At the Gates of Abandonment
On October 10th, 2005, 浅虫ワンダーランド (Asamushi Wonderland) closed its gates for good. Plagued with declining attendance since opening in ’1983’, the small amusement park is still spoken highly of by locals. When asked about the park, several older men commented how they were to afraid to ride the park’s staple roller coaster. The ‘Jet Coaster’ was one of 20 rides installed in the park and operated as Asamushi Kiddy Land by ride manufacturer Okamoto out of Osaka.
In 1999, the park declared bankruptcy but reponed in April, 2000 as Asamushi Wonderland. It’s unknown what happened to the park’s equipment, though it’s highly speculated the rides were demolished. All that remains are the buildings on the east side of the park. For additional pictures and information (Japanese only) please visit this local blog.
Japan’s poorest prefecture 青森県 (Aomori Ken), is rich in snow, apples, and a difficult to understand local dialect (津軽弁 / tsugaru ben). Given the record snow falls and location at the northern tip of 本州 (Honshu) island, Aomori is far from a tourist beacon. Luckily, it remains an easy stop over for the trek to and from the northern island of Hokkaido.
Overlooking Mutsu Bay
While Asamushi Wonderland received a reported 100,000 visitors in its first year, attendance continued to decline. Unfortunately, Asamushi has lost its presence as a summer hot spot for Japan’s urbanites in Tokyo and Sendai. While Aomori prefecture has a population of 1,373,164 (2010 Census), Aomori City houses roughly 300,000 of those citizens. The rest is found scattered across Aomori’s vast country-side and city centers such as Hirosaki (45 minutes by train), and Hachinohe (90 minutes by train).
Given the short summers, and lack of size to expand to attract repeat visitors it’s no surprise that Asamushi Wonderland became extinct. Though according to Japanese sources, high winds played a factor. Perhaps the continual shutting down of rides not only cost the park much needed income but also frustrated locals from re-visiting. In addition, as a resident of Aomori I blame competition. The nearest ‘legitimate’ (not counting the small family centers in Hachinohe) amusement park is in Morioka (3-4 hours south in Iwate prefecture). Though, Asamushi Wonderland had to compete with Nebuta, Aomori’s famed summer festival, which for many Japanese tourists is the only reason to visit the area. Even if tourists had time to kill, there were plenty of cultural and historical sites to visit.
While the park may never reopen, it’s eerily comforting to see relics of its heyday still intact.
No Ticket To Ride
Long Live the Captain
All That Remains
To visit Asamushi Wonderland’s abandoned site, simply exit 浅虫温泉駅 (Asamushi Train Station) and walk along the bay towards your right (north). Click here to view a map of the area. You’ll notice the entrance on your left as walk along the road towards some run down gift shops / mini fish market.
Asamushi Onsen Station is a 15-21 minute,￥４４０ ($5.50) train ride via Aomori Railway (JR Rail Pass not valid) from 青森駅 (Aomori Station). To reach Aomori Station though you’ll need to take a 3 hour 新幹線 (shinkansen / bullet train) from 東京 (Tokyo) and a 7 minute transfer from 新青森駅 (Shin Aomori Station). For train times and prices in English use Hyperdia.
In addition to the abandoned site, enjoy a view of the ocean bay, a trip to the Asamushi Aquarium and the area’s famed onsens (hot springs), all within walking distance.