Abandoned Niigata Russian Village theme park

In my recent explorations of abandoned buildings, I’ve been incredibly lucky to find the kinds of places that I find most fascinating; namely those that contain a lot of possessions and hints about the lives of those who once lived or worked in them. The old enka singer’s house in particular, and the long left kimono shop, offered tantalising tidbits of information about their past occupants. And to a certain extent even the old pachinko parlor, which as well as having an interesting story behind it, was almost completely intact.

None of which, it has to be said, I expected to find at the bankrupt and abandoned Niigata Russian Village. However, the lure of an accurate copy of Suzdal’s The Cathedral of the Nativity bizarrely nestled at the foot of the Gozu mountain range was eventually just too much. And how could it not be?

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

The lure for paying visitors, on the other hand, obviously wasn’t quite so strong, because after initially opening in 1993, it closed down for a while six years later due to the collapse of the bank supporting it. And if that wasn’t a good enough sign that it really wasn’t a good idea, another investor inexplicably ploughed yet more money into the park and promptly re-opened it for business. A period that was obviously even less successful than the first stretch, as it closed its doors again, and this time permanently, in April 2004.

But obvious mistakes aside, as a theme park and wedding venue, the complex must have been even more surreal in its heyday. And on a sunny day, really quite a sight.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Unfortunately, the whole village has since been violently and systematically vandalised, with very little of it left intact. A situation that needless to say is a genuine shame, as, left untouched, it would have been a truly fascinating place. Especially so once nature really started to take the buildings back.

But as it is, the cathedral is probably the least damaged part of the whole park.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Something that may, or indeed may not, have something to do with the big fella looking down from above.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Yet that’s not to say that there weren’t any photo opportunities; there were just less that’s all. And the huge fire that fairly recently ripped through the hotel did make for quite a stark, yet somehow still appealing, image.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Plus thankfully there was that firm favourite of all abandoned buildings, a telephone.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Along with a rare bit of strange beauty. A scene that, if it’s not a tad too over the top for a pair of old slippers, somehow encompasses a big part of what haikyo is all about. Combined with a possible hint of that wonderfully vague Japanese concept, wabi-sabi.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

But story wise, there isn’t a lot to tell. Or indeed to see. It was a bad idea that not surprisingly went bankrupt. There simply weren’t enough visitors. And those that did go, definitely didn’t go back.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Except perhaps until it had closed, because since then it has become a very different kind of tourist destination, with some of those visiting intent on a very different kind of day out.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

All of which was really rather sad.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Although there were still a few pleasant surprises. Such as a still intact mammoth.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Complete with the perfect kind of chair to view it from.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Plus this splendid bit of silliness to finish off with — a miniature woolly mammoth that was found in one of the function rooms. And fitted with a two-seater saddle, it must have been used to wheel the happy (and presumably happily bemused) new couple into the guest-filled post-ceremony party room. A sight that really must have been something to behold.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

Which in many ways makes Niigata Russian Village all the more depressing, as due to Japan’s economic bubble being long since burst, its stupidly optimistic sort will sadly never be seen again.

Abandoned Niigata Russian Village

No country for old (wo)men

Or maybe that should be ‘city’ as this image was taken in Tokyo. But either way, as unaccommodating as the capital can often appear for those well past pensionable age, with Japan’s population rapidly ageing, this is very much a photo of future days rather than former ones.

Japanese old lady

Shichi-Go-San sulk?

The tradition of Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three) goes back many years, and has also seen many changes, with the current practice involving kids of the required age getting all dolled up, going to a shrine, and perhaps most importantly posing for lots of pictures for the family as well as later with a pro.

Shichi-Go-San

All of which may well be fun for older family members, but for a three year-old, constant posing combined with a very uncomfortable kimono can also make for more than a few miserable moments.

Shichi-Go-San