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Worst tourist attraction in Japan?

senseiman

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What is the worst tourist attraction you have been to in Japan? I'd like to share my own story and see who can top it.

My worst tourist attraction would have to be the Hattoji Dam recreational park in rural Okayama. My wife and I were staying at an international villa for a few days nearby and we found this brochure for the dam complex. It was full of pictures of lots of attractive happy people swimming on an artificial lake, riding peddle boats shaped like ducks and having a good time. Normally a dam isn't my idea of a good place to visit, but we wanted to go for a swim, so we decided why not.

When we got to the place, the first thing we realized was that the pictures in the brochure were all taken about 10 years ago when the park opened. We showed up on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but didn't find any happy attractive people. Or any disgruntled ugly people for that matter. There was a huge parking lot full of waste high weeds growing through the cracks in the asphalt but not a single car. We went up to the reception building, a huge 3 story complex, and found that it was completely deserted save for one lonely person working in in the coffee shop, which had no customers. She seemed quite surprised to see that someone had actually come in and was even more taken aback when she found out that we weren't there just to ask directions, but to actually use the recreation park!

We asked what we could do, and she suggested renting some bicycles and going for a ride around the lake. My wife asked about the paddle boats, but was told they were not available at the moment, so we agreed to pay the 500 yen fee for the bikes instead. She gave us 2 keys and told us to go to the garage in the back of the building to choose some bikes.

The amount of cobwebs on the bikes told us that we may well have been the first people to ever actually rent them. We wiped the only two we could find without flat tires off and made our way towards the dam, which marked the start of the cycling trail.

The lake itself could have been not too bad looking even with the dam. It was surrounded by lush green mountains on all sides. Unfortunately the designers had decided that a cycling trail was absolutely necessary to the parks succes and this ruined the scenery completely. What could possibly be wrong with a little cycling trail, you may ask. If it were built by sane people, nothing. But the people who designed the Hattoji dam recreational park could never be accused of sanity. The cycling trail is built along a range of beautiful mountains, about 100-200 metres below the peaks. The engineers decided it would be a good idea to clear cut all of the forests on the mountainside located above the cycling trail and encase the remains in concrete to prevent landslides. As the cycling trail runs for several kilometres, this meant that about half a dozen mountains got buzz cuts and there isn't a single attractive peak left in the whole area! All this to protect a measly 2 metre wide track that nobody ever uses. What could have been a bicycle ride through a lovely forest was in reality about as appealing as a bicycle ride through a highway interchange.

Undaunted, we decided to follow the cycling trail to its finish, where there was a really nice beach according to the map we had. On the way, we saw the remains of the peddle boats, their dock half submerged in the lake and the boats covered in filth. When we arrived at the beach we found that it had been turned into one of Japan's many illegal dump sites, with piles of garbage littering the whole expanse. We decided to give swimming a miss and call it a day.

The whole experience was quite interesting. The two of us had a multi million dollar recreation park that was designed for our enjoyment entirely to ourselves and yet were not able to find a single thing in it that wasn't depressing, let alone enjoyable. It is hard to beat that level of incompetence, I really think these small towns have too much money on their hands!
 

Iron Chef

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Heh, that sounds like a pretty dissapointing experience indeed. I can't say i've had any particularly awful experiences with vacation spots/attractions per se, although I was dissapointed with many of the supposedly "famous" beaches I visited. Then again, after having lived in both California and Florida, I suppose I might be a bit jaded. 8-p
 

mdchachi

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Wow that's bad. I don't have anything that even comes close.

I really think these small towns have too much money on their hands!

I thought you said you read Dogs & Demons. It's not the towns or the country that has the money. The government is borrowing against the future in order to finance the Construction Economy.
 

tasuki

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That's appalling. Yet with the way people seem to go into business pele-mele, without researching their markets or business strategies in this country, it doesn't surprise me in the least.
 

senseiman

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I did read dogs and demons and stand corrected. I suppose what i meant was that these small towns are given too much borrowed money by the central government to build these ridiculous things.

The lack of research about the potential market for such a facility is really amusing. My personal theory is that when they built the dam the government alloted x amount of yen and when they realized they would have some left over, they decided to spend it all on the recreation park without bothering to ask anyone if they wanted a recreation park.

