Utopia: Abandoned Amusement Park
Like something out of a Japanese Horror movie, my friend Dean and I wandered upon an abandoned amusement park in the mountains behind Beppu.
With perfect irony, the name of this decrepit and decaying place is Utopia.
We set off last weekend taking a bus 25 min out of town to Lake Shidake and planned to walk it into Beppu (about 4 hrs) and hopefully get some nice night views of the city.
As we wandered around the lake killing some time, our attention was grabbed by a collection of old buildings seen from the lake. The front, gated and sealed off, hits on the road to Shidake but you can’t see it’s immense expanse until you look up from the lake.
We had no idea what was in store…
The place looks like the staff literally just decided one day not to come back to work. Ever. And before leaving they opened all the windows and doors.
Among the buildings are the workings of all the mainstays of an amusement park. The roller coasters have been dismantled, but lots are still intact.
A large wooden “maze” area has virtually collapsed upon itself. You can still walk on much of the second level, but we thought best not.
A rusted metal tower about 15 meter tall gave an apprehensive walk up and a great view from the top. A heavy concrete slide winds around the outside. It look sturdy, but again decided not the best idea. Dean calls it “Helter Skelter” but I like the name “Faulty Tower.”
My favorite part was the haunted mansion. Weirdly, Dean took several photos inside the pitch black maze but the only one that survived is below, which about sums it up. This is probably the only part of the park that has actually gotten better as the place deteriorated. All the vignettes are still intact, including someone crucified on a cross. Priceless.
Game booths; roller skates; old targets, like devils (oni) to throw things at and win prizes; broken mopeds and go-carts; and token coins all littered the grounds.
There was also a large three story hotel with dishes, condiments bottles, hundreds of futons, karaoke machines, photographs, broken video game machines (for example Sega, claw machine, and Hello Kitty) and a plethora of other things. Really amazing place to walk through. Some futons were pulled out giving the appearance people had slept there.
The hotel was like the stunt double for the hotel from The Shining. I fully expected to find “red rum” written on the wall as I rounded a corner (except I guess it would be “しろこ”!). If I ever have to hide out, it’s the perfect spot (unless they read my blog). Didn’t get many pics (Dean took all of these) of the hotel, but you get the idea.
We found a page with some pics of Utopia back in its heyday. From asking around it probably shut down in about 1995. The go-cart area in the front probably operated until 2002 as indicated by posters in the track’s management building. There are a lot of abandoned parks such as this in Japan. Built in the 1980’s in some kind of boom period, too many sprang up and they couldn’t continue to be profitable. We also found mention of an old ropeway that once went from Beppu to Utopia.
Just down the road is Kijima, a bigger and better amusement park still in operation and quite a popular place. Perhaps Kijima ran it out of business?
I will go back sometime soon with my dSLR and take some proper photos. It really is a photographers dream come true.