Archive for June 16th, 2011

I stumbled across this image while looking for something else and had to come back to it.  It’s from an abandoned amusement park resting in the shadow of Japan’s Mt. Fuji that celebrates Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.  I don’t know what connection to Gulliver made someone want to spend a lot of money building a theme park in this part of Japan but it makes for an interesting juxtaposition between the iconic mountain and this sad, abandoned park.

According to WebUrbanist.com, who has a wonderful post on this park with lots of info and many more photos, Gulliver’s Kingdom, as it was called,  was opened in 1997 and closed in 2001.  For several years after its closing it was a mecca for the curious who climbed over the nearly 150′ long Gulliver, many leaving bits of graffitti on the poor tethered giant.  Nothing remains of this ill-conceived theme park today after it was demolished in 2007.

There were apparently several reasons for the park’s closing.  It was never able to shake its proximity to the location of the Aum Shinrikyo headquarters.  Aum Shinrikyo was a doomsday cult who produced Sarin nerve gas (at a location near the park which was under construction) then launched  attacks, including one  on the Tokyo subways, killing 19 people.  A massive force stormed the nearby headquarters to end the cult’s run.   

If the  the smell of chemicals used to make Sarin that still lingered for years after the Aum Shinrikyo attacks  wasn’t enough to kill enthusiasm for this tourist trap,its proximity to Aokigahara probably didn’t help make things better.   Aokigahara  is considered Japan’s “suicide forest“, a dense woodland that is considered the 2nd most popular place on earth (behind the Golden Gate Bridge) to commit suicide.  Putting Sarin gas and suicide together does not spell success for any venture designed to attract tourists to the area.

There’s something in seeing these photos of this lost place.  Maybe it’s the ridiculous absurdity of it.  Maybe it’s the reminder of human failings, a tribute to our follies.  Or maybe it’s the idea of a place that no longer exists, as though one were looking at a ghost from the past. Maybe there’s even symbolic in the huge figure of Gulliver trapped in this ill-fated shadow of the beautiful Fuji.  I don’t know.  It just seems to be compelling for some reason to me.

However, don’t be sad.  You can still get into that Jonathan Swift state of mind–there are a couple of Gulliver-inspired theme parks in England.



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