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Nara Dreamland: The Abandoned Rollercoasters

Nara Dreamland: The Abandoned Rollercoasters

Nara Dreamland – the last big abandoned theme park in Japan – is still standing two years after my first visit! Which is a good thing because it was supposed to have been demolished. It’s a wonderful summer day to visit the park. As I’ve never been to the official entrance and the parking lot, I decide to go there first. There’s nothing special there, as expected, but I find a bunch of maps of the park, signboards with prices, and an abandoned hotel – boring as hell.

Nara Dreamland Entrance

Excellent! The… parking.

But wait, we aren’t alone here. There’s this guy walking towards us, with a big dog … could he be the guard! Then we realize he’s only a local taking a peaceful walk with his dog.

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Nara Dreamland

I ask him if there’d be any problem if we go through the abandoned parking lot and he simply said none at all. Cool! But now we’ll have to find another way into the park.

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Highway To Hell

And here we are, back at Nara Dreamland! I now feel quite at home in this place. After three visits, no more surprises, no unknown facts, mysteries or worries! It’s really agreeable to walk around feeling like this. Even the colours seem to be more vibrant and cheerier than before, and Dreamland mascots are everywhere, sharing their good mood with us.

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Main Street USA

But the real reason for my return is … to visit the abandoned roller coasters! This time, I have a crazy urge to climb them and take pictures from the top. Okay, for starters, let’s take the safest one: the Screw Coaster.

THE SCREW COASTER

100% metal, rusty, but very stable. A little catwalk lets you walk around easily.

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Rust & Loop

The Screw Coaster’s wagons, with all this rust, must be fused to its rails already. Would it still be possible to rehabilitate this obsolete park and restart the whole business, or has it no future? Its only source of income seems to be catching all the unlucky curious trespassers and fining them 100,000 yen each. Maybe that covers the guards’ salaries and the land taxes? And if they do want to protect this park, why don’t they do something with it similar to the Fuchu Military Air Base or the Negishi Racecourse in Yokohama?

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Sunrise Coaster

I walk on the burning hot rails and the summer heat rushes to my head. Quick, let’s get this T-shirt off! There! I feel much better stripped off and nobody will judge me here (at least, that’s what I’m thinking).

Rollercoaster Climbing

Rollercoasterbing !

First-class sensation: walking on the rusty rails of an abandoned roller coaster, still slippery with the morning dew, under a magnificent blue sky and the singing of the frogs (and the Japanese cicadas) … a real treat!

Nara Dreamland's Screw Coaster

I always ask myself what’s the point of urban exploration, after three 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 many risks? To push the limits of the forbidden – like a teenager with a new secret girlfriend or smoking cannabis? Or is it to give ourselves an interesting identity, pride in what we’re doing, something that makes us special and our blogs popular?

Dreamy Dreamland

Dreamy Dreamland…

These questions mostly come to mind when I visit places that don’t offer much more than a good landscape. But at this precise moment, here, such questions are completely swept away! Urban exploration? What else? 🙂

Nara Screw Coaster Overview

View from the Screw Coaster…

There are other abandoned parks in Japan but they’re all rather small. The only real equivalent of Nara Dreamland seems to be the abandoned Six Flags park 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. The parks were even supposed to share the same name and the same characters, but various issues (money first) led Nara to use less interesting characters. So what’s this British royal guardsman doing in front of Cinderella’s Castle? Are we going to see Queen Elizabeth in there, enjoying some sushi?

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Nara Dream Ends

This park seems to have lacked a really well-established ambience. On the blogs, even in English, you can read about people’s visits to the park during its last year of activity. It was already looking abandoned, sad, without any special character. But now the park is at the peak of its glory.

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Nara Dreamland

To tell the truth, I really like the fact that this park is considered as “dangerous” (watched, with a guard). Only motivated explorers-photographers go there and have a great time. The taggers and vandals just avoid it.

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Screw Coaster

A ray of light bursting through the sky calls me back to reality. Let’s stop the blablablah, we have to explore the abandoned wooden roller coaster as well!

THE ASKA ROLLER-COASTER – 木製コースターASKA

The Aska attraction is condemned. It’s not that old, however (built in 1998), and the company has tried in vain to sell it, but now it’s far too decrepit to survive being dismantled and reassembled somewhere else.

