Journey into Dreamland

Photos from inside Nara Dreamland, Japan. The park was abandoned in 2006 and nothing’s been done with it since. It’s all locked off.. but I found a way in.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

Updated:

Getting into Nara Dreamland

I don’t think this was entirely legal. You see, I had heard about an amusement park in the Japanese city of Nara that had been abandoned – just left as it was and untouched for years – and it had intrigued me.

I had decided that I wanted to see it for myself and so began my plan to journey into Nara Dreamland.

Doing some research online, I had come across some recurring phrases: security guards, fines, police, arrests. They’re not the kind of words you want to read about a place you’re thinking of going into… but they didn’t deter me.

After all, I wasn’t planning to do any damage or cause any trouble. I just wanted some photos of what sounded like a fascinating place.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

I studied Google Earth to get an idea of the layout of the park. It was quite large and as I virtually toured the exterior I looked for a possible entry point. When I had found what I was looking for, I was ready for the mission.

I arrived at the boundary of Nara Dreamland at about six in the morning. The timing was intentional – partly to minimise the chance of getting caught and partly so the light would be more interesting for my photographs.

The maps online hadn’t shown the barbed wire at my chosen entry point but I wasn’t going to let it stand in the way. I found a section of the fence that didn’t have too many sharp and rusty wire barbs and jumped, grabbing onto a pole and hoisting myself up.

I was in… or so I thought.

About 20 metres further on there was another fence made entirely of barbed wire. Luckily there was a small hole in one corner – probably made by previous explorers – and I was able to squeeze through it. Now I was definitely in.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

My heart was beating faster than usual. It was cold and my breath came out like mist… when I wasn’t holding it.

I walked as quietly as possible down the access road until I emerged between a huge wooden rollercoaster and a Matterhorn-style cable car station. I began snapping photos as the sun rose over the rides.

Nara Dreamland, Japan

Nara Dreamland was built in 1961 and was apparently inspired by Disneyland in California. You can see the influences in the large Matterhorn mountain, the fairytale castle, the monorail and the main street.

It’s not nearly as big as the park in Anaheim but the Japanese tried to replicate the same feel.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

Not that you can tell these days, of course. The park was closed in 2006 because of low visitor numbers. But rather than sell off the rides, or look at an alternative use for the land, it was just abandoned.

Nothing has been done to it at all.

The ticket booths still stand next to the ride entrances, the carriages still sit on the tracks of the rollercoasters, even the chairs and the coffee machines are still in the restaurants.

If you just stumbled across somewhere like this, you would be sure that the whole population had suddenly fled because of a nuclear holocaust or something.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

Exploring Nara Dreamland

In the end, I spent about an hour in the park. At first I crept between buildings and looked around corners before I walked out into the roads. I was genuinely worried I would encounter security and have the police called on me. I had read about that happening to someone else who had gone exploring.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

But I had no trouble this time. Being overly cautious, I didn’t climb up to the top of any of the rollercoasters – which looked like it would have been possible. And I didn’t go to every single corner of the park, deciding not to push my chances after I had seen all the highlights.

Still, I could feel the adrenaline pumping the whole time.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

It was an extremely eerie feeling to be in this enormous amusement park all alone. You could faintly hear the traffic from the streets around it but, otherwise, the only sounds were the birds in the trees and my feet occasionally stepping on some gravel.

I could tell that the weather and nature were having their way with the whole complex – paint was peeling off, weeds were growing, rust was forming. But that made everything even more interesting with the texture of time.

After all that effort to get in there to take some photos, it’s only fair I share some of my favourites with you. This is what Nara Dreamland looks like now it’s been put to sleep.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan
Nara Dreamland, abandoned theme park, Nara, Japan

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN NARA

The Japanese heritage of Ancient Nara can be found in a lot of the city’s authentic accommodation options.

BACKPACKER

For a budget option, Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi has comfortable beds and a lovely common area.

BUDGET

An affordable hotel option is NARA Visitor Center and Inn in the centre of town.

BOUTIQUE

For something a bit special, Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring has an onsen in the hotel.

LUXURY

And if you’re looking for a luxury option, the Nara Hotel is probably the best in the city!

119 thoughts on “Journey into Dreamland”

      • Its a shame because none of that cooking equipment can be used again by now. Could have been great equipment for a church or community center or something since it was literally just thrown away.

