Western Village Theme Park
Abandoned theme parks are always fun to check out (more so than visiting active theme parks).
Built in 1975 and with a North American western colonial theme, its doors were closed forever in 2007 (due to lack of public interest). It now sits abandoned, derelict and rotting away on the edge of a small rural town.
I reached the park in the early afternoon after a long drive (I was actually on my way to an abandoned hotel in the mountains and sort of stumbled across this place). It wasnt hard to miss...I mean how could you not notice a massive dreary looking, fake Mount Rushmore staring down at you?...
The front entrance was far too open and exposed for my liking and some kind of local election thing at the time had people driving around in mini vans yelling slogans through loud speakers, so I decided to take a 20 minute walk down a quiet road and use the back entrance. I climbed through a fence and some prickly bushes and found myself surrounded by little fibreglass Tepee’s (which were really cute) and ventured on to find a small fake western town with a hotel, church and a few other small buildings. I took a few outdoor snaps then found a large restaurant with a Mexican theme called ‘Café Ponchos. It was locked so I opened the door by putting my hand through a broken pane of glass and turned the handle from the inside. Dusty chairs and tables were scattered everywhere and plates, cutlery and salt and pepper shakers were still sitting on shelves in the kitchen. Bags of rice and sugar remained in the large pantry and cooking utensils still sat on the sinks and kitchen benches.
After this I checked out a mini shooting gallery and a maze type thing and ventured on to the other side of the park. A deep stream divides the Western Village so you have to walk over a high wobbly wooden bridge. Because winter had only just finished, everything was still damp and the bridge was rotted and completely waterlogged. I took about 2 steps and felt like I was walking on wet cardboard, so I jumped back onto the ground and thought about how safe it actually was…... I got my tripod and stabbed some wood panels to check its stability….and realised it was crumbling away. But I was hanging to get to the other side (where all the cool stuff was) and I noted that there was a steel reinforcement beam under the wood, so I decided to take a deep breath and just run across the reinforced area. I made it, leaping off quickly as soon as I reached the other side.
I found a huge restaurant with a creepy miniature version of Mount Rushmore sitting on a table. Plastic cloths still remained on the tables and would rustle now and then as the wind blew through the broken windows. Large decayed weather beaten American flags hung on the walls and water dripped from the ceiling - it was very cool. Moving on I found an amazingly creepy shooting gallery which looked untouched (apart from dust covering the mannequins). Had this been anywhere else in the world, it would’ve been pillaged and vandalised a long way back. But Japan has more respect than that, and I was so happy that it remained intact and preserved. I found a few mannequins lying on the ground and a ratty, damp moose head (a stuffed one which had obviously once hung on a wall as a prop) on the ground amongst some dead leaves. Things got more fun when I found more mannequins standing in shops – really eerie stuff because I was the only person in the entire space with nothing but these creepy dummy’s staring out at me through dirty windows (for those that know the movie….it was very ‘Tourist Trap’ - link).
I found another massive restaurant with some broken mechanical panda bears waiting to greet me (so I took a dumb selfie sitting with them). This eating place seemed way too large for a theme park of this size and I imagined it would’ve been mostly empty even when the park was still active. And just like the other restaurant I’d checked out before, this one also had large American flags hanging from the ceiling and dust covering everything. Rows of red chairs still sat neatly on top of the tables - it looked kind of bizarre.
I moved on to check out a few more buildings and found a maze. You can’t visit a theme park and not go on any rides!! so I decided to participate and ventured through with my flashlight to guide me – this was fun and gave me a chance to interact with the park as opposed to just walking around taking photos.
I decided to move over to the other corner of the park to take a closer look at the massive fake Mount Rushmore. It was tacky but kind of amazing……these poor fellas looked really miserable as a few years of weather beating had taken its toll. Some ratty ravens were flying around their massive heads which added an extra touch of humour and melancholy to the visual. I snapped a few standard pics and did a little HDR auto bracketing and then sat for a while and had a smoke.
In the distance I could still hear the faint sounds of voices screaming through loud speakers throughout the town and I realised that my time here was over. I made my way back to the rotted bridge and ran across it just like before and made my swift exit out the back entrance. A great adventure….a good time and a place I plan on revisiting in the future.