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Archive for June, 2010

When I went to Sekigahara Menard Land for the first time in January 2010 it was completely covered in snow. When I went there for a second time in April 2010 spring was in the air. But the weather wasn’t the only thing that had changed during those three months. Enjoy the similarities and differences… and sorry again for the weird picture quality of the photos shot in April.

(Next up will be a much more exciting entry about the barely ever mentioned Taga Mine in Shiga followed by Expoland Revisited – just so you know what’s coming in the near future…)

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It seems like abandoned amusement parks are not only my favorite locations, but people reading this blog are obviously fascinated by them, too – so today I’ll present you one that hasn’t shown up on the internet so far; neither Japanese nor English speaking. Expoland in Osaka.
Expoland (エキスポランド) covered an area of about 20 hectares and was opened in 1970 next to the fairground of the “Expo ’70“. Planned as a temporary installment it was extremely popular and thrived to be one of the most popular Japanese amusement parks for more than 30 years – the park actually re-opened on 1972-03-15 since it was closed after the Expo ’70 ended. Expoland made the news big time on May 5th of 2007 when a 19 year old student from Shiga prefecture died in an accident involving the Fujin Raijin II rollercoaster: One of the ride’s vehicles derailed due to a broken axle that wasn’t replaced in 15 years. After a series of safety inspections Expoland opened again but was closed on 2007-12-09 due to the lack of customers – 14 months later, on 2009-02-09, it was announced that the park was closed for good.
Later that year my interest in abandoned places started and when I talked to friends about it a colleague told me what happened at Expoland and that the park was closed down, but not dismantled due to the owner’s lack of money. Sadly the information about the financial trouble was wrong as I found out by chance a few weeks later when I saw a picture on the English homepage of a Japanese newspaper that showed how they were tearing down the huge ferris wheel.
I went to Expoland right away on the next weekend on my way to an illumination event in Kyoto, a cold and kind of rainy day in December, just to scout the place from the outside. Since Expoland was closed down rather recently there was no easy way in. The spiked fence around the whole area was still intact and of course there were no holes or open gates. Quite the opposite: Since the dismantling was still in progress the area was actually kind of busy with a few construction workers walking around even on a Saturday. After I circled the whole park once I saw two guys with a ladder, taking pictures over the fence. I talked to them for a bit, but they made it clear that there was no legal way in. On my way to the monorail station I realized that I was walking across a delivery entrance, so I made my way down there to check it out – and found it open for the construction workers to get in and out. The guard’s office was obviously still in use, but there was nobody there. So I entered Expoland, asking loudly if somebody was there to catch somebody’s attention – but again no reaction.
I made my way through the western and southern parts of the park. A stage and some buildings, including rest rooms, were still standing, but all rides were already dismantled. In the southwestern part I found the only big attraction still left: A waterland called “Caribbean Resort”. From there I went back to the delivery entrance and left the park. It was one of my first explorations, so I was high on adrenaline and torn apart by a decision: Leaving with what I got – or going back in to explore the rest of the park, risking getting caught? Well, I seized the day and went back in. To the main entrance, past a children’s playhouse and a restaurant, the former location of a water ride and up to where all the merry-go-rounds and the big ferris wheel were. I saw some construction workers in the distance, but I don’t think they saw me. I finished a circle counterclockwise to the east and north, past the old locomotive and to the playhouse. When I went back to the delivery entrance with its huge spiked gate my heart stopped for a second: It was almost dark, the gate was closed and the light in the guard’s office was on. I walked towards the gate to open it myself when the guard came out and addressed me in Japanese. To be honest, at that point I thought I was screwed as there was no way to escape. But to my surprise the guy was extremely nice, opened the gate to let me out and wished me a nice evening (at least I think he said something like that… Osaka dialect…).
Going to Expoland is one of my favorite urbex memories so far as it was a wonderful, exciting, positive experience from the beginning till the end. Or what I thought was the end. Because when I went back there a couple of months later to find out what happened to “Caribbean Resort” and the rest of the buildings I was extremely surprised to see what actually happened to Expoland.
But that’s a story for another time…
You can find out where Expoland was by clicking here.
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Yes, no joke – one of the most (in)famous buildings in Amagasaki, Hyogo, is called the ‘Hitler’ Surgical Hospital! Well, I guess “was” is the more correct term as they started demolishing the thing in late May of 2010.
I passed by the ‘Hitler’ hospital several times on my way to the only Costco in Kansai, but I never paid much attention to it other than taking a few quick pictures to have proof of this extreme form of ignorance and insensibility – why in the world would anybody name a hospital after the maybe most hated person in human history? (Well, it was the ヒトラ外科病院, not the ヒトラー外科病院 – but although the character indicating a long vowel was missing it is highly unlikely that the naming was a coincidence, especially since you only find the dictator and the hospital when you look for ヒトラ on the internet…)
I actually don’t even know how long the place was really abandoned. In March they still had a (quite run-down looking) sign outside on the main street – and that was gone in April. It was in April, too, that I passed the clinic after shooting a haikyo when it was almost dark outside and there were no lights in the building – but since I carried a lot of groceries and it was on a weekend day anyways I didn’t pay a lot of attention to that fact. Now the hospital with its departments for stomach and intestines, circulatory, surgery, orthopedics, neurosurgery, radiology, and rehabilitation is gone. And I wonder if anybody is really sad about it. (Except for me for the fact that I never made it inside, leaving this one of those unfulfilling “outside haikyo” – I really wish I’d taken more pictures when I had the chance, but I never took my camera when I went grocery shopping at a place where the smallest bag of potato chips weighs 1kg…)
2010-06-04 addendum: Due to the explanation given by Thomas I slightly changed a sentence and put the “Hitler” in apostrophies as I guess we will never find out what the people deciding the name thought when they put up the signs onto the top of the building.
(You can find out where the ‘Hitler’ Surgical Hospital was by clicking here.)

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