        Reply
        • Hi Michael! I just stumbled with your amazing blog while doing a little research about the park. You mentioned that you looked up on Google Earth the park to get an idea of the layout. As I´m also very curious I looked it up as well. Sadly it looks like it has been demolished… what do you think happened?
          (sorry if my English is crappy…it´s my second language but I try my best)

        • My apologies, not sure but seems like previous owner previous owner owed the city of Nara 650 million Yen in ground tax, so the city foreclosed Dreamland and sold it to the only bidder for 730 million Yen – a real estate company called SK Housing. SK Housing’s plan is still unknown.

  1. I’ve read about this and seen photos and I certainly want to go, but I didn’t know it’s so hard to get in … and maybe even forbidden 🙁 …

    After all I’m female and I live here in Japan. I want to avoid getting into trouble. Your photos are great and really tempting. I’d love to go there!

    Reply
    • Yeah, it looked pretty cool to see the way they roller coasters have been overtaken by nature. It’s weird that nobody comes around and tidies up at all… but it makes for some good photos! 🙂

      Reply
      • My first thought was surprise that it isn’t being used as a movie set. That main street is perfect for a period story, though the roller coaster and abandoned restaurants do call for something ominous. Great photos! Nara has been a subject of curiosity for me for several years…now I can check it off my bucket list!

        Reply
  2. Fantastic photos, sir! The old amusement park always have some rotten (in a good way) aura, I can feel the eerie, the longing, the beautifully tragic air of this used to be happy place for kids. I don’t have word to describe this feeling in English, but I think Japanese term “Mono no aware” would be fit for it.

    Reply
    • I’ve heard of this phrase “mono no aware” before. I came across it when I was doing some research into bonsai trees. It’s funny that you mention it because I can see it perfectly now! It’s all about appreciating the transience of life and embracing the imperfections, rather than worrying about them. I love that you’ve given me a whole new look on the park now. Thanks!

      Reply
    • Thanks for the link. I found that as well when I was doing some research before going in. Those photos are incredible and I wish I could have made some of mine come out like that. I would definitely recommend that site for anyone interested in urbex in Japan – it’s got some great stuff!

      Reply
  3. Love the stories about forbidden places! Spooky dreamland. I can almost just picture the employees walking out for the last time. Maybe they became travel bloggers 🙂 Great story.

    Reply
    • Ha! I hope, for their sake, they didn’t become travel bloggers! I wonder if any of them have gone back and visited the place in its current state. It would probably be a bit depressing.

      Reply
  4. Very cool! Abandoned places are so creepy and that makes me want to visit them even more! But what’s up with all these abandoned amusement parks? I just read about another one in South Korea. Same idea – instead of selling off what is still in good condition, they just left it to rot.

    Reply
    • Maybe it just costs too much to go through the process of selling things – it’s actually cheaper just to leave it all how it is. I would have thought the land would be worth something, though. Unless they’re hoping to revive the place one day.

      Reply
  5. I love places like this – but I’m not sure if I would have gone in, especially since talking yourself out of the situation would be kinda hard (“Oh, I really didn’t think it would be a problem to have a look since there were only two barbed-wire fences… officer!”). I’ll probably stick to doing all the illegal stuff at home, where I have an idea of what happens to me should I get caught;). But man, the photos are awesome – I’d love to spend a day there. Or move in. How can you go wrong with a place that still has the coffee machines installed?

    Reply
    • I think you’re right – I was worried about similar things and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else do it. But I guess I was lucky and the risk paid off for me. I like to think that because I wasn’t planning to do any damage or anything like that, the travel karma gods looked after me for the morning.

      Reply
  6. You always find the coolest things! What a daredevil, though your photos certainly make it seem worth the risk. Do you think it had such low visitation because there is a Disney in Japan?

    Reply
  7. Hello! Nice to meet you.

    Now I saw your blog, and it is very interesting.
    If you like, please come to my blog and, give me your opinion.
    For example, the place that you want to know, the Japanese food you want to eat, and soon.

    I will improve it every day.

    Reply
    • If I’d felt like I had a bit more time I might have climbed up the wooden rollercoaster. There was a path along the side, although it’s probably pretty dangerous because some of the wood could be rotten. It probably wouldn’t have been a sensible thing to have done on my own.

      Reply
  8. Such an awesome story & experience! I am eager to become a travel writer myself and am inspired by your stories.

    So, thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Molly – it’s lovely to hear from you.
      I’m sure you’ll have huge success with your plans. There are lots of ways to travel the world and make a living doing it – travel writing isn’t the only one. And all of them beat being stuck at a desk!! 🙂

      Reply
  9. I came across this whole Nara Dreamland thing while actually reading wikipedia on the history of disneyland . I have been obsessed ever since . This park is extreamly interesting to me . Was it ever a success? I really want to find pictures of its opening day … do you know where i can find some…

    its interesting to me that the park actually lasted for as long as it did …
    its actually a mix between a family fun center and disneyland/ six flags.

