Once known as the Kinugawa Ranch (ウエスタン村), it was built around 1973. At that time, it was a very simple place where people could enjoy cowboy-like kind of activities. His owner, a local named Ominami-san, mentioned in an article that “the purpose in life is not to earn money but to make dreams come true” and that is basically what he did. The ranch became a real theme-park in 1975 and was properly named: Western Village.
Located next to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, it can be easily reached from Tokyo on a one-day trip. Therefore, I had multiple occasions to visit this haikyo, as I had a chance to be around many times.
The entrance is barely protected and has many entrances which made it easy for anyone to come here and play. The owner probably stopped caring about trying to keep its new tourists out. A river split the Western Village into two different distinct parts. The first is the actual village, extremely Far-West looking with its barber, bank, prison, saloons… everything can be found here, it is like a movie set.
Crossing the river by a cranky old bridge, I realized that it probably was the Rio Grande. A bit unsettling but there was also a range of guns on the side on the river. The mexican side actually seemed to still be like the Far West, but it was really interesting as well. Many palm trees and a dense vegetation made it wilder and there are many houses and barns in the middle. I followed there a railway that goes around the area and found two old SL trains that can be seen in the rear of the park.
Ominami-san made his park grow every year, to the detriment of being profitable. In 1995, he even added a copy of the famous Mount Rushmore to the Western Village, seemingly on an impulse. Today, the small thematic park is completely forgotten. From time to time, tourists driving around the area of Nikko get surprised by this Japanese version of the Mount Rushmore that appears only for one second and they have to stop and come back to make sure it was not a hallucination!
The park closed in 2007.
- 1973 – 2007