Built in 1961 in Japan’s Nara Prefecture, Nara Dreamland was an amusement park conceived in the hopes that it would match the success that Disneyland had enjoyed in California. It was not to be however, and in 2006 the park closed, following years of falling attendance numbers. With demolition of the site now underway, a photographer has shared captivating images taken last year, showing it as it lay for a decade, abandoned and forgotten in time.
Created by Japanese businessman Kunizu Matsuo, Nara Dreamland was constructed to look as similar to Disneyland as possible, with a large castle at the entrance-way, a Main-Street-USA-style walkway and a range of rides.
Prior to opening, Matsuo had met with Walt Disney to discuss the prospect of bringing the park to Japan, and the two men collaborated on some designs. However, the deal was abandoned, and Nara Dreamland opened with its own characters and branding.
At its peak, the amusement park attracted approximately 1.6 million visitors a year. However, the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983 and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka in 2001 meant severe competition for the park, leading to its decline and eventual closure.
The images of the abandoned 32-hectare site were taken by Simone Armer, a photographer and blogger from South Africa who was inspired to explore the remnants of the park.
“As a kid, I always daydreamed about what it would be like to explore places like shopping malls and theme parks after closing time. I first read about the abandoned park online when I was still studying at university in South Africa, about five or six years ago, and just thought it was the coolest thing. I never imagined I’d eventually end up living Japan but when I got here, I knew I had to make a plan to go,” Simone told Lonely Planet Travel News.
The series shows eerie, abandoned streets, graffiti-tagged rides, overgrown buildings and dust-covered objects left behind. The years following its closure transformed the park into another type of attraction, popular with urban explorers and fans of abandoned spaces.
Demolition of the park is expected to be ongoing until next year. More of Simone’s photography is available on her website.