Tag Archives: Haikyo

EXPLORING AN ABANDONED THEME PARK – NARA DREAMLAND

1 Dec

Earlier this year, three members of Black Fox traveled to Japan to eat curry and explore the ghostly remains of abandoned theme parks. Also present were audio enthusiast Gavin ‘HT’ Nebauer and our partner in crime, Money Mark. Please enjoy Money’s write-up of our eventful first night in Japan.

This holiday was all about urban exploration, or haikyo—which in Japanese means ‘ruins’. This may seem insensitive, considering that the north of Japan is indeed currently in ruins, but that’s not what this blog is about. Before the earthquake and resulting tsunami hit, the plan was to head north and explore some abandoned mines, love hotels and other interesting places, but that trip was scrapped in favour of Osaka and Japan’s south.

Why go to do Japan to do this? Well, Japan seems to build a lot of cool stuff and then just pack up and leave when business isn’t going so well. We also figured that Japanese security guards probably wouldn’t shoot us in the head if we were caught, unlike say Russia. Japan also has karaoke … oh yes it does!

Okay, now on with the show. Where to start? Well, let me give you a quick rundown of the motley bunch of characters on the trip:

Stockton (AKA Money): All time leader of steals and assists in the NBA. Karaoke favourites include Oasis, The Beatles and Prince’s ‘Cream’.
HT: Audio enthusiast who looks like George Michael. Karaoke favourites include anything from the 80s.
Daniel (AKA Lombardo): Former Mexican child star. Karaoke favourites include The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks and Frank Sinatra.
Leigh (AKA The Drake): Brother of Lombardo, vegetarian and likes to yap like a dog when drunk (which is often). Karaoke favourites include Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian and Gorillaz.
Dane (AKA Diggity): Looks like Martin Bryant and dances like Michael Jackson, with the same amount of love for children. Karaoke favourites include Dan Hartman.

Will I reference these people again in this write-up? Maybe, or maybe not—we will see how it goes.

So we left Australia on the 16th of April, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I’m not sure what that means, but I like it. We flew into the Gold Coast and switched planes … and waited on the runaway … and waited. One hour later, we got the call that the shitter was broken so we would need to get off the plane. I was happy to go into a plastic bag on the flight, but apparently that is ‘unsanitary’.

We got off the plane and were told that there were no other flights to Japan that night, so we would be put up in a hotel and fly out the next morning. I tried to do some wheeling and dealing, but no other airlines were flying to Japan, so we were stuck in Queensland for the night. They did put us up in nice hotel that had three swimming pools and some decent rooms. One of the swimming pools had a grotto under the waterfall and I could only imagine the amount of semen that had been shot out in that place. It made the grotto a less-than-relaxing place to sit and cool down.

Anyway, the next morning we were out of there and our journey continued to Japan. We arrived at Kansai International Airport at about 8pm and only a day late. The first thing we did was slam some Real Gold. For those of you not in the know, Real Gold is a Japanese energy drink containing royal jelly. And, as scientists have confirmed, that this is the best jelly of them all.


Feeling refreshed and loaded with B-vitamins, it was time to head off for our first haikyo: Nara Dreamland. I used to work around Nara, but never really knew that there was a giant abandoned amusement park just behind the city. Well, I had heard about it but thought it was just one of the many shitty little abandoned parks Japan has scattered around its mountainous land. Little did I know …

We left the airport and journeyed through Osaka, stopping only to smash some curries at Coco Ichibanya curry house, and then on to Nara. Now, the first thing we learnt is that when breaking into an abandoned theme park, it’s maybe best not to slam a spicy curry before entering. We got to Nara around 11pm and decided to sing some karaoke and drink some beer to take the edge off. Nerves were a constant problem in the lead up, as we had heard security come and go during the night; so we would have to be quiet and try and hide whenever we saw anyone. So the idea was to calm the nerves but not to get blotto. Sometimes it’s a thin line to walk.

