I don’t know why, but people exploring Nara Dreamland seem to be so drawn to the roller-coasters and merry-go-rounds that they totally ignore the not so hidden gem that is dominating the northern part of the Eastern Parking Lot: I’m talking about the building with the strange observation tower. And a strange building it was… A hotel, according to a Japanese hompage. But I found out about that fact weeks after I explored the building as I still was a bit unsure about its purpose.
Although the Nara Dreamland Hotel looks like a fortress (with its broken and boarded-up windows) there are actually at least two ways to get in. Mine was a quite surprising one: Through an unlocked door I closed behind me – a slightly stupid move at first sight, but it might have saved me from getting arrested as I should experience a few hours later.
The first room I entered must have been a meeting room once, followed by a service counter for ice skate rentals and probably other things. Next to it was one of two former main entrances to the building and a quite impressive staircase leading up to the other floors.
Roaming through the three floors I found a strange mix of all kinds of places: Offices, meeting rooms, private rooms, bath rooms, dormitory rooms, small and huge kitchens (several ones actually!), washing rooms, storage rooms, staircases, dark hallways, machinery rooms – a few of them locked, most of them accessible. Probably the most surprising room was a huge auditorium with a stage on the third floor. My most favorite floor of course was the observation tower. The view up there was absolutely stunning – luckily it didn’t paralyze me, because as I was enjoying the great view I saw a security guard on a scooter driving onto the parking lot! I found cover on the stairs leading down, giving me a good look at what was happening: The guard parked in front of the parking garage and went inside for a couples of minutes. After that he got back on his scooter again and drove the 30 meters right towards me to the hotel building. Now ten very, very long minutes began… until I saw the guy again, leaving. Luckily. I’m pretty sure he would have searched the building way more thoroughly if I had left the door on the ground floor open. Luckily he didn’t lock it when he left either, so I escaped with nothing more than a fright. That was in December of 2009 – a couple of weeks later I wasn’t that lucky when I entered the park itself and got caught by the guard only half an hour after I started taking pictures…
The Nara Dreamland Hotel is a massive haikyo that offers lots of diversity. It took me about 3 hours to explore and shoot the building and due to the arrival of the guard I got way more excitement than I was hoping for. As far as hotels go it was definitely one of the most interesting ones, way better than the One Dragon Hotel, the Koga CC House and the Kasagi Tourist Hotel – the lack of history was compensated by the relative absence of vandalism and the amount of items present. I have very, very fond memories of this exploration…
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