Aska Rollercoaster Shack

The Aska Shack.

The vegetation is thick here. But what an impressive ride – over a kilometre. It’s going to be difficult to walk the length of it, so I just try to reach its highest point at 30 metres.

Waves of Dreamland

Wavy Dreamland.

After a few minutes, I reckon that the ascent is significantly shorter the other way, so jump from one ramp to another!

Aska Under Arrest

Cross-over.

Aska is not in such bad shape after all, even though it’s no longer maintained. However, a few planks give way … making the climb more dangerous than expected. Good shoes needed, and it’s better not to be scared of heights.

Dangerous Ride

Yay !

Another urban explorer in Japan, John Grist, says on his website that the park still seems to have an electricity supply. I’d be curious to know if we could indeed switch on this attraction again, to waken the wooden monster and see those wagons running around…

Nature Rollercoasting

Jungle Rollercoaster !

Walking below the vast ascent of Aska, I wonder at the huge complexity of the roller-coaster structure. It’s a real maze of wooden planks, a kind of castle, very supple and with a smell of decayed resin.

Pleasant Shiny Ride

Better with the sun.

This bend offers a wonderful view over the village of Dreamland, but it’s also one of the most dangerous spots. The planks are cracking under my weight and I have to walk on the central rail where the train used to run. It’s more stable in the middle but you still need to have one foot on another section to keep your balance. This is where I gave up on my first visit!

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Nara Dreamland

And here I am, after a perilous hike, at the top of the wooden roller coaster of Nara Dreamland. The entrance (Dream Station) is at the far left, in the middle is Main Street USA leading to Cinderella’s Castle, and behind that the water park. Far off you can even see the city of Nara, surrounded by mountains. Magic! More impressive now: the descent! Here’s the last view before the train goes down.

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The Dream Ends

The best thing about these wooden roller coasters is that they shake when you walk on them – not very reassuring – and it sure gives you the shivers. I climb back down.

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Lonely Coaster

Now, let’s go for a walk in the park by night!

NARA DREAMLAND BY NIGHT

Nara Dreamland has plenty of charm during the day but it’s always difficult to take interesting shots in bright sunlight. However, by night, it’s another story … the park turns into an enchanted place. But we must be discreet, so shhhhhhh! And follow me… for this last part… in silence.

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Highway Stars

As I headed back towards the “exit”, I noticed somebody taking pictures of Aska with a little mirrorless. A Japanese girl who looks a super nice person. Of course, I went to talk to her, completely forgetting that I was half naked…

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Swamp Coaster

I said hello and asked her if she had a meshi (“business card”, which most haikyo explorers always carry in case they meet others). She turned a slightly scared face to me, replying that she didn’t, and walked away without looking back. What an eolian blast! What a pity. Anyway, at this abject failure to make a new friend, I left a little sadly.

Dreamland Magical Sight

Byebye Dreamland.

Did you like this batch of abandoned roller-coaster photos? I’ll see you soon for a new visit to another park. Meanwhile, have a look at the articles on Gunkanjima if you haven’t seen them yet. Also, don’t miss my very last article about Nara Dreamland: The End.

  • Amazing work ! Thank you !

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  • Sakura

    Je suis incroyablement bluffée par vos photos! Je suis moi-même passionnée par le Japon et aussi par les parcs d’attraction abandonnés … je viens de découvrir votre travail et j’en suis devenue fan dés la 1ère photo!!!

    • Merci Sakura 🙂 Tu as vu que c’était en français aussi ? Ne rate surtout pas mon travail sur Gunkanjima, c’est le plus intéressant je pense, et surtout d’autres articles sur le sujet vont arriver 🙂

  • Sakura

    Oui oui, j’ai vu que c’était en français aussi! Et Gunkanjima: whaouuu !!! Tellement époustouflant que les mots me manquent …

  • Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées Japon

    Wow!Quelles photos!C’est quoi votre appareil?!