We finished a great session of karaoke at 1am, and then went and got snacks before changing into our cold weather/ninja gear. A lot of Soy Joy bars and Calorie Mates were purchased, and our backpacks were now safely tucked away in lockers at the train station. We kept our gear to a minimum and headed for Dreamland. We were black and stealthy … well, apparently not that stealthy, as my damn shoes kept squeaking. This was an ongoing problem during the night. I had never really noticed before, but they were loud as hell on a quiet night.


The walk to Dreamland was about 30 minutes from the train station. On the way there, we passed something that looked like a car accident and a couple of Japanese police officers were out taking statements. It was just passing 1:30am, but they didn’t really give us a second look. There is a hostel around the same area, so I guess a group of westerners coming in late wasn’t unusual. We headed to the back entrance of Dreamland. It was dark and lit by only the fading light of some unloved street lights. One street light was flashing on and off, and with each flash on I kept seeing the girl from The Ring and the girl from The Grudge holding hands like the twins from The Shining. Is that enough movie references?


We got to the back gate of Dreamland: a big fence, followed by a smaller barbwire fence. The fences were fairly easy to climb over, with the only obstacle being some nervousness over the whole thing. We ducked low while running over the bridge, and we were now in Dreamland!

It was 2am and the night had a beautiful full moon to light our way. It’s surprising how much you can see when there is just a full moon and no lamp posts. We started walking closer to the attractions when we suddenly heard the sounds of a motorbike/scooter type thing. Like well-trained soldiers, we all dove into bushes. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen at all. We all just kind of stood there in a stupor. It looked to me like the headlight of the bike was slowly coming around the corner and would be on us any second. We finally got our legs working and ducked into another section where we couldn’t be spotted too easily.

Fortunately, there was no bike and the light and sound appeared to be playing tricks on us. The bike my have still been in the park, but at this point we confirmed that it probably wasn’t near us and slowly continued on our way. Our keen army sense continued with all of us accidentally stepping on broken glass, pipes and branches. Anything that could make a noise, we stepped on it and then stepped on it again. Special Forces this was not.


Its kind of hard to describe what it was like being in Nara Dreamland. Everything creaked and groaned in the wind. Crows flew through the night sky. Flag poles banged. Doors closed right before my eyes … due to the wind … perhaps? We heard the sounds of a girl talking. Maybe it was someone else in the park with us, or maybe just voices carried on the wind from the town below. The voices were pretty clear though, and if it was on the wind it was damn strong wind. It was all unnerving and made edging around each corner fun and made the night fly by. The idea was to spend the night in the park so we could take photos in the morning, but we were all too excited to sleep and wanted to go explore.

Probably the coolest thing in the park was a nearly-perfect condition monorail still parked at the station. The owners of the park were nice enough to leave the door open to the monorail, so we jumped in and played monorail driver. ‘All aboard’ wasn’t said once, but was always implied.


We heard something like a gate being opened and closed, which made our hearts jump, but the monorail station also provided a nice high vantage point to view the park from. Unfortunately, the monorail didn’t work but we pressed most of the buttons in an attempt to get some juice flowing into it. Not sure what we would have done if it had actually started up again other than shit our pants, but that kind of brings me back to the curry situation. Don’t eat curry and go into an abandoned place. It brings unnecessary problems.

We stopped and sat quietly about six or seven times throughout the night, convinced that security was about to jump out and get us. Each time we started walking again, it felt like they were somehow tracking our every movement like the Predator or something. So we went into the castle, the jungle ride, the haunted house of aliens (which is a bit creepy in the pitch black at night, but doesn’t look so bad from the pictures), the train station, the hall of mirrors, the two roller-coasters and the Sealand part of the park with huge water slides. It was all still there and looked like it was ready to be started up again the next morning. The arcade was even still filled with games, including a rather new looking ‘Dance Revolution 2000 Machine’.

