NIIGATA — Niigata Russian Village at the foot of the Gozu mountain range will make a new start at the end of this month with additional attractions, including a record-large hot air balloon and a theater featuring the latest technology to lure more tourists to the theme park.

“We hope to build the park so that visitors will be able to participate more, instead of just looking at exhibits,” said Shiho Yamamoto, an official at the park.

One such feature of the renovated park, which initially opened in 1993 to boost cultural exchanges between Russia and Japan, is the state-of-the-art theater. Its opening attraction will be a Russian folktale, “The Story of the Fire Horse,” shown in 3-D with the latest sound effects.

“At the end, snow falls inside the theater, producing a fantastic atmosphere. But of course, it’s artificial,” Yamamoto said.

But if visitors are more interested in scenery, a balloon 30 meters in diameter will help them get a good view of Niigata.

Capable of carrying 30 people, the balloon will hover 150 meters above the ground, offering views of the Gozu range and the Echigo plains. On a sunny day, one might even get a glimpse of Sado Island in the Sea of Japan.

For 1,000 yen, hungry visitors can help prepare their own lunch at the “homemade gourmet workshop.” Bread fresh from the oven and boiled sausages are available.

For those too hungry to go through all that, the park has a restaurant featuring Russian food, including borsch and piroshki, and a fast food eatery.

In addition to these new attractions, there will be dance groups mainly from Vladivostok and Khabarovsk performing Russian folk dances and music in the Romanov Theater. “During the Golden Week holiday in May, we will perform Cossack dances in the theater,” Yamamoto said.

A walk after lunch to the Suzdal Church near the entrance gate is another option.

The church is a replica of the Rozhdestvensky Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century in Suzdal, northeast of Moscow. The park occasionally performs wedding ceremonies at the church.

The park, which reopens Saturday, is located about 30 km east of central Niigata, or a few minutes’ drive from the Yasuda exit on the Banetsu Expressway. For more information, call the park at (0250) 63-1111.

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