Many residents of Tokyo have endured a difficult summer in 2020. If beach closures and postponed vacations weren’t hard enough to swallow, the capital also lost one of its most-loved recreational facilities: Toshimaen.
The beloved amusement park closed down on Aug. 31, having been in business for a staggering 94 years.
News of Toshimaen’s closure went viral on social media back in February when the announcement was first made, resurfacing again in July when the park opened its gates for its final summer season after restrictions on recreational activities in the capital were lifted.
On Twitter, people mourned the park’s closure. “I have a lot of memories of Toshimaen,” user @yosukei says. “I went on dates, viewed cherry blossoms, walked my dog, saw fireworks, had curry and drinks and then more drinks. The neighborhood won’t be the same.”
User @redroomtamago agrees.
“My family has been coming here for three generations,” @redroomtamago says. “What will happen to the House of Insects? This was the only place where we could see the Hercules Stag Beetle up close.”
Others mourned the fact that the park has been hosting Coming of Age Day ceremonies for 20-year-olds in Nerima Ward since 1978. After all, the park was one of the few places in Tokyo where visitors could see young women riding roller coasters in their ceremonial kimonos.
Fishing fans were also saddened by the loss of a local fishing spot. Every autumn and winter, Toshimaen had converted its summertime swimming facilities into a giant fishing area filled with trout and salmon.
On Aug. 27, a group of wrestlers held a tournament on the grounds of Toshimaen in lieu of a heartfelt send-off, including Atsushi Onita, who declared that he would retire if he lost the match (incidentally, he won).
On Aug. 30, families visited the park for one last time, never mind that the waiting time for popular rides such as the Carousel Eldorado was as much as three hours or so under a blazing hot sun. The Carousel Eldorado, by the way, is one of the oldest existing carousels in the world, being designated as a mechanical engineering heritage in 2010.
At 8 p.m. on Aug. 30, fireworks lit up the sky above the park as visitors said their final farewells and more than a few of them had tears in their eyes. The park closed for the final time the following day.
What’s next for Toshimaen’s 22-hectare grounds? Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. has been negotiating with Toshimaen since February, and a Harry Potter theme park is slated to open in 2023, along with a public evacuation space that had been on the table since 2012. So far, the reaction on social media hasn’t exactly been gushing.
“I understand the need for an evacuation space but what’s with Harry Potter?” wrote one Twitter user. “There’s one already, in Universal Studios Japan.”
“We loved Toshimaen because it was uniquely Japanese,” wrote another user. “Now it’s going to be just another imported theme park.”
The owners of Toshimaen haven’t revealed the reason behind the park’s closure, although there has been plenty of conjecture on social media. Toshimaen had weathered many crises in its nearly 100-year history, including bankruptcies, ownership changes, World War II and the Great East Japan Earthquake, but many believe that three factors ultimately hastened the park’s decline.
Last year, an 8-year-old girl drowned in the park’s famed “flowing pool” when she became trapped under some floating buoys.
The park has also suffered a massive decline in revenue. Back in the 1990s, more than 4 million people visited Toshimaen every year, but that number had shrunk to just 1.2 million in 2018. Toshimaen’s fiscal net income last year was revealed to be a little over ¥520,000, which is barely breaking even.
Finally, the park’s 80-day temporary closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic sealed its fate.
Now, long-time Toshimaen fans in Nerima Ward are calling on Tokyo residents to try to prevent the park’s permanent closure.
“I oppose Nerima Ward’s policy of redeveloping our green city,” Twitter user @jukefuga says. “I oppose the closure of Toshimaen.”
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