Perhaps the spookiest feature of the park is the entrance and main street – an American themed, tree lined street that looked like something out of an old movie. The trees were leafless and overgrown, making them look rather haunting when silhouetted against the moonlit sky. Many of the shop front windows had been smashed and a line of caution tape now ran across many of the buildings. This made us feel like we were at a crime scene … in a rather tacky, camp town.


We wandered around the park for about four hours before the sun started to come up, and then it was crazy camera super happy fun time. All bets were off and our poorly-performing, but still intact, army unit split up and started to get more confident running off to take photos of different sections. We were still mostly in view of each other, but not in the tight noisy formation we normally had.


At about 6am, I was taking photos of the castle when I turned to see three members of our team, but not a fourth. I could hear footsteps moving quickly on the other side of the castle, and assumed it was the fourth member of our team. Continuing to take photos, I then saw out of the corner of my eye the fourth member—and he wasn’t on the other side of the castle! Security were here and they were shuffling around what seemed to be quickly and slowly at the same time. The sound of their feet seemed quick but the speed which they were coming around the castle seemed agonisingly slow. It was very strange. I quickly backed out of my side of the castle (which was facing the exit) and collected the other guys, and we ran for it.

We exited quickly up and over both fences and we were back on the street in no time. Some people were up walking their dogs at this time in the morning and gave us the old stink eye, but that was fine. We circled around to the front of the park to see if we could spot security, and we saw a car parked where there was no car parked before.


So ends the adventure in Nara Dreamland.

ESCAPE FROM A NORTH KOREAN PRISON

11 Nov

Please enjoy the following guest post from Black Fox compadre Money Mark …

‘The thieves. The thieves. The filthy little thieves,’ says Gollum, as the hobbits steal what is rightfully his. And that’s how, in our imaginative minds, we envisaged the owner of Deer Park Heights felt as we snuck into his mountain to steal a glimpse at the treasure which rested atop.

We were in Queenstown, New Zealand, and we had two aims for this holiday:

1.    To eat as many Fergburgers as possible
2.    To sneak into Deer Park Heights and see the treasure atop the mountain

Deer Park Heights is an 800 hectare park, easily accessed from Queenstown. You can literally see it from anywhere in Queenstown. Previously, for NZ$20 you could drive around the park at your own pace, stopping where you liked to feed the animals and enjoy the views. There were many types of animals in the park: bison, llama, goats, sheep, donkeys, miniature horses (hell yeah!!) and something called a Himalayan tar. If anyone knows what a Himalayan tar is without using Google, I will be very impressed. Feel free to use other search engines though; Ask Jeeves perhaps? Does anyone remember that crazy butler? Is he still around?

Anyway, at the top of the park was our treasure. Well, we hoped it was still there. It was a Korean prison built in 1986 for the Disney film The Rescue. The Rescue currently rates a solid (but not flashy) 4.4 out of 10 at IMDB—but I assume that’s still higher than Transformers 2.

The prison took three-and-a-half months to construct, at a cost of NZ$1 million, and was used for over 20 days of filming. With a budget of $18 million, the film was a straight-to-video release and had the tagline: ‘An elite US Navy Special Forces team is imprisoned behind North Korean lines. The Pentagon calls them expendable. Five young heroes call them Dad. Now they’ll risk their lives to being them home.’

I would have eaten that up as a kid.

Our first view of Deer Park came right as we landed in Queenstown, as (unbeknownst to us) it’s essentially right next to the airport. We straight away jumped in a taxi from the airport into town. The road circled around Deer Park Heights, which was in turn circled by a giant lake. It looked beautiful with its reflection in the water, but it really was dwarfed in scale by The Remarkables mountain range behind it. Here in Queenstown we are in true Lord of the Rings territory and I was Aragon traveling with 3 gay hobbits.

