The abandoned Western Village Theme Park, Japan. Picture: Supplied

While exploring Japan in 2016, Parisian photographer Romain Veillon discovered the eerily deserted “Western Village” amusement park, themed around 1800s America.

Veillon’s photographs of the Western Village are unsettling shots of a neglected theme park. But for the French photographer, it’s not about being scared — or creating creepy photographs.

Every abandoned place tells a story, he says. Wandering around a deserted spot, your mind brims with questions — and the fact these questions are often unanswerable makes the place even more intriguing, as you try to fill the gaps.

The park has been abandoned since 2007.

A section from the Western Village theme park. Picture: Supplied
While travelling Japan, Veillon visited a couple of abandoned theme parks, including Nara Dreamland — a failed amusement park that took on a post-apocalyptic vibe in its later years. It was finally demolished in 2016.

The Western Village, however, is still standing. Built in 1975, it’s been abandoned since 2007.

“Since then, it became famous for photographers and explorers who love to get lost in time in this incredible out of time location,” says Veillon.

There’s a Mount Rushmore replica in the park.

Mount Rushmore at Western Village Theme Park. Picture: Youtube

Gradually the park fell into disarray, unable to compete with Disneyland or Universal Studios.

The Wild West Saloon from the Western Village Theme Park. Picture: Supplied

During his visit, Veillon spent several hours wandering the park and surveying its state: “You have time to think with no rush, and also the time to photograph the place to show what you think of being there and how you translate it,” he says.

One of the eeriest aspects of the park is that it’s still home to automatons and teddy bears — these forgotten, already quite creepy, robots take on a nightmarish feel when seen in such dilapidated surroundings.

Veillon spent several hours wandering the park.

"It was very peaceful and very unreal,” he adds. “Peaceful because when you visit Japan, there are many people everywhere and in one instant you arrive in an abandoned theme park all alone, and you first enjoy being by yourself.”

He compares the experience of exploring an abandoned spot as akin to time travelling or “being alone in a forgotten museum.”

Not