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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

LEGO Stadium In Tochigi-ken

It always ticks me off when I discover a new place to visit and find out that a) it was built after I was last there, and b) it's closed before I get a chance to go there and see it.

Such is the case of Nasu Highland Park LEGO Stadium located a few kilometers of where I lived in Japan.

I lived in Japan between 1990 - 1993. A long time when you are in your 20s, and a long time ago when you are in your 40s.

My home was in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken... I had a three- bedroom LDK apartment with two balconies... the north one faced the Nasu mountains - about 10 kilometers away.

Okay... I should clarify things... while the Nasu Highlands Park remains open, the LEGO land is closing.

I'm not one for rides unless I can overpay at Tokyo Disneyland, so me not going on the amusement park rides at the Nasu Highlands is no biggie. But the LEGO land - that I would like to see!

However, back in 2001 when attendance was down at the amusement park, Zenimura Shoji (surname first), a director at the Towa Nasu Resport Company was thinking of ways to get more people to come.

The park is situated on Mt. Chausu - an active volcano in the range. Active volcano/ Near an amusement park?  

Okay...  while the volcano is indeed active, it is not not tremendously. There's steam being vented slowly through the sides, but there is no lava pool forming in an exposed crater for kids to fall in. It's a mountain that looks like a mountain. I'm sure that where the park is, it's not steaming...  still... a  volcano doesn't know that there's an amusement park nearby when it decides to explode! Who will save the LEGO bricks from melting?! 

Newsman talking to Jeffrey the Toys R Us Giraffe asking how it feels to be screwed by all of the LEGO stores.
Zenimura used to play with LEGO as a kid, and thought that a LEGO-based attraction might do the trick. LEGO World was set up in 2002 and it proved to be popular.  

Who knew that Japan could make money from a children's toy or situation? (Godzilla, Pokemon, Nintendo, Sony Playstation, anime, manga, etc.).

In 2003 Zenimura then created a LEGO museum which was an outstanding success. This led to the LEGO Exposition which caused the LEGO displays to out grow its current locale on the second floor of a building...

By March of 2005, LEGO Stadium was built... it's not a stadium per se, but rather what the Highlands calls its building housing all of the LEGO constructs. At that time, it was the largest LEGO collection in Japan and saw well over one-million visitors come to see the Danish brick constructs.

The LEGO Stadium consisted of two joined pavilions (rooms), with each having several areas devoted to different genres, like Star Wars, Harry Potter, dinosaurs, insects, Atlantis and more. There was regular LEGO and kiddie-friendly DUPLO, and visitors were allowed to build away. I doubt you could take home what you built, but often there were experts around to offer advice on building techniques.       
LEGO Hagrid & Harry Potter - life-sized.

Of course, what sort of a place would it be if there was not also cityscapes of landmarks from around the world, like Japan's Shibuya, Asakusa, Tokyo Tower and more, as well as New York's Time Square, European villages, a stupidly large space shuttle and command center featuring visitor camera controls to get close-up looks of the shuttle...  

There' were zoo animals, minimalist furniture, robots, a LEGO Mona Lisa painting (image at the very top) - there was plenty to see... but not any more.

LEGO Stadium closed in August of 2011. Now all that exists at Fantasy Pointe Nasu Highland (it's full name), are amusement park rides, a stupid mascot, and other stuff I would only care about was if I was there with a woman, and if I thought that by acting like I loved it, it would help me get laid.

Anyhow, if you, as a guy, might get laid by taking a woman to such a place, well, there's a pedal-powered monorail, a fake lake for fishing, twin roller coasters - actually, there are nine roller coasters in total. Big Boom does go vertical in a drop to create that weightless feeling riders seem to like.

I'm unsure about this, but it appears that should you catch a stocked fish in the man-made lake, you can have your girlfriend gut and clean the fish for you so that you can BBQ it right there at the lake, annoying a lot of other luckless fishermen and their hungry dates or families. Perhaps the BBQ is powered by the thermals from the volcano?    

Anyhow... if you want to go, I won't stop you. Here's the website (in Japanese):  

There's still some giant models of LEGO on display, but the LEGO Stadium is gone. Too bad. I heard they also had a fully-stocked store there.

I believe it is 1,500 for admission; and an additional 3,400 for a Fantasy pass that gets you on the rides. 

And because I still care about you, here's some directions: After going to Nasu-Shiobara shinkansen train station, go north one stop (I think) to Kuroiso-shi on the local JR (Japan Rail)O train line. From there, you take a bus to Nasu Highland. The bus journey is one hour-long, with only four trips a day beginning at 9:25AM with the last one at 3:30PM.  

Andrew Joseph

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