I see stuff like this all the time in Japan, though usually on a smaller scale. In just about every ugly neighborhood you find, there will probably be a big stature, monument, park or something else the government built that seems to serve no purpose. You can sort of guess the sequence of events that led to its being built. First, there was a nieghborhood that was blighted by overdevelopment and the residents started to complain to their politicians about it. The politicians wanted to be seen to be doing something to improve the neighborhood but were incapable of doing anything constructive like introducing building regulations or planting trees or anything. So they did the only thing they know how, hired one of their construction firm buddies to build some contrived piece of 'art' to spruce up the nieghborhood. So the end result is that everyone still lives in an ugly neighborhood, only now they have an ugly statue to go with it.
 

optimus prime

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in my opinion, the worst tourist attractiona in Japan are the temples/shrines. I have a lot of respect for the traditional culture, but really, once you've seen one temple, you've seen them all.
 

tasuki

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optimus
You could say that of European castles, churches, and vineyards, mid-eastern temples, heck any fall, lake, or valley anywhere in the world... Temples are not a bad tourist attraction; seeing too many at any one time is what jades you to visiting them (having visited about 30 castles in 6 weeks in Europe in 1990 jaded sure jaded me... Same when I visited Nara and Kyoto in the same new year vacation a couple of years back).

senseiman
Even though this may be a bit off the original topic, I find that lack of market research not only applies to construction, but to every facet of business in Japan... As a small scale example, there's this locale close to where I live that has seen 3 ramen shops go bankrupt in the last 4 and a half years. The fourth opened just a few days ago. I wonder just how long this one is going to last... The location sucks, there's no parking, the street where it's located is rather fast, so people don't stop, there is close to no pedestrian traffic; yet, the guy(s) who opened this latest disaster waiting to happen got money to renovate the place from a bank with all the tools at its fingertips to check the building's history... And after that we wonder why Japanese banks go bankrupt!
 

tasuki

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Well, there you go. I found my visits to temples in Japan very enjoyable, if boring after seeing 10 in a row. I think there are definitely worse blights in terms of tourist attractions, but that's me.
 

Mandylion

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(wish I had courage to make unquantifiable blanket statements too)

I have never been fond of Japanese zoos, and I can think of one minor castle near me that is pretty bad if it were not for the sheer strangeness of it.

Giant stuffed fish. I shall say no more.
 

tasuki

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Originally posted by Mandylion
(wish I had courage to make unquantifiable blanket statements too)

Meaning?

Mount Fuji is definitely at the top of my list of worst places to visit. From a long way off, it's nice, but climbing it is a real heartbreak. It's filthy!

Also, the cheezy museums and theme parks all over the land... The angel and Christams museums in the Fuji 5 lakes area... The Sanryo theme park in Tama... The doll museum in Yokohama... Oh, and let us not forget a major tourist attraction for Japanese going to and from Yamanshi on the highway--the Dangouzaka rest area!
 

senseiman

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Optimus,
I think Japanese temples and shrines are about the only thing left in the country worth seeing. I could see how you would get tired of them if you saw them all though. Getting a moderate dosage of something is the key to its enjoyment.

Tasuki,

I liked your story about all the Ramen shops in one area going bust not stopping people from opening more Ramen shops. A similar thing happened in my town, only with drug stores. The lack of foresight and common sense in business planning is sometimes astounding here. Same with airports, Osaka built a huge one 10 years back that is now completely bankrupt and on the verge of sinking into the ocean. So instead of learning a lesson about not building unnecesary stuff, they've decided to sink more money into expanding it and Kobe has decided to build its own airport about 40 minutes away. They are certainly gluttons for punishment.

Seems to me the main problem with Japanese tourist attrations is that they have nothing to do with Japan. Like Tokyo Disneyland, USJ, Haustenboss etc. Why would anyone in their right mind want to pay money to see a second rate Japanese version of something when they could see the real thing in Europe or the US for less cost?
 

mdchachi

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> in my opinion, the worst tourist attractiona in Japan are the temples/shrines.
> I have a lot of respect for the traditional culture, but really, once you've seen one temple, you've seen them all.

