of declining popularity or mounting debt, but none quite compare to the lonely and whimsical, Nara Dreamland.

    Dreamland opened near Nara, Japan in 1961 as an attempt to bring some of the fantastical and magical atmosphere of Disneyland across the ocean. Dreamland operated steadily for 45 years before finally closing in August of 2006 due to declining popularity. 

    Overhead Nara Dreamland
    Jordy Meow, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    During its 45 years of operation, Dreamland boasted a handful of wooden and steel coasters, a boat ride, a log flume ride, Go Karts, a dark ride, a carousel, and a spinning teacup ride similar to the one in Disneyland. At its peak, the park recorded attendance at around 1.7 million visitors every year. The park enjoyed a little over twenty years of success with little to no competition. 

    Then, in 1983, everything began to change. With the opening of Tokyo Disneyland, Dreamland began to notice a decline in attendance as more guests began to prefer visiting the official Disney theme park. The park was now recording around a million visitors per year, and things would only get worse for the park as time went on.

    Dreamland during operation
    thecrypt auf flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    In 2001, Tokyo DisneySea and Universal Studios: Japan opened and took a large bite out of Dreamland’s attendance numbers. After this, Dreamland lost more than half of its attendance, and the park’s condition worsened with many of the rides breaking down or becoming rusted. Finally in late August of 2006, the plug was pulled and Nara Dreamland closed for good, leaving behind 45 years of fond memories and laughter.

    After the park’s closure, Dreamland remained in place, entirely abandoned for ten years. The decade of disuse left the remaining structures to decay and be overtaken by weeds and foliage. Most of the rides were left intact when the park closed, including its iconic corkscrew coaster that became a quick favorite of urban explorers taking in the sights of the abandoned park. You can see footage of the abandoned Nara Dreamland in the video embedded below which was posted by Bright Sun Films in October 2016.

    Unfortunately, the ending for Nara Dreamland’s remains came in 2016, a decade after the park’s closure. After no bids were made for the property in 2014, demolition was the next best option. Demolition of the site began in October, 2016, and continued into the following year. Finally, the site was cleared of nearly all remnants including the pastel-colored buildings lining Main Street, the wooden coasters, the ride vehicles, and even the picturesque corkscrew coaster. 

    The cleared site is supposedly now designated to be used as housing for the elderly. The loss of this lonely and once-beloved park is felt deeply by urban explorers and theme park enthusiasts who had the chance to visit during its heyday. Now, this abandoned marvel has become another ghost, forever remembered in theme park history.

    Did you ever visit Nara Dreamland? Let us know your experiences and thoughts by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.