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A nursing home for the elderly and people with disabilities sits adjacent to a run down replica of the Great Wall of China. Welcome to Taiyo Park.
Taiyo Park is situated in a remote and little-known part of rural Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture. It's an expansive, unexpected park with replicas of famous and wondrous landmarks from around the world. From China’s Terracotta Army to the Egyptian Pyramids, to Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, you can travel around an eerie, run-down version of the world.
The story behind the park is as interesting as the park itself. The park was created by Kenzo Kenguchi, a philanthropist with a vision to help people in need. The idea is to allow people who have difficulties with travel the feeling of travelling the world, as well as encourage awareness of, raise money for, and provide employment for people with disabilities. Mr Kenguchi passed away in 2015, and there is a monument in the park dedicated to its founder which declares "I will be reborn seven times to help unfortunate people with bodily, mental or economic difficulties, and to contribute to the peace of humanity."
Now the park is run by the staff and residents of the on-site nursing home. Here, the residents can take a stroll around the world before lunchtime, if they so desire.
Your trip around the world includes famous destinations in France, the United States, Mexico, Easter Island, Egypt, China, Micro Polynesia, Japan, and Germany. There’s the Moai of Easter Island, the Arc de Triomphe, the Statue of Liberty, Thailand’s leaning buddha, and ancient Incan and Mayan civilizations.
However, the replicas are all slightly—or in some cases, significantly—shabby and worse for the wear. The Great Wall of China is overgrown with weeds and the Pyramids have turned slightly black with age. Inside the small Micro Polynesian huts, yellowed pictures of the park’s founder and local residents hang on the walls. You can tell that the park was truly one man’s dream and life’s work.
Recently, presumably in an attempt to attract a younger crowd, the Neuschwanstein Castle replica was fitted with several floors of 3D trick-art—you know, the kind where you stand on the image and it looks like you’re surfing or jumping across a cliff. This aspect of the park seems to be the main attraction for most people but is far from the most interesting part of this bizarre scene.
The park is open 9-5 every day. Adult tickets are ¥1,300. The park is most easily accessed by car, however, a public bus from Himeji Station is available. Ask the English speaking staff at Himeji station’s information centre for details.