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The Ghosts of Dreamland

February 24, 2011

From Feb 22-23

Wednesday, my favorite day of the week. And a perfect day to continue writing.

I recently went to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. The original Disneyland park  opened by Walt Disney in 1955. The park opening was a televised event that made history. Since the first day of operation to the present, the Disneyland theme park has expanded both domestically and internationally from the US to Europe and Asia.

Today, when you enter any Disneyland across the globe, you will find some standard attractions. There is the main gate with the Disney train station, a Main Street USA (a strip of turn of the century shops that narrowly lead to the center of the park). Followed by a castle at the heart of the location, either Cinderella’s Castle or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. (depending what Disneyland location).  Behind the castle is a carousel, next to that a replica of Switzerland’s Mount Matterhorn. To the sides you will find various attractions including boat rides, pirate rides, haunted mansions and every thing that Disneyland is associated with. With some variations these rides are scattered through the park but are very standard in all Disneylands. The value is good, the entertainment value is satisfying and guests experience excitement, fun, nostalgia at times (after all, most us grew up with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons). Overall, the Disney experience is one worthy of being explored at least once in a lifetime. In my case, I plan on going back to Disneyland and hopefully visit every Disneyland in the world.

The Disneyland in California opened in the 50s while Disneyworld in Florida opened in 1971. The US was the only country that harbored these parks. At some point, tourists from other countries got fed up with not having a Disney of their own and decided that the time was at hand to get their own attractions.

Fast forward to the 1960’s in Nara Japan. The birth of “Nara Dreamland“. In the 1961, a theme park opened in Japan imitating the California Disneyland ride by ride. “Nara Dreamland” or just “Dreamland” contained the ever Disney icons such as the main entrance train station, the castle, a haunted mansion, a carousel, jungle cruise and even a odd shaped Matterhorn ride. Unlike Disneyland, Dreamland featured roller coasters such as Aska, which is said to have been one of the best coasters in Japan. Other attractions included the comically named “Screw Coaster” and a few others. The opening of Dreamland was similar to the Disneyland opening. (1961 Dreamland opening). For a while, Dreamland seemed to be doing fine. Without a Disneyland in Japan this was the next best thing. Either go to America or drive a few miles to Nara. However, in 1983 Tokyo Disney opened. The Disney giant was hungry and had to expand; but with expansion came destruction to Dreamland. No longer was Dreamland the next best thing. Now, Japanese and travelers to Japan had the real deal, the real Disney experience! And with Disney’s legitimate billion dollar budget, the Disney “Imagineer” professionalism and experienced (and quite clever) attention to detail in design, the little Dreamland wasted away to ghost like status.

There was no chance for Dreamland, which went from headline commercials to poor attendance rates. In the end, Dreamland had to close in 2006. Presently this place is abandoned. Tourists still go in to see the Dreamland ruins, the park is withered away, rusted and consumed by weeds and dust. This is like a scene out of a movie, as if a volcano erupted and everything was left behind. The attractions are still there, chairs, old games, buckets, stairways that lead to nowhere. Dreamland is now an oasis of urban decay, and all over the internet and youtube, explorers post pictures and videos of the dream that was crushed by the giant.

China is not behind, they got their own Disney knockoff with the birth of Shijingshan Amusement Park in Beijin in 1986.

While this park is still operational, media attention has been covering Shijingshan’s blatant copy of Dinsyeland. The castle, the Disney characters (which the park operators claim that their Mickey Mouse character is actually a cat and others are just regular fairy tale characters). A haunted mansion, and Epcot Center. Even their slogan “Disney is too far, we come to this amusement park!”. Check out this video:
And while you are at it, here is the Shijingshan website. Consequently, just like in Japan…Disneyland expanded into mainland Asia into Hong Kong. Even worse news for Shijinshang is that Disneyland will expand into Shanghai in 2014! While Shijingshan is better made than Dreamland with more diverse attractions,the Chinese now have the real Disneyland and only time will tell if Shijingshan will suffer the same fate as Nara Dreamland.

Now onto the pictures and videos of Nara Dreamland:

Please the the great pictures of Disneyland VS. Dreamland at this website:

At this website you can view a side-by-side comparison of both parks, from the clone rides to the maps. Awesome website too so check them out!

UPDATE: 10/22/2013:

For the best pictures of urbex in Nara Dreamland, please visit this amazing blog by Abandoned Kansai (Florian who is a a talented photographer). Fantastic pictures of Dreamland! Don’t miss it!


Nara Dreamland At it’s Best:

Dreamland in it’s glory (BTW I HATE the song in this video. It got old after a minute. I recommend to fast forward):

Aska Coaster before:

The Now Abandoned Dreamland….Land of Decay:

Sad to watch the first happy video and then this abandoned one:

Aska Coaster now:


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