Haikyo – Biwako Tower Revisited
Biwako Tower was one of the first haikyo I visited in Japan and I probably wouldn’t have returned if Florian hadn’t wanted to go and take some photos after we left the nearby love hotel haikyo.
Yet I’m glad I did as this extended return visit turned up quite a lot more information about the history of the place as well revealing several things I missed on my first (brief) visit.
I also got a perfect answer to the question I was left with after my last visit – Why did they call a huge ferris wheel ‘Biwako Tower’ ?
Well the answer is very simple and logical – because there used to be a tower, but it (along with the rest of what was quite a big theme park) has long since gone.
Approaching the site everything looked just the same as it did before, the familiar tattered ‘Fantasy Land’ awning and fortune tellers booth, behind them the wheel itself was still an undeniably imposing and incongruous sight squeezed between a car park and a golfing centre on the lakeside.
The first new find was the old ticket booth hidden away in the undergrowth that I only found crossing the fields to try and get enough distance to get a full shot of the wheel.
Next up was the ‘Bumper Boat’ pool, which for some reason I didn’t really photograph before (though I do remember making an ill-advised attempt to get on one of the boats last time – and giving up after about 2 seconds). The soft sun dappled on the water, breaking and scattering with the ripples, the light dancing on the drowned victims of the past – it’s the dirty beauty of images like that are one of the great pleasures of haikyo exploration.
All this constitutes the easily accessible ‘outer area’, but this time we found a gap in the fence and managed to get into the ‘inner area’ much closer to the wheel than before. From the outside it hadn’t looked like much, but I was surprised how much more there was inside.
A broken necked dragon, a toppled tower and the remains of a children’s railway lay scattered in the grass.
The small outbuildings were a fast food stand, toilets, a control office and the (inaccessible) mechanical drive works.
(The kanji below read ‘chu-i’ meaning ‘Take care’ or ‘Be careful’ – one of the first things I learnt to read in kanji as you see it so often).
It was inside the small office where we discovered these promotional leaflets from two different periods of the park’s history.
On the (older) one on far left, the original Biwako tower is clearly visible, though in the (top right) park overview from that time the wheel has yet to be built. Behind the park, right down to the lake, there is a green belt that just isn’t there any more, and which has all but vanished by the time of the second leaflet being produced. Exactly how much time elapsed between the two I don’t know, but as well as the wheel several new buildings have popped up. I couldn’t believe that the park had been so big, the tower, the roller coaster and pretty much everything else has gone without leaving a trace.
At the height of its popularity there had been a lot of attractions here.
Why they decided to leave the wheel all alone long after everything else had been torn down is still a mystery, but it certainly stands as a monument to what was here. On the boarding platform, where the old metal creaks and groans, the vines are beginning to crawl up the steps and the sea of feathered grass is licking at the fence. Between the gondolas there are glimpses of the rice fields that were there before any of this (and will probably be there long after) and I’m reminded again that sooner or later nature always reclaims.
To see the gallery of these images click here.
For environmental and resource reasons, much of the facility was dismantled, but the Ferris wheel remains as there are plans to reopen it. The site was bought by an opportunistic real estate company in 2007 for a song, and they announced that they would reopen it in 2008. That plan never came to fruition, possibly because of the economic slowdown/financial crisis, but it is currently still in “operation” — the former operator of the plant has been retained by the current owner to manage the wheel, and it is put into operation once a month.
August 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm
Interesting, thanks for the that.
The fact that it’s still in an operational state makes sense as you can see red warning lights on it at night that are still illuminated.
If you don’t mind me asking, where did you hear about the plans to reopen it from?
August 14, 2011 at 1:24 am
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