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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