Misasa is a small onsen town in the mountains just behind Tottori’s coast line, famous for its radon rich spring water and the Sanbutsu Temple, a temple complex with one of its buildings built into a cliff. Interestingly enough, radon is a decay product of radium – colorless, tasteless, colorless, but radioactive. Despite being generally considered a health hazard, radon rich waters are keeping several spa towns all over the world alive; and Misasa is one of them, avoiding the demise other second tier onsen towns are fighting against for decades now. Well, the city center of Misasa does… the Misasa Plateau, about 200 meters above the city on a mountain ridge, was less lucky though. While the Misasa Country Club survived Japan’s rough 1990s, the Misasa Plateau View Hotel and the Misasa Plateau Family Land, combined known as Misasa Plateau Radium Garden did not – and neither did several company and family retreats in the area; while some are still frequented by their owners, about one in four are not, decaying on steep slopes along scenic mountain roads and paths.
My trip to Misasa in the spring of 2012 marked the end of a rather *bad Golden Week* – and even though the *Sand Dune Palace* and the *Saikaibashi Corazon Monorail* weren’t exactly highlights of my exploration career, they were still better than what waited for me at Misasa. It took me hours to locate both the hotel and the amusement park on the then blurry GoogleMaps, but I went there with high hopes – otherwise I wouldn’t have made the long trip, including a costly train ride, a bus ride and a long hike up a friggin mountain along vaguely labelled hiking trails. Finally reaching the plateau, I only found some roads, some rubble, some debris and some more or less intact structures here and there. It took me a while to figure out on location what happened and how the pretty much gone hotel (part of a story for another time) and the pretty much gone theme park were related. Both looked really interesting the one time I saw them on a Japanese blog, but now they were gone. The upper area with the three storey hotel, all the arcade machines and the go-kart track were carefully leveled and I took quite a long rest in the shadow on that brutally hot spring day, barely a cloud in the sky. After taking photos of some of the smashed leftovers (piled arcade games, UFO catchers and pachinko machines), I made my way down some wide, but rather overgrown steps, past a rotting totem pole and several signs indicating that the Misasa Plateau Family Land had been a pay as you go amusement part. The final couple of steps were on a sketchy looking metal construction, but since it was the only way down to the lower area, I took the risk – though it turned out there was not much left to see. Basically just a wooden hut, filled with all kinds of left-behind stuff, and a huge parking lot, mostly covered by various kinds of debris and garbage. At one point I saw a guy in a car there, but he seemed to mind his own business, later harvesting some roots or whatever.
Overall the Misasa Plateau Family Land was a really disappointing exploration, given the amount of time, money and effort I put into it. But that’s urbex – sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug. Not every abandoned theme park looks like *Nara Dreamland*… But to end this article on a lighter note – when I had a look at the area on GoogleMaps again recently, I found out why the upper area was neatly leveled… solar panels! The Misasa Plateau Family Land is a solar park now, which is absolutely fantastic news. Japan has an energy problem, and this is definitely a step into the right direction!