    Reply
  10. Those pictures were creepy but interesting. I just have the slightest of an urge to go there and ride all the roller coasters! 🙂

    Reply
  11. Hey Micheal, just passing a comment… =)

    love, love, ‘looovvveee’ your photos!
    Very intriguing and I love the way you expressed yourself emotionally throughout the whole ‘adventure’ of yours. It made me feel of trying something similar. =P
    You deserve an award for such boldness and amazing photos!
    Good job!

    – Singapore

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Danial. I’m so glad you stopped by.
      I wouldn’t want to think I’ve inspired people to try something that might be illegal…. but… please do let me know if you go here yourself or to somewhere similar. I have a bit of a fascination with abandoned places like this now!! 🙂

      Reply
  12. Great Photo’s! And nuts of steel too! Your an absolute legend in my eyes. I especially love the picture of the tracks going under the rollercoaster,great composition,I was properly drawn in. I shall definitely be keeping a keen eye on this site! Your truly an inspiration!

    Reply
  13. I love these pictures!! There’s an old fun park in my city that I’m planning on exploring in about a week. The owners sold it, and another place tried, but then it went under again, and they just kinda left everything there, the bumper cars, the mini golf, rock wall, all of it. . Any tips on what to bring? Like, what did you personally feel comfortable taking on your trip?
    And btw, thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  14. Almost reminds me of photos that tunnelbug took of the abandoned Neverland Ranch when all the rides were still there, shortly before MJ died. You should check those out some day if you get a chance. He snuck in on 3 different nights and took amazing photos of the place.

    Seeing these photos makes me want to explore many abandoned amusement parks here in the US, as well as abroad.

    Reply
  15. Also wanted to suggest checking out amazing photos from the Abandoned Six Flags New Orleans. It’s still abandoned. Some of the rides have been salvaged and sold, but most stuff is still there, due to the extensive decay and damage from the hurricane. The Mega Zeph, the Jester, practically all the coasters are still there, and other cool stuff lying around. Some of the rides are still half way in the water as well, due to the Hurricane Katrina, part of why the place closed down, it was because of the forecast of the hurricane.

    Reply
    • I just looked up some photos from the New Orleans site. It’s bizarre how similar some of it looks to Nara Dreamland! I guess maybe rusting rollercoasters have the same feel everywhere in the world! 🙂
      It sounds a bit trickier to get in there, though. It sounds like the authorities are much stricter. Pity – it would be nice to see a couple of other ones for comparison’s sake.

      Reply
  16. Love the photos! Am Going to Japan later this year and plan to cycle a lot of Kyoto and Nara. Apparently there is a great bike path. For one riding past, I’d be most excited to stick my head in / around the park. How hard is it to actually get past / thru fences? Is there a recommended entry point? I wouldn’t stay long, but the adventurer in me says. “Take a quick look !

    Reply
  17. Great photos! I’d heard of this place and was looking for pictures as I’m writing a novel that happens in an abandoned place such as this one, INSPIRING! Thank you

    Reply
  18. Was very eerie reading the story, but very interesting. I remember as a kid some of the older amusement parks in PA that we used to go to for family or company picnics and I occasionally look them up to see if they are still there, and sure enough they are. Thanks for sharing your journey, awesome!! Glad that you didn’t get caught!! I hope that you alerted someone that you were going there just in case. I would have opted to take a partner in crime I think. Its almost as if I would be afraid one of the rides would have come to life and scared the #### out of me ..lol !!

    Reply
  19. got to your pictures thru google. I was stationed in okinawa 87-89 and found an old Spa complex that was also abandoned. They just closed the door and left everything there also. It was pretty creepy, silent, wind going thru the buildings.

    Reply
  20. It’s unfortunate that there are those non-Japanese that have no respect for the property of others and take advantage of the openness and hospitality of the country. At one time one could visit Tsukiji Fish Market and roam around freely. But then some Gaijins took a joy ride on some machinery and disrupted the place of business and now access inside Tsukiji is restricted.

    Reply
  21. Very creepy photos. I go to Japan a lot and would love to see it for myself one day. With this level of gaijin interest in the creepy crumbling remnants of the park it’s a wonder some crafty Japanese entrepreneur hasn’t opened it again and charged admission for entry as a curio. I’d pay to get in!

