1604 Western Village
Western Village began life in the early 1970’s, growing from what was once known as “Kinugawa Ranch”. A small family owned camp near Nikko in Tochigi Prefecure, aimed at providing a getaway from the busy urban centres.
Even in its formative years, the wild western element was the main focus of the attraction. Visitors could partake in horse riding, fishing and even lasso practice.
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In 1975, Kinugawa Ranch underwent a transformation from a country getaway, into a fully-fledged Western American themed amusement park, complete with replica saloon, hotel, barbershop, bank, blacksmith, sheriff office, chapel, two haunted houses, and a “mystery shack” (incorrectly spelt shock on the exterior of the building) with slanted interiors.
Many of the buildings featured animatronic robots, depicting the residents of this bygone era, going about their daily lives. Live shows also became an addition with wranglers and cowboys performing demonstrations such as whip cracking, and shooting apples off guests’ heads.
Following the expansion, Kinugawa Ranch rebranded as “Western Village”, and at its peak, close to one million guests visited the park each year.
As the years passed, the popularity of Western Village grew, and the owner continued to invest large sums of money into expanding the attraction. Debt began to mount and began to absorb any profits that Western Village was able to generate.
To turn Western Villages fortunes around, the entrance fee was reduced from ¥2400 to ¥1500 with the hope of enticing more visitors, but to little avail.
In 2006, Western Village announced that the park would undergo maintenance from December 6th till late March 2007, and in April 2007, the Sankei Shimbun reported that the creditor, NIS Group had filed for foreclosure of the land.
Today, much of the attraction remains intact save for the obvious signs of neglect due to sitting idle for the past decade.
Vegetation surrounding and within the park itself has become overgrown and even pushes through the floorboards of many of the buildings.
I’ve never explored anything quite like Western Village before. It may not be the most photogenic collection in Lost Collective, but undoubtedly, it’s the most unique.
During this shoot, I would catch a glimpse of what appeared to be a person in the corner of my eye every time I turned around. The animatronic residents who were left behind after the closure did nothing to calm the nerves.
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