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Theme Parks

30 Meters of Peril on the World's Most Famous Abandoned Wooden Roller Coaster

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I'm perching 30 meters (100ft) above the ongoing demolition of Nara Dreamland in Nara, Japan. The sunrise a few minutes ago was spectacular; a beautiful interlude after a night of urban exploration in one of the most famous abandoned them parks in the world.

Aska's boards are slick from morning dew and sagging from 10 years of abandoned decay. Each step results in a slow, uneasy creak from my carefully placed footsteps. It feels like I'm suspended perilously above the ground rather than safely on a workman's platform. The experience wasn't this bad five years ago; a thick shroud of fog that time Jedi mind-tricked my brain into a greater sense of safety.

I look across to the other side of the coaster's mighty top curve and see Gakuranman preparing to take a few nimble shots.

I crouch down ever so slowly like I'm in a slow-motion martial arts scene and begin preparations for a short burst of photography. I bring the camera to my face, and all sense of fear melts away as I get into the zone and begin shooting.

Click. Click. Click.

I look down and think to myself, "Don't lean your elbows on the railing for stabilisation too much because it'll be a quick fucking ride to the Grim Reaper's front door!"

Click. Click. Click. Click.

A snap of the lens cap's clasps, as it closes onto the lens, indicates that I'm done shooting. I pack my bag while balancing like a tightrope artist on the narrow and flexing wooden beam under my feet. Gakuranman asks for a distant portrait but, having already snapped a couple of shots of him, I proclaim, "Dude, I'm done...I have to get off of this beast."

A slow pivot toward the descent path gives me pause; one wrong step or slip, and it's all over. Alright...one last deep breath.

Let's do this thing.

The climb down is a careful choreography of planting each sidestepped foot placement is a wedge of derelict wooden supports and protruding rusty nails. My left quadricep burns from the intensity of each motion, but the decaying structure leaves me with no choice but to use my body weight for support. Every move on the creaking structure is a thank you note to myself for losing the 30kg (60lbs) a few years ago. I should've lost more!

A distant hum in the distance seems to grow louder with each second. Suddenly, I see a scooter zipping across the remnants of one of the theme park's derelict walkways.

"FUCK! It's security!", I think to myself as I look across to Gakuranman and see him flat on his back and suspended on a curve in plain sight!

I'm halfway to the bottom of the coaster and its tree-shrouded cloak of invisibility. How in the hell will we get down and hidden without being spotted?

To be continued.

Nara Dreamland's Train Crossing

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Nara Dreamland is an abandoned theme park in Nara, Japan (east of Osaka). It was built in 1961 and was essentially a copy of Disneyland in California. The opening of Universal Studios was a crushing blow to Nara Dreamland's dwindling attendance and, on August 31, 2006, the park closed permanently.

Exploring the theme park, during an extremely foggy and damp April morning was hauntingly surreal.

Zydeco Zinger

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Zydeco Zinger is the decaying wave swinger ride in the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans theme park. The park was abandoned by the Six Flags corporation after most of the rides and property were damaged during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

I took this photo during the first of three consecutive days and nights of creepy and surreal exploration.

Nara Dreamland in the Mist

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nara Dreamland was opened in 1961 as Japan's response to Disneyland in California. Many features and rides in the park were nearly identical to their American counterparts. After the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, attendance at Nara Dreamland declined dramatically. Nara Dreamland eventually closed in 2006 leaving the park to be frozen in time, silently decaying as an echo of its former buoyant past.

I explored the theme park in extremely foggy and damp conditions during an early April morning with two Japanese explorers. One of them was Ikumi Nakamura, my guide from Hashima Island.

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