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The castle, modeled after Sleeping Beauty Castle, at Nara Dreamland, less than a year before the park’s closure
|Location||2 Chōme-1 Hōrensahoyama-chō, Nara, Nara Perfecture, Japan|
|Owner||Daiei (former Nippon Dream Kanko)|
|General manager||Kunizo Matsuo|
|Opened||July 1, 1961|
|Closed||August 31, 2006|
Nara Dreamland (Japanese: 奈良ドリームランド, Hepburn: Nara Dorīmurando) or just simply Dreamland, was a theme park near Nara, Japan, heavily inspired by Disneyland in California. It was in continuous operation for 45 years, from 1961, closing permanently in 2006 as a result of falling attendance. The park was left abandoned until it was demolished between October 2016 and December 2017.
In the late 1950s, Kunizo Matsuo, a Japanese businessman & president of the Matsuo Entertainment Company (MEC), visited the United States. As part of his trip, he visited the then-new Disneyland in Anaheim and was quite impressed, inspiring him to bring Disneyland to Japan. He met with Walt Disney about bringing Disneyland to Japan; specifically to Japan's old capital, Nara. Matsuo also talked with engineers about creating a Japanese version of Disneyland. However, towards the end of the construction phase, Matsuo and Disney had disagreements about the licensing fees for the Disney characters (they later settled when Matsuo paid for Disney's help), and MEC abandoned the idea of Nara Disneyland and created their own mascots and trademarks.
On July 1, 1961, Nara Dreamland was opened to the public. The entrance to the park was designed to look almost identical to Disneyland, including its own versions of the Train Depot, Main Street, U.S.A., and the familiar Sleeping Beauty Castle at the hub. It also had a Matterhorn-type mountain (with a Matterhorn Bobsleds-type ride, called Bobsleigh) with a Skyway running through it, as well as an Autopia-type ride and a monorail.
The park also had its own mascots, Ran-chan and Dori-chan, two children dressed as bearskin guards.
The park was initially popular as it was the closest thing to Disneyland in Japan. At its peak, the park had 1.7 million visitors a year.
After Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983, the number of visitors to Nara Dreamland slowly began to decrease, as more people were interested in going to the official Disney park. This marked the beginning of the downfall for Dreamland, with attendance numbers dropping to around a million visitors a year. MEC, including Nara Dreamland, was bought by the supermarket chain Daiei in 1993.
In 2001, Tokyo DisneySea opened next to Tokyo Disneyland, and Universal Studios Japan opened as well, the latter of which is about 40 kilometers away from Nara Dreamland. After those two parks opened, Dreamland's attendance numbers worsened, plummeting to 400,000 visitors a year.
In 2004, the park began to decline in quality; some stores closed down and some attractions began to rust.
On August 31, 2006, the park closed down for good. It was left abandoned for 10 years prior to its demolition in October 2016.
Sale and Demolition
Nara City's government gained ownership of the park after the park's owner fell behind in property taxes. In 2013, the city put the site up for auction but the auction received no bids. In 2015 the city put the property up for auction again. This time, an Osaka-based real estate company named SK Housing won the bid, paying 730 million Yen (or $6 million in USD).
In October 2016, a Japanese newspaper reported that SK Housing had started the demolition process. On October 14, 2016, an urban explorer visited Nara Dreamland and reported seeing demolition vehicles tearing down the Main Street area. It was later confirmed online by regular visitors that the demolition process was officially underway as of October 10, 2016 and that it was due to take 14 months. Demolition of the park started in October 2016 and was completed on December 21, 2017.
The park contained several rides prior to closing, including:
- Aska, a wooden roller coaster based on The Cyclone at Coney Island
- Screw Coaster, a double-corkscrew steel roller coaster designed by Arrow Development
- Bobsleigh, a steel roller coaster modeled after the Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Gallantry, a shooting dark ride
- Fantasy Coaster
- Kid's Coaster
- Figure-8 monorail
- Go Kart
Popularity with urban explorers
Additionally, many have reported hearing strange noises near the park's boats. Some speculate that it may have been caused by a running water pump or a type of bull frog.
- "Nara Dreamland is being demolished". PaulJonesBlog.com. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- "Nara Dreamland – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Abandoned Kansai. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
- "Nara Dreamland sold to Osaka real estate company". JapanPropertyCentral.com. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
- "奈良ドリームランド解体開始 ／奈良". The Mainichi. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
- "Bad news, guys. I was at abandoned Japanese theme park Nara Dreamland today (2016/10/14) and it looks like the demolition of the main entrance street has begun. (3352x2356) • /r/AbandonedPorn". reddit. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- "Guide: How to get in Nara Dreamland". PaulJonesBlog.com. 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- "Nara Dreamland: Japan's last abandoned theme park | Michael John Grist | Michael John Grist". www.michaeljohngrist.com. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "Travel | Nara Dreamland". Metropolis. 2012-06-28. Archived from the original on 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
- "Abandoned Disneyland Knock-Off - Nara Dreamland Theme Park Exploration". YouTube. 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
- Dreamland at Theme Park Review
- Dreamland at JCOM
- Dreamland at LaughingPlace
-  at Japan Property Central
-  at Matsuo Performing Arts Foundation
-  at The Foundation Matsuo Scholarship Society
-  at Nara Dreamland's official website on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.
- Nara Dreamland at night
- Exploring Nara Dreamland
- Photos of the abandoned park
- Visiting Nara Dreamland
- Abandoned places in Japan