Written By: ZMT
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Theme parks have been the craze all around the world since the opening of Disneyland Park in 1955 in California. In Japan, Tokyo Disneyland is the top grossing theme park, having an annual attendance of 17,910,000 tourists in 2019, ranging from foreigners to locals who want to feel the magic for the first time or relive the experience again. Despite its success, Tokyo Disneyland is not the first of its kind in Japan. Before Tokyo Disneyland, there existed a theme park in Japan which was considered as the happiest place in the country but is now forgotten in time. This theme park is known as Dreamland in Nara, Japan.
BUILDING A DREAMLAND
A few years after the successful opening of the first Disneyland, Japanese businessman and president of the Matsuo Entertainment Company, Kunizo Matsuo, visited the said theme park and was extremely impressed and believed that such a theme park would be a perfect fit in Japan. Matsuo later on had direct contact with Walt Disney himself and made a deal to bring Disneyland to Japan. Matsuo, having a background as a Kabuki actor, was heavily invested in Japanese culture thus proposing that the theme park be established in the city of Nara to which Walt Disney agreed on despite him wanting it to be created in Tokyo.
Near the end of its construction, Matsuo and Disney had a disagreement with regards to the licensing fees of the Disney characters which led to the abandonment of the Nara Disneyland project. Despite this, Matsuo Entertainment Company pushed through with the theme park, rebranding it to Nara Dreamland complete with its own set of mascots and trademarks.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Nara Dreamland first opened its doors on July 1, 1961. Since the park was initially tied up with Disney, most of its attractions were identical to what anyone would see in Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. The theme park houses its own version of Main Street, Train Depot, as well as a castle similar to that of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Some of its notable attractions include a horror house, a monorail, a jungle cruise ferry ride, a water park, and 4 roller coasters namely: Aska (a wooden roller coaster), Bobsleigh, Screw coaster, and a family friendly roller coaster. Nara Dreamland has its own mascots named ‘Ran-chan’ and ‘Dori-chan’, two children dressed in English guard uniforms. Being the closest thing to Disneyland in Japan that time, the theme park garnered a whopping 1.7 million visitors per year during its peak.
In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland opened to the public for the first time. As such, the number of guests going to Nara Dreamland slowly began to decline. People were now focused on the official Disneyland Park instead of the “knock off” that was Nara Dreamland. This began the downfall for Nara Dreamland, leaving it to roughly around a million visitors per year. New theme parks began to rise in the following years such as Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo DisneySea which was the final nail in the coffin for Nara Dreamland. The number of visitors plummeted to around 400,000 visitors per year. The upkeep and maintenance of the theme park was heavily affected, prompting for stores to close and some of its attractions rusted. The dreaded day finally arrived, Nara Dreamland operated for the last time on August 31, 2006.
THE END OF THE DREAM
Since 2006, the theme park was abandoned for roughly 10 years, making it a popular spot for urban explorers and ghost hunters. There were some reports of strange noises coming from different attractions in the park however, this was never verified as the park was demolished on December 21, 2017. Haunted or not, one thing is for certain, the theme park was able to bring about joy and laughter to its visitors. The happiness that their visitors experienced can never be replaced.
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