Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Haunted Amusement Park"

A friend called, saying they had heard about a new ride at the Seibu-en Amusement Park (erroneous information I think, but...) and floated the idea of going there next weekend, so after hanging up, I got the bright/stupid idea of going out there after work this evening - thinking that I could get there before they closed at 9:00 ("or 10:00 p.m. maybe..." thought I), to ask about ticket prices, availability(?) of discount advance sales tickets, etc.

Although I did make it there just before 21:00, it took a bit longer than I had hoped it would to get there. I had forgotten how many train transfers were required and how long I would have to wait for some of the small branch line trains to come. Stepping off the train at Seibu-Yuenchi Station, I noticed the low number of people at the station ("Is the amusement park that unpopular, or is it closed?"), walked through the ticket gates, turned left, and walked down a wide, empty path towards the entrance of the amusement park (which I now realized was definitely closed). As I walked, I realized there were a fair number of fallen dead leaves in the path, so I simultaneously pondered the evidence of autumn having arrived while I thought "You've got to be kidding me - it's just before nine and they've already closed the park?".

I reached the gates more quickly than I expected (confusing Seibu-Yuenchi Station with Seibu-en Station, which requires a bit of a hike). and looked through the gates....

Blackness! Blackness with a dim outline of completely dark amusement park structures within. It was striking for three reasons - a) not only was the park closed, but it had obviously been closed for some time, b) I had never in my life seen a completely dark amusement park before, and c) in Tokyo it's very difficult to escape electric lights. The reason I always hear for the love of florescent tubes in this country is that things were dark and bad after the war, so people have (over)compensated for their dislike of darkness by light-blasting the entire city. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of personal opinion I guess (ignoring wasted power on unneeded excess and the harshness on the eyes), but I think the lighting in Tokyo could generally be done a little better. That said, new construction has been headed in that direction, and many new places have sensible and pleasant lighting, but I digress....

I didn't stand there for long, but the feeling was as though I had stumbled upon some long-lost remnant of civilization strangely intact and devoid of living people. I should have stayed a little longer to observe the atmosphere and think about it, but I was tired and wanted to get home, so I rushed back and got on the same train I had come there on, jumping on just before it began its return trip.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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