When I was looking for something to expore in Japan I found a couple of reports from this place and decided it was too good not to try. It was a 3 hour train journey from Tokyo, through watery rice fields and lush forests.
http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/2011/06/japans-abandoned-wild-west-town/#sthash.eGo6m2Ae.dpbs has photos from 2011 and comprehensive history:
“Western Village is a quantum pocket of the Old West Disneyfied replete with a $29 million replica Mount Rushmore, Western saloon, ghost house, jail, post office, shooting gallery, actual fake Rio Grande, and vast Mexican barrens. It was built in 1975 and shut down in 2007, likely due to its remote location and the pull of other nearby parks like Disneyland sucking away its tourist base.
Western Village started life humbly in 1970 as the ‘Kinugawa ranch’ in the Japanese countryside, a 4-acre family owned camp where folks could come for horse-riding, lasso practise, and go fishing in the fish pond. As time went by and the green rolled in, owner Kenichi Ominami’s ambitions grew. He expanded what began as a simple wooden complex to become a USJ-like cowboy town, all wooden facades, horses, and dusty thoroughfares, as though you’d stepped onto the set of a John Ford Western.
In time Ominami hired wranglers and cowboys for shows he put on 4 times a day, just like the parades of Disneyland but instead of Mickey and Minnie singing A Whole New World with giant floats of Robin William’s blue genie floating overhead, there was a story of cowboy lust, violence, and revenge. You sat in the bleacher stands watching the center of town - of course the saloon - as gun battles played out before you, men went down, horses cantered past. At times there were displays of gunmanship and skill, with hired men shooting the apple off unwitting guests’ heads, William Tell style. If you were lucky you might catch a glimpse of Ominami himself striding the boardwalk like a rootin-tootin pistoleer, clad in ten-gallon hat, leather chaps, and spurs.
And things expanded further, as guest numbers rose to near 1 million per year. In 1995 Ominami, then 52, started building a clone of Mt. Rushmore at one third scale. I’ll talk about that more in a later post. He also expanded across a small stream that cut across his land, labelling it the Rio Grande and everything ‘south’ of it as Mexico Land. In 2007 the dream fell flat. From a few bits of financial reporting scattered across the web I gleaned that the closing was only meant to be temporary, for maintenance lasting just a few months. The cowboys would return from their sojourn in the desert soon, and all would be as it was; bean cans roasting on the open fire, buffalo haunches glazed with wild honey, shootouts and harlots and horse-riding galore. But that didn’t happen, or hasn’t happened yet.” Michael John Grist
Eric aka Scruffy the Cowboy http://www.scruffythecowboy.com/ worked there and said this:
Mr.Ominami was great man. The story that we all heard about the Western Village was there was a town in Arizona named Old Tombstone, he went there with his father.
His father made a lot of money in the copper industry. They owned copper mines in the mountains so they opened up a Western Village as a rest stop for guests going to the hot spring well. Main performance stage that you walked on and picked up the pistol and walk through the saloon doors this stage is very special stage, this stage rotates 360° it was the first stage in Japan to rotate. I helped design the haunted house.
The church of the Western Village is an actual church from the state of California. It was moved to West Village piece by piece back together again. Western Village was used as a backdrop for many movies, commercials, TV shows, and music videos.” Eric Anderson
This rather awesome music video was filmed there: The Captains - Tsukishin Romance
The unassuming frontage conceals a creaking, rustling ghost town, virtually untouched for 10 years.
View of the town square, from the Buffalo Stadium. There were crash mats under balconies, for cowboy stunts.
Gravestone of Wild Bill Hickock
When I first entered I was a little nervous – there were noises, I didn’t know if anyone else was here. After a few empty buildings, I started to relax. Of course, I knew there were animatronic figures, but I didn’t know where they were. Even though I was expecting to see them, it was still a surpise. I flinched every single time.
Marilyn Monroe in a bubble bath, on a bed, in a jail cell
Just when I thought I’d seen all the robots, this lady scared the heck out of me
Hey look, it’s Mount Rushmore!
This is taken from the viewing seats, now completely overgrown
Inside the mountain the plaster is wet and crumbling
The museum, which was dark, is filled with human sized teddy bears
Wells Fargo stage coach
Yes, she can