I get your point but since these don't function primarily as tourist attractions -- most of them anyway -- I don't think they really count.

> Mount Fuji is definitely at the top of my list of worst places to visit.
I don't know why people diss Mt. Fuji so much. I climbed it twice and didn't find it all that dirty. Certainly nothing compared to the beach at Enoshima. And the vistas and unique Martian-like landscape not to mention the effort made it all worthwhile. (I can say that now that I've had the years to dull my pain :)
 

tasuki

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mdchachi
Well, I don't know about anyone else, but to me, Mt. Fuji being the only natural landmark worth seeing in Japan, as well as being it's symbol so to speak, you'd think that te government and people in general would do more to try to preserve it. The only reason why Mt. Fuji is not considered a World Heritage landmark is because it's filthy... But I can see your point about the Enoshima beach... Definitely not the kind of place I'd go for a tan... I'd rather do that in my apartment parking lot...

senseiman
Yeah, the Kobe airport story is just ridiculous. But the way I see it, with the Japanese economy going the way it does, if the Japanese government and industry continue doing things the way they've always done them, they're going to bankrupt the country...

My wife wants to go to Disney sea... I'm firmly against it... She thinks I suck, but I'm of the same mind as you. I'd rather spend the money on the most outrageously expensive sushi dinner than to go there...



Reading us ***** like this makes me wonder why we stay... :p
 
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Mandylion

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Tasuki- Read Optimus Prime's post. Your's got in before mine. Will of the computer gods. No offence to you indended.
 

senseiman

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That is true about the country going bankrupt because of all this useless building, I believe Osaka's government is bankrupt now because of all the money they have spent on useless developments projects designed to win the 2008 olympic bid. Probably a lot of other cities are going under because of all those world cup stadiums they built that now have no purpose. I saw on NHK news that one city is renting its 50,000 capacity stadium out for weddings, which shows how desperate they are for cash.

I've never bothered to go to mount Fuji because of the garbage and the crowds, but I am an avid hiker. Its much more enjoyable to find some mountain trails that are out of the way and don't have thousands of tourists messing them up every day. I'm fortunate enough to live near some mountains like that, I go hiking a couple times a month and just enjoy the quiet and the scenery.

Disney Sea? My god. Hope you can get out of that one. My wife has never expressed an interest in going to any of these theme parks, knock on wood.

This bitching certainly does raise the question of why we stay. Personally, I stay because I know that for every ruined landscape or historical spot in Japan there are several that are still worth visiting, although they are smaller, more isolated and harder to find. Trying to find an attractive pleasant spot here is a real challenge, but that is part of the fun and makes you enjoy and appreciate the place that much more.
 

tasuki

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Mandylion
None taken. I was just wondering...

Senseiman
Lucky for you to be living near montains. I miss it so much since I left Yamanashi to come to Tokyo (BIG mistake!)...

As for Disney Sea... She's pregnant, so I can always use that to my advantage... 😄
 

Maciamo

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That's delightful to read you all. 👍

Originally posted by senseiman
IThe politicians wanted to be seen to be doing something to improve the neighborhood but were incapable of doing anything constructive like introducing building regulations or planting trees or anything. So they did the only thing they know how, hired one of their construction firm buddies to build some contrived piece of 'art' to spruce up the nieghborhood. So the end result is that everyone still lives in an ugly neighborhood, only now they have an ugly statue to go with it.

Hehe. That's the Japanese definition of "constructiveness" ; it must be related to construction :D

I saw on NHK news that one city is renting its 50,000 capacity stadium out for weddings, which shows how desperate they are for cash.

Was that for the Korean sect of Moon ? They like mass wedding. 50.000 people seem a fair number. :p

This bitching certainly does raise the question of why we stay.

Japan is not just mountains and nature (or concrete).
I enjoy living in Japan for the food, climate (except muggy summer, and it has just started today !), people, social life, safety anywhere you go, convenience of Tokyo and many other things. As I am originally from the countryside, I don't really miss the nature in Tokyo.
 