After a couple of days in Queenstown, eating Fergburgers, we headed off to do some reconnaissance. We knew where Deer Park Heights was, but what we didn’t know was whether the North Korean prison was still on top, or if had it been torn down. So we headed to the Queenstown gondola to journey up to an opposing mountain to check it out. For our reconnaissance we moved from our Lord of the Rings mode to a more stealthy and high-tech James Bond theme. I was playing ‘Pierce Brosnan’ Bond, one mate was playing the role of ‘Roger Moore’ Bond, another was playing ‘Sean Connery’ Bond, and the last was playing the role of Johnny English.

The brilliant super spy-like idea was to go paragliding off this opposing mountain to get views of Deer Park, see if the North Korean prison still existed and to figure out the best route up to the top. (In reality, the day before we used binoculars at the top of the opposing mountain to see over to Deer Park, clearly seeing the prison on top. That part of the story doesn’t seem as epic though, so let’s pretend that didn’t happen. Cool? Cool.)

So we paraglided off the edge of the mountain with the classic Duran Duran bond theme A View to a Kill playing in our minds. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and all three Bonds and one Johnny English were sailing in the air. Unfortunately, due to a large drinking binge the night before, two of the Bonds were feeling very un-Bond-like and were getting motion sickness pretty bad. They pushed on and went higher and higher again (well, in reality, I went lower as I was about to vomit) until they could finally see it for the first time (It was the second time): their treasure, their one ring, their Octapussy. The prison was still on top of the mountain and it was reachable!

In the end, one Bond threw up on the ground and one threw up mid-air, but (due to the skill of the paraglider pilot) missed getting any vomit splash-back. Now that’s Bond-like!

We collated and massaged the data on the prison using one of our Q-like Bond gadgets that was apparently called an Insider Positionable Ancillary Device, or iPad. It’s like a giant smart phone for secret agents and would serve no purpose in the real world, but maybe with a good marketing campaign I believe people might be silly enough to buy them. People will buy anything. With our information combined with some quality NASA photography courtesy of the British Secret Service and Google, we made our attack plan.

The plan was very technical and detailed but, in summary, we were to rent a car and drive around Deer Park to look for an opening. We hoped we would find a place where not many people couldn’t see us and then simply walk straight up the mountain to the top. Our main goal was to try to get up the far side of the mountain, away from the prying eyes of the town and the (apparently) crazy owner.

Lets talk about the crazy owner for a minute. Is he crazy? Probably not. Is he old? Yup. Why did he close the mountain? Not sure, but I assume it was due to him having a large amount of the so-called ‘evil gene’. Anyway, we asked around and we were told that he doesn’t like visitors and really doesn’t like people on his land—which is fair enough. To us, he was our Ernst Stavro Blofeld, our Dr. Evil, our Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men, all mixed into one. If he saw us and if he caught us, he would surely put us on one of those tables with the giant saw blade that slowly moves towards your junk. He did have the evil gene after all.

And so, the journey to the top of Deer Park began. (Has this gone on too long already?) We got up early, packed our gear and headed out. We had already lost one man who went down with a nasty case of the flu/AIDS. Was he poisoned by the owner of Deer Park Heights? The only legitimate answer to that is 100% yes. Heading back the the airport, we rented a car at a legitimately good rate. For $52 a day, you can get a car plus insurance from Jucy® Car Rentals (click here for this exclusive offer).

Our circling of Deer Park was slow and steady. We were prodding the fences, we were searching for weaknesses like the raptors trying to get out of their cage in Jurassic Park. We came across the owner’s road entrance and the gates were closed. Was he home? We would soon find out. Signs attached to his gate included ‘Private Property–Do Not Enter’, ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’ and the scariest one of all: ‘Will shoot trespassers and eat their brains to gain their knowledge’. The last one really shattered our confidence and there was talk of turning back. There was also talk of mutiny and talk of how we are the 99%, but that was just small talk.

Back on the road, we are still probing for weaknesses. Luckily, we came across a walking track leading to the rear side of the mountain. We hoped that we could potentially sneak in unnoticed a little way down the track. We were correct. Dropping off the car, we set out down the track and into the mountain like the guys from that other Disney movie, Deliverance. Let’s see how friendly these locals really are.