    • Ce n’est pas l’appareil qui compte, mais le photographe (bon elle est facile celle-là) et surtout… les lentilles ! 😉 L’appareil est un D800 mais j’aurais pu faire la même chose avec mon 7D ou un autre appareil probablement. L’important pour la plupart c’est l’utilisation d’une wide-angle, la 14-24mm 🙂

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  • Loved every single Photo of this Series, as an immature photographer myself, you got into places I could only dream about, due to injury I am unable to climb or really walk for long distances anymore. These Photos’ are exactly what Cloud Computing and the Internet should be used for! I have spent many hours looking at old disused and abandoned amusement parks from all areas of the globe and 98% of them are so off limits that no-one can even just record the park in a pictorial. I think some abandoned parks would even look good as the next COD (Map) now there is an IDEA for a map. Please continue you great work for as long as you can to bring these old parks some new life in the next 10 – 20 years, before they are demolished all together. CHEERS 🙂

  • Loved every single Photo of this Series, as an immature photographer myself, you got into places I could only dream about, due to injury I am unable to climb or really walk for long distances anymore. These Photos’ are exactly what Cloud Computing and the Internet should be used for! I have spent many hours looking at old disused and abandoned amusement parks from all areas of the globe and 98% of them are so off limits that no-one can even just record the park in a pictorial. I think some abandoned parks would even look good as the next COD (Map) now there is an IDEA for a map. Please continue you great work for as long as you can to bring these old parks some new life in the next 10 – 20 years, before they are demolished all together. CHEERS 🙂

    • Undoubtedly I love visiting this kind of place, of course, but giving pleasure to my visitors is the best reward since it will probably last forever 🙂

      I agree: it would be terribly awesome to have one of those abandoned amusement park in a game. I know Gunkanjima has its own map for Left For Dead 2 but unfortunately it doesn’t look like the island and could definitely have been better. I would definitely help those projects though, it’s really exciting…

      Thanks for your nice comment 🙂

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  • Toby Rah-rah

    Great Photos , I really need to check this place out. WIll be In Nara in August. What time did you visit when you went? Would like to know what would happen if you got caught.

    • Night and early morning, but apparently I got lucky, there weren’t any guards. Recently there are cars inside with guards going around. My Japanese friends told me it’s really dangerous but I don’t know what to think. If you get caught? Mmm, I don’t know… sent back to your country maybe? I have no idea, I heart a group of foreigners got caught last year but I don’t know what happened to them.

      • L Austin

        I’d like to go sometime soon, but I’d like to know what happened to those who were caught. Great post! Thanks. 🙂

    • Denis

      i read on another blog that you get send to the police and the guards say you were ”vandalazing” to get more money out of you. but if they really ride around in cars, i think you will hear them coming. this place is overgrown with trees and plants, so i think you can hide somewhere if you hear them coming. by the way,here is a COPY of the real site since the real one has been shut down. http://tw.silk.to/am/dreamland/www.nara-dreamland.co.jp/index.html

  • Massoud Luke

    Excellent blog excellent photos. This story is awesome too . I went there a few nights ago at night time in the rain . Wow . I cant describe the feeling of this place. Did you find the horror house ? I can’t find any photos of the horror house on your blog . It’s very scary . Too scary for you ? Hehehe. I’m going to go to dream land tomorrow again . Btw Why does Main Street USA look like its glowing ?

    • Do you have any photos ? Yeah, I didn’t visit the horror house, it was closed at this time. I would have gone if it was opened! Probably since my last time somebody broke into it.

      I did lightpainting on the Main Street USA.

      • Massoud Luke

        heres some crap photos taken with my phone(dont have a good slr anymore) .
        its a very long winding tunnel with many horrible sculptures . its actually pitch black. the tunnel extends into the inside of the Matterhorn. The photo with all the red metal beams and my dad is the structure that holds the mountain together , it extends right up up up. The place is extremely awesome and scary. all the entrances are boarded up. but with enough persistence you’ll find the “secret entrance “. I don’t recommend going in as it is quite dusty and both me and my dad got bad chest coughs within 2 days of visiting here. we also saw the security arrive just as we were leaving . can you translate the writing on the mirror ?

        • Those photos are awesome! Thanks for sharing, this is really cool and unique. I have never seen the inside of that place before. I asked a friend about the translation: the first line says ” by the devil” 2nd line ” your courage will be… 3rd line “the proof of courage”.

  • Hey, that’s a great article! I was checking it some time ago! What time do you go out of there usually? Was it possible to get noticed from outside while you’ve been walking on the attractions that are high, and visible from outside?