Maciamo

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Originally posted by tasuki

As for Disney Sea... She's pregnant, so I can always use that to my advantage... 😄

Congratulations future daddy ! When is the baby dued ?
 

tasuki

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Beginning of October. Or thereabout. First ones are always a bit late, so I'm told...

I didn't mean the bitching comment to be taken litterally, though. I'm surprised nobody picked up on this. Yet, as I've heard countless times before and repeated myself countless times, if I were back home, I'd ***** just as much... just about different things. I'd ***** about the 12 feet of snow per winter that begins falling on you in November and doesn't disappear until the end of April... The -30 to -40C cold in December-January... The way supermarkets seem to be getting larger and larger and one seems to find less and less in them... etc., etc., ad nauseam... But I do tend find that "foreigners" (taken in the sense of non-native to their country of birth and residence; so this is not limited to us in Japan) always seem to find it easier to pick at their country of adoption...
 

senseiman

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Maciamo,
That is true, there is a lot more to enjoy about Japan than just the nature and cities. I've never even been to Tokyo though, so I don't know what it is like there.



Tasuki,

Congratulations and good luck with being a father!
I think you are right about complaining about wherever you are, I'm Canadian and the snow drives me crazy, which is one thing I like about Japan. The task of complaining is certainly made much easier by living in a foreign country because you have a standard in your home country you can use to judge your second country, and vice versa.
 

mdchachi

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> I've never bothered to go to mount Fuji because of the garbage and the crowds, but I am an avid hiker.

The second time I climbed it, it was a few days after the official climbing season ended. We saw only about a dozen other people on the whole mountain so it was more of a typical mountain climbing experience. Something to consider.
> Lucky for you to be living near montains. I miss it so much since I left Yamanashi to come to Tokyo (BIG mistake!)...
Well the mountains aren't that far from Tokyo. Get on the first train out of Shinjuku on any given weekend and you'll see tons of hikers rarin' to go. There's some nice trails in the Chichibu-Tama area.

> I enjoy living in Japan for the food, climate (except muggy summer, and it has just started today !)
The muggy summer might have just started but it was right after the muggy spring! I was just there in May/June and that was bad enough.

I'm glad I don't live in Japan anymore. It was a great place to spend my single twenties but I'm enjoying American suburbia on the edge of nature. We see rabbits, woodchucks and deer in our back yard daily. I do wish I could visit Japan more often.
 

tasuki

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I went to Chichi-bu a couple of times. If you want to make it worthwhile, it's a hell of a higaeri. Not the kind of thing I'd do every weekend. But you're right. But outside that, there's not much more. Yamanashi is not so far, neither is Nagano, but the highways... Anyway, it's definitely easier to do it back home or when you're in the Japanese coutryside, than from Tokyo...

senseiman
Thank you. Where from in good old KANADER? I'm from Quebec, so snow? 😭
 

senseiman

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mdchachi,

I'll have to think about visiting Mount Fujii towards the end of the season, thanks for the tip! Sounds like you have a nice place in the states now, someday I hope to 'retire' from Japan and pick up life in a Canadian suburb.

Tasuki,
I'm from Ottawa so I guess we have had a pretty similar experience of snow!

I think it is definetely easier to enjoy life in the countryside here. There is a big difference between being in driving distance of mountains and being in walking distance. I spent my first three years in Japan in the city and it got to be pretty depressing. But now I live in a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs of a small city and it is much nicer. Its great to be able to just stop what you are doing, hop on your bicycle and within a few minutes be at the start of a hiking trail that takes you through old growth forest, waterfalls and ancient temples. That is probably the main thing keeping me here!
 

neko_girl22

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I live in a small town in Kagoshima-ken Kyushu and it's the best! I would never go back to living in the city. In my view, that's not the real Japan.
It's sooo hot though now - 34.C everyday! and the humidity here is worse than Okinawa I am told. but it's better than being back in New Zealand where they're having a coooooold winter.

so far I haven't had a bad experience with tourist attractions as I tend to stay as far away from them as I can. A bunch of friends are trying to drag me to Tokyo Disneyland this summer, but... I don't believe it's worth the trip!
I think I might go to a tiny island off Okinawa instead.....;)
 
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