Nara Dreamland soon to be reopened – all the details exclusively on Abandoned Kansai! (Unless you speak Japanese…)
For almost eight years people were wondering: Why do the owners of *Nara Dreamland* pay for a nasty security guard to keep intruders away? Some thought they had too much money while others claimed that they wanted to avoid vandalism, so they could rent out the place as a movie set – Japanese horror movies are famous all over the world, or at least they were for a while, before they were beaten by the descendants of their common Korean ancestors. For years I tried to get in contact with the owners (first Daiei, then a company called “Dreamland”, represented by “L.A. Investment” in Nara) to get official permission to shoot there, just to run into a wall of silence. On January 31st 2014 the Nara Shimbun reported that the city of Nara foreclosed Nara Dreamland and put it up to auction as Dreamland owed about 650 Million Yen (currently 4.6 million EUR or 6.3 million USD) in taxes; previous negotiations about tax reductions failed – and local residents opposed the city’s idea of buying the property to build a crematorium (no kidding!).
The new owner, a company called “Nara Dreamland: The New” (Japanese people and English, always good for a laugh!), went to work quickly. Not only did they finally answer the letters I wrote months ago to their predecessors, they also invited me and a couple of well-known Japanese urban explorers over to Nara on Sunday, March 30th, as they appreciated “the support of our most devoted fans”, so CEO Katsuhiro Yuenchi. I went to Nara with a bilingual friend and the story embargo was just lifted seconds before this article went online… it will probably hit the mainstream news tomorrow. And news they had for us, unexpected big news! (In case you wonder about the timing: In Japan most companies start their business years on the first day of the second quarter.)
As you already know from the headline, Nara Dreamland is about to re-open soon! Renovations began right after the acquisition in January to make a ridiculously tight deadline: April 26th, just in time for Golden Week, one of the most important vacation periods in Japan. Mainstreet USA and the Cinderella Castle are already almost completely renovated, dozens of experienced woodworkers and technicians currently make sure that the Aska roller-coaster will be ready to go, while the park’s other famous ride, the Screw Coaster… is getting screwed. After almost a decade of negligence the coaster was so rusted and overgrown that new management decided to demolish and replace it. The merry-go-rounds and other small rides in the back of the park are under repair as we speak, so are the BBQ area and the monorail, for which brand-new trains will be imported from the States, hopefully arriving on time for the grand reopening. New attractions include a freefall tower and a Ferris wheel – although the latter one will actually be an old friend! A couple of months ago the giant wheel *Igosu 108* disappeared from Shiga prefecture *as I mentioned on Facebook a while ago*. Structurally sound and completely repainted it now makes Nara Dreamland visible from far away. At least one major attraction like that will be added every year, according to the new management of Nara Dreamland. Sadly they guys were also a bit stuck up and told us to leave our cameras behind in the bus before they gave us the grand tour. Well, most of the attractions and buildings were under construction and partly or completely scaffolded anyway, but I am sure official promo photos will be released soon.
To stick with the park’s tradition and to stand out from the competitors, the new Nara Dreamland will be a pay-as-you-go amusement park, which means that the entrance fee will be only 500 Yen (free during Golden Week 2014!) and that you’ll have to pay for every ride – between 200 and 800 Yen. Dreamland’s water park is currently fenced off and will open completely overhauled from early July till late August / early September, like most other water parks in Japan, too.
Personally I am very excited about this news! I’ve been to Nara Dreamland at least once a year since 2009 and I am happy that I can finally enter for a small fee without sneaking around. Sure, it is a loss for the whole Japanese urbex community – but at the same time it is such a big win for Nara and all of Kansai! (Sorry, no “new” abandoned location today. Just remember: The sweet is never as sweet without the sour!)
(For all your Nara Dreamland needs please have a look at the *Nara Dreamland Special*. If you don’t want to miss the latest article you can *like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* or subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube*…)