    Reply
    • That’s such a good point – it would make a great tourist attraction and I definitely would have paid to get in. There was something thrilling about having to do it with stealth, but you would get the same photos!!

      Reply
  22. I was reading on another blog that it was up for auction sometime within the past 10 years, possibly for other development. I’m so interested in knowing whether or not someone bought it. It’s been a while since anyone has posted about it.

    Reply
    • Hmmm… interesting. I would be curious to know too. I did a quick search then and it looks like it went up for auction at the end of 2014 but there were no buyers. Not sure what’s happened since…

      Reply
  23. I had forgotten all about this place. I was there around 1964. All I really remember was ordering fried spaghetti because it was the only thing I could identify on the menu. That seems like a lifetime ago.

    Reply
  24. Love your photos and would love to shoot the whole place at night painting it as I go with my lights. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  25. Hi Michael

    Loved your pics and I visited the park on a couple of occasions last year…..but was always worried about getting caught.

    I recently read that the Dreamland site has been sold (see link below).
    http://japanpropertycentral.com/2015/11/nara-dreamland-sold-to-osaka-real-estate-company/

    I was in Nara again in January, after the sale, and I visited the park again on two occasions and took many pictures (just in case it all gets torn down in the near future). There does not seem to be any security these days and the new owners have not bothered blocking off the entry holes in the fences.

    I would like to share my photos with everyone, however I don’t have the computer nouse to set up a site.
    I can send them to you if you are interested in them, or to someone else who might be interested?

    Reply
  26. Pathetic. It is most definitely Disneyland visits the Twilight Zone. Amazing that it took from 1961 to 2006, or 45 years, to close. That is a long history for such a nightmarish looking experience. And I am referring to the pre-closure pictures. Pure carnival. Often imitated, never duplicated, the magic of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdoms demonstrate the importance and necessity of making an emotional connection to visitors thru storytelling, intense detail and intentionality via overmanagement. The designers of Dreamland only knew to copy (or attempt to copy) something that they liked and obviously wanted for themselves. Unfortunately, they did so with no true understanding of what they were attempting to copy. It is obvious that their own visits to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA., made a massive impression on them. They obviously LOVED it! They miserably failed to copy it. Very typical of the Japanese, especially in the 60’s. LOVED THE PICTURES. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ha, yeah, it’s not the best copy of Disneyland but it’s a bit hard to judge how it would have looked when it first opened. Perhaps back then it was something pretty special, by Japanese standards. These days, with an authorised Disneyland in Tokyo, for instance, this would have seemed a bit sad. I do wonder whether when a completely different culture copies something from the US, whether they try to do an exact replica or whether they adapt it to local tastes. That might explain something. Anyway, thanks for the kind words about the photos!

      Reply
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  28. We have one like this in New Orleans, a six flags. I’ve been a few times, ran into security once and they are using it as a movie set now. I’m thinking of going to check this out as I’ll be in Nara in a few days. Great photos.

    Reply
  29. Turtle, you have crossed a great way ahead. And thanks to show your courage. Images are stunning. Seems like a historic amusement park is reserved for future generation to see it and wonder in dreamland.

    Reply
  30. This is such a sad sight. What an absolute waste. Seems crazy not to have sold off the equipment really, and what couldn’t be sold off, could have been melted down…or something. Such a waste of good land in a country where waste is frowned upon and land is limited. Great photos there though Michael, and thank you for sharing

    Reply
  31. All the photos look eerily beautiful! But what a waste… Maybe better marketing could’ve helped bring more people to the place! Thanks for taking the risk to take the photos!

    Reply
  32. If you still are replying to comments in 2018 I would love to say that if dreamland was still there, and not demolished, I would take a few of my friends to Japan to explore the place with me but I’m a few years too late, and way too young, at 13 years old, to go but I love looking at pictures and maybe one day a time machine will exist so I can go when it was open and after abandonment but at least I can look at these pictures in the meantime

    Reply
  33. Very good blog you have here but I was wanting
    to know if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get comments from
    other experienced individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me
    know. Thanks!

    Reply
  34. I have never heard of this place until now, how interesting! Loved your article. They should open this place up to visitors on occasion! Who wouldn’t love exploring an abandoned theme park and they could even charge a small admission to get in. Rope off any dangerous areas and open it up!

    Reply
  35. Stunning job with the photos! This place is like a map from a horror game to be fair. Also not sure if I could risk to go in there after doing your research. As a foreigner I tend to follow all the rules when I travel but I am glad you went in there so I can experience it a little. Also the abandoned “ultraman” looked so funny in that picture. Did you by any chance grabbed a souvenir?

    Reply

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