Even if you have heard of the book, you may have never heard of Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park, built in Japan. In fact, you easily might have gone through life never hearing it mentioned… except for this blog.
Why? Because the sprawling white elephant existed only for about ten years, and in 2022 there is little of the demolished theme park left to be seen on the land. It exists only in eerie and unsettling photographs taken by the hardy folks who love to explore ruins.
A MOMENT IN HISTORY
In the 1990s, Japan’s government took steps intended to entice Japan out of its economic gloom, including a jobs creation program. Most were constructions projects reminiscent of “the “bridge to nowhere”. Instead, they provided for short-term construction jobs and not much more.
Backed financially by the Niigata Chuo Bank to the tune of 350 million American dollars, Gulliver’s Kingdom theme park was completed in 1997. A few years later, when the bank failed because of non-payment of loans, they were ordered to divest themselves of unprofitable ventures such as Gulliver’s Kingdom. The park closed its doors in October of 2001, and the park was left to rot. The aerial photo below was taken by Apollo mapping on April 6, 2002. The site was demolished in 2007.
Image source: apollomapping.com/your Image Credit: Spechtrograph
-imagery-work-break Image Source: weburbanist.com/2011/gullivers-kingdom
◄ View of Gulliver’s kingdom
Image Credit: Martin Lyle
Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/The-Lilliput-thats-just-kaput
Source of Images: weburbanist.com/2011/gullivers-kingdom
Image Source: dailymail.co.uk/The-Lilliput-thats-just-kaput weburbanist.com/2011/gullivers-kingdom
One would think the site of the park had a lot going for it, ensconced in Kamikuishiki village at the foot of Mount Fuji with the dormant, snow-covered volcano rising behind it. At the time when the theme park was only a glimmer in someone’s eye, the natural beauty of the area attracted about twenty-five million tourists per year despite the country’s economic doldrums. Tourists with children want more to do than sit around soaking in magnificent scenery, don’t they?
The story of Gulliver’s travels is one filled with something for everyone, and the action/ adventure of the time Gulliver spent with the tiny Lilliputians is a good enough theme for an amusement park. So, what went wrong?
For starters, any architect or project planner worth his salt knows to check out the location and the neighbors with a fine-toothed comb before selecting a site. I’d say the people in charge of the project didn’t do their homework.
Despite the beauty of Mount Fuji, the location has a down side. The “dark side” of the volcano descends on the side of the mountain where Kamikuishiki Village is located. This is the Aokigahara area, the home of Japan’s “suicide forest”, the second most popular place in the world to commit suicide. [The most popular being the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge]
Another unfortunate neighbor, even worse than the “Suicide Forest”, was the headquarters of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult and their nerve gas production facility. This was the cult that flooded the Tokyo subway with Sarin gas in March of 1995, killing 19 people and injuring 5,500 others. Two days later, a thousand Japanese police in gas masks stormed the cult’s Sarin production compound.
Image Credit: Getty Images
Image Source: gettyimages.co.jp/Aum-shinrikyo
In addition to opening behind schedule due to the chaos created by the police raid, there were many operational problems. Last, but not least, Gulliver’s Kingdom wasn’t like a traditional theme park with a rollercoaster and other rides that kids like. The closest things to the usual amusement park entertainments were a bobsled track and a luge course – not exactly ideal for the kiddies.
THE DEMISE OF THE KINGDOM
Even the name Gulliver’s Kingdom presaged doom for the park. If it was Gulliver’s Kingdom, what is the star of the show doing securely pegged to the ground by little people 1/12 the size of humans? Some king!