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Nara Dreamland in September 2005, less than a year before its closure
|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) was a theme park near Nara, Japan, heavily inspired by Disneyland in California. It opened in 1961 and closed on August 31, 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, 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. Later on, he met with Walt Disney about bringing Disneyland to Japan; specifically to Japan's old capital, Nara. Matsuo also talked with engineers to create the Japanese version of Disneyland. However, towards the end of the construction phase, Matsuo and Disney had disagreements on licensing fees for all the famous Disney characters, though they soon settled when the former paid for the latter's help. So, MEC abandoned the idea of Nara Disneyland and created their own mascots and trademarks.
On July 1, 1961, Nara Dreamland opened. The entrance to the park was designed to look almost identical to Disneyland, including the Train depot, a 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 the skyway running through it, as well as an Autopia-type pubs 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 1.6 million visitors a year.
However when 1979 came along, The Oriental Land Company made contact with The Walt Disney Company to create a Disneyland in Tokyo. Even though Walt Disney’s wife did not really like the idea of this, on April 15, 1983, Tokyo Disneyland finally opened to widespread acclaim. After Tokyo Disneyland opened, the number of visitors slowly began to decrease, as more people were interested in going to the actual Disneyland. This marked the beginning of the downfall for Dreamland, though attendance numbers dropped to around a million visitors a year. MED, 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 just about 40 kilometers away from Nara Dreamland. After those two parks opened, Dreamland's attendance numbers plummeted to 400,000 visitors a year. By 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 remained abandoned for 10 years prior to its demolition.
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 to auction but the auction received no bids. In 2015 the city put the property to auction again, and this time Osaka-based real estate company SK Housing were the successful buyer with a bid of 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.
The park contained several rides prior to closing, including:
- Aska, a wooden roller coaster based on The Cyclone at Coney Island
- Screw Coaster, an Arrow Development designed double corkscrew steel roller coaster
- 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.
Demolition of the park started in October 2016 and was completed on December 21, 2017.
- "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. 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