Koga Family Land (thanks to weird transcription of the original Japanese also known as Kouga Family Rand) in Shiga has the reputation of being one of the most impressive and most documented abandoned places in Japan. Well, I guess it’s more correct to say it had that reputation, because of after more than 20 years of quiet decay this once so strangely beautiful place was torn down and ripped apart towards the end of 2008 – there are claims that the owners were worried about the dangers to people visiting the place, but I think they were more worried about the golfers having to deal with people walking on their private property along a street passing by several holes. Yes, the golfers. Koga Family Land is located in the southern part of a country club, surrounded by mountains from all other sides – the only way to get there (without sliding down some hill as described later…) is by passing through the same entrance the pink polo shirts wearing men in their best years are using. No problem while the park was open, big problem now.
So after I hiked along a country road for a few kilometers I reached the country club and walked along the street surrounding the golf course to get to Koga Family Land – or what I hoped was left of it. After about five minutes a friendly young man in a golf kart asked me to leave: Private property. Although my knowledge of Japanese is little of course I understood what he wanted. And even pretending not to, claiming in English that I’m just a hiker that lost his way, didn’t help. He insisted on me leaving. So I went back to the country road and followed it for a few kilometers in hope I could find some kind of back entrance to the KFL – without success. On my way back I heard some golfers and saw a steep slope and a little river separating me from the country club. Well, if you don’t let me in using the front, I have to use the side.
So after a fun but slightly dangerous slide down and finding a ford through the river (okay, it was a small river…) I was finally back on the property of the country club. After hiding from the golfers for quite a while I was like “Screw it!” and walked right across the golf courses – since I lost orientation and only assumed where the remains of the park could be I had to take measures into my own hands. The result was quite a few disturbed faces clearly displaying one question: “Who the f* is that f*ing foreigner and what the f* is he doing here?!” To my surprise no security people showed up and it seemed like the golfers were way too scared of me to approach me. After about 15 minutes I disappeared along an asphalted way to the south – I finally found some signs of the park. Or at least I thought so.
It took me another half an hour to find actual remains of Koga Family Land as the rumors on the internet proved to be right: It was almost completely destroyed. At first I only found some moorings and small piles of garbage (one with the seat of a merry-go-round) – and a confusing maze of ways. No signs, no buildings, no rides. Just nature taking back an area that once was an amusement park. Luckily two of the park’s buildings were not made of the light materials usually used in Japan – they were made of concrete and I guess therefore too expensive to be torn down. And who would come to see two buildings when you know that there was a whole park once? Well… I would!
Sadly enough exploring those two buildings was not nearly as exciting as finding them.
The first one I saw (and entered) was a souvenir shop, the price lists still on the wall. Filled with all kinds of signs from the golf course and the former theme park it was in pretty bad shape – especially the cafe part of it, where the wallpapers were molding and falling off the walls.
The second building seemed to be a restaurant once with quite a big dining room / photo exhibition hall on the first floor and a pretty stuffed second floor – including a kitchen, all kind of furniture, rotting blankets and pictures painted by kids.
What I love about abandoned places is finding elements of daily life, so I was very happy to take pictures of an empty soda bottle. It’s the little things that make certain visits worth!
After leaving the second building I strolled around in the area with high hopes to find more remains of park, but I was diappointed. So I went back to street surrounding the country club I was hiking along for five minutes some hours ago. This time no guy in a golf cart showed up to give me a ride to the main street. Which turned out to be very good for me as I stumbled across another abandoned building on my way out – belonging to the country club and way more interesting than the KFL buildings. But that, dear reader, is a story for another time…