• Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

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Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. is planning to open a “Harry Potter” theme park in Tokyo on part of the land that currently houses the historic Toshimaen amusement park, sources said Monday.

Seibu Holdings Inc., which runs Toshimaen, is thinking about closing the park in Nerima Ward in stages starting this year after more than nine decades of operations, the sources said.

Seibu is in talks with Warner Bros., founder of the movie franchise based on the fantasy novels of British author J. K. Rowling, and the deal could be formally decided as early as this spring, they said.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will buy the majority of the 22-hectare Toshimaen site to set up a big park designed to bolster the capital’s disaster management capability, while Warner Bros. will build a theme park on the remaining land under ongoing talks between Warner Bros., the Seibu group and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, according to the sources.

The Yomiuri Shimbun said the theme park will likely be built around spring 2023 and Warner Bros. is considering basing it on Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studios in London.

The park will differ from the similarly named area at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka that opened in 2014 and has become a mainstay tourist destination.

USJ LLC, operator of Universal Studios Japan, invested some ¥45 billion ($414 million) to create the Harry Potter-themed attraction area featuring rides and shows themed on blockbuster Hollywood movies.

Toshimaen opened in 1926 and is one of the biggest amusement parks in Tokyo, with over 30 rides and attractions, including a wooden carousel that was manufactured in Germany in 1907 and brought to the park in 1971, and a double corkscrew roller coaster.

It has a variety of swimming pools, one of which — a 350-meter, doughnut-shaped facility — is reportedly the world’s first river pool.

In September 2011, six months after the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced it would look into buying the Toshimaen site and converting it into a large-scale park that could serve as a mass evacuation center during an emergency.

In addition to being an amusement facility, Toshimaen is already a designated evacuation area.

“We’ll make good use of it,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters Monday.

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