Kamikuishiki’s Gulliver park falls

Leisure facility on former Aum complex site fails to draw visitors, bidders

Kyodo

The Fuji Gulliver’s Kingdom theme park in the prefectural village of Kamikuishiki shut down Friday after a four-year attempt to dispel the site’s negative image as a former Aum Shinrikyo base.

The park operator said declining visitor numbers amid the nation’s prolonged economic slump forced the closure.

At the foot of Mount Fuji, Kamikuishiki drew national attention when police raided key Aum Shinrikyo facilities there in March 1995 — two days after Tokyo’s subway system was targeted in a sarin gas attack.

When the amusement park was opened in July 1997 on the former site of the cult complex, featuring a 45-meter-long statue of the Jonathan Swift character, the villagers hoped it would help dispel the negative image from Aum.

The Fuji Chuo group, which ran the theme park, was the largest borrower from Niigata Chuo Bank, a Niigata-based second-tier regional bank that collapsed in 1999 under the weight of nonperforming loans.

The bank’s financial health deteriorated as it extended questionable loans to golf course developers and amusement park projects, including Gulliver’s Kingdom. It lent 36 billion yen to the Fuji Chuo group.

The theme park was put on auction by the Kofu District Court after the bank entered liquidation procedures, but nobody offered the minimum bid price of 3.1 billion yen.

A second auction ended Nov. 8, in which the minimum price was lowered by 1 billion yen. The result of the auction will be made known Thursday.

Park employees working at its office Friday declined to comment.