 20 minutes along the walking track, we were out of view and thought that we had found a potential weak spot. No fences and just some rocky ledges to scale and we were in Deer Park, but with still probably an hour-and-a-half trek up. We were in his property and we needed to be quiet, we needed to be stealthy, we needed to be one with nature. Fortunately, one of our crew of three was wearing a bright red flannelette shirt. He was blending in as a bloody sheep or something. I liked the way he thought outside the box.

Up we went. Constantly searching for cover, but unfortunately our only cover was prickly bushes with real nasty one-inch thorns. Had our arch nemesis, the owner, planted these here years in advance, knowing that we would come for his prison? The answer was a resounding 100% absolute … no. They were just native to the area and thrived on Queenstown’s colder climate. We pushed on and got to our first fence which ended up being the first of six barbed-wired fences. Over we went like cats jumping over a … ummm … barbed-wire fence, and BAM! straight into the bog out of Lord of the Rings. Seriously this was the bog used in Lord of the Rings and we were in it. The bog also contained a dead cow that seemed like it had just toppled over recently and was melting back into the Earth. Dust to dust, I guess.

We pushed through the bog and continued upwards, our feet smelling like a combination of faeces and smelly wet faeces. We stunk, but we were pushing on as the stealthy approach seemed to be working. There was no sign of the owner and no tire marks where we were walking, which suggested that no one came out to this side of Deer Park.  Our thighs started to burn, due to the climb, but we made it to the top of the first part of the mountain with only two parts to go.

Happy with our approach and needing a rest, we were taking a break when suddenly we looked over to the owner’s side of the property to see the namesake of the park: deer. There were a lot of them (I counted about 50) and the problem was that they were all staring directly at us! Every single deer staring at us like we shouldn’t be there, and giving away our position to anyone who decided to look. We started to hustle, knowing our position was quickly becoming hazardous. Had the owner seen the deer? Was he tuning up his ultimate death ray to take us out? Stay tuned for the answer. But if you want to tune out, the quick answer is ‘no’.

Our legs powered-on and jackets came off (jackets off). It was hot, we were sweating and our skin was burning—and this is in a skiing town! Very strange. After another 30 minutes, we ran into a herd of cattle, who saw us and bolted, screaming as we were passing. The noise was another horrible give away and I began to think that our super-stealthy spy badges would have to be given back. Maybe due to our large intake of delicious beefy Fergburgers, the cows could smell us and were frightened. My pores normally let out a strong beefy/porky aroma and most people love it, but animals maybe not so much. One member of the crew was a vegetarian though, and a little baby lamb ran up to him and jumped in his arms. I guess animals just know.

So anyway, time to finish this thing up because I have to do some work. We did make it to the top and we had to jump a lot of fences, with one fence containing the full skeleton of a deer whose antlers got caught in the wire. Poor thing. We never saw any bison or miniature horses unfortunately, and fortunately we never saw the evil owner. We made it to the top and saw a remarkable view of The Remarkables, and we saw our treasure in all its glory. Well, maybe not all its glory as it was beaten up a lot.

The prison was surrounded by a fence, with a sign stating ‘Former set of a Disney movie’, which was interesting. We jumped that fence as well and we were in. It was just the main front part of the prison left, with a painting of a Korean man on the front. It didn’t look like your classic Kim Il Sung paintings, so I’m not exactly sure who it was supposed to be. There wasn’t much inside the set, but the outside looked interesting. There’s something about seeing a North Korean prison on top of a New Zealand mountain from Lord of the Rings that also features Logan’s cabin from X-men Origins that was immensely satisfying. So we ran around and grabbed some photos and thanked fake Kim Il Sung from Juche.


We ended up having to parachute off the edge of the mountain to safety as the police arrived (AKA we walked down and jumped all the fences we jumped on the way up and left in our rented car).

The end.

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