    Actually I went there some time ago, it was so cool! Got also some really cool shots, but still not sure if it is safe to upload, do you thing you might get in trouble even you are not caught on the day, but after the fact, since the photos are some prove that you have been there? Just curious 🙂 i guess I may wait a bit before I actually upload them!

    Best regards!

    • Thank you! I usually go in the morning but I also actually went during the day the first time or in the middle of the night the last time. People can definitely see you climbing everything from outside, especially the wooden roller-coasters! That actually adds to the excitement… 😉

      It is okay to upload but a few magazines published in Japan got sued. There are books with photos of it though and those are fine, I have also two books published in France and Japan and Nara didn’t say anything (or didn’t notice). Please share them in comments, nothing will happen here for sure! ^^

  • Genna Costello Vogt

    The night time shots are great! I have seen several other websites about the Nara Dreamland but this is the best collections I’ve seen so far. I really like how you give lots of information (background, etc) with the pictures. Really gives you the full picture of what’s going on! 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I really tried my best for those photos 🙂 There is another and last project I still need to run there but the technical details are still under discussion. I hope I can do it, the photos should be extraordinary.

  • Potatomaster

    The pictures are beautiful! I really enjoyed reading about your adventure, I’d like to go there perhaps some day…

    • Became a bit dangerous but it’s also interesting to walk around and stop at the abandoned parking lot if you are around 🙂

      • Potatomaster

        hmm maybe that would be safer yea i’ll try hopefully try that! thanks for the reply!

  • Lidirot

    Hi! i will be in Nara the next April with 2 friends and we would like to visit this abandoned park… any advice? why it’s became a bit dangerous? and, more important, it’s legal? XD

    • It is dangerous because it is illegal. You might face deportation if you are found there or a big fine. If you are not used to this kind of adventures, it is better to avoid it during a peaceful holiday 😉

      • Lidirot

        We are not new at this kind of thing, but i think that you are right. it’s a lot different go for this kind of adventure in their own country, instead of do it in a foreign country where we don’t know very well the place and the laws…
        thx

  • CdnFibroWarrior

    I want to start by saying, WOW! Your photos are GORGEOUS!! I’ve always had a fascination with abandoned old places, & your photos are CAPTIVATING! I found myself just /staring at them. From the lighting, to the great angles of shots, to the way each photo was taken, ie. Close up of the roller coaster track, is definitely a talent that you have MASTERED!! I must admit, I am jealous of your talent. I also now, b/c of your great photos, would LOVE to be able to visit Japan one day.

    I’m a graphic designer with photography as a hobby. As a mom of 4, most of my pics are of my kids over the yrs. I had to change careers 10 yrs ago due to permanent layoffs at the newspaper I worked for, ended up working in a call center and went back to college for Support Worker. I worked 6 yrs in a full lock down group home as a Developmental Disabilities Behaviour Worker. I ended up developing severe fibromyalgia in Sept 2012, and had to resign in Aug 2014. I’ve returned to graphic design since I can do it from home, but it hasn’t gone very far.

    I plan on taking some photography classes at a local college, hopefully in the fall, & purchasing a nice DSLR. Is there a few camera’s/brands/models that you could recommend for a beginnner (beginner in the world of real photography)? I’m Canadian, and reside in southern Ontario. I know we have some amazing abandoned old bldgs & such that I would love to photograph. I also want to get into the area of photographing babies & children. And being a graphic designer, I can touch up or add filters etc, to my photos. Any advice would be Greatly Appreciated! I can’t wait to see more of your work after I’m finished this post.

    • Watson Holmes III

      It seem like most pros are going with Sony mirrorless. Nikon for me.

      • All the photos above have been taken with a Nikon. These days, I am playing with the Sony a7r ii with a 12mm ultra-wide lens from China (Laowa). I am getting better results (in term of sharpness and dynamic range) than my D810 + 14-24, I am so impressed! That said, brand doesn’t matter much in term of quality. Bad cameras are rare 🙂

  • J Michael Carter

    Sad to say, the last news I read was that they are demolishing it now.

    • Unfortunately yes… Since I lived in Nara for the past year, I have a lot of photos of Nara Dreamland until its demolition. My new article is ready, I will publish it next week.

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Who Am I

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring

I am Jordy Meow, I am a French photographer living in Japan. My interest is to discover and share information about offbeat and lesser known locations for foreigners coming or living in Japan. I published books and now preparing new beautiful series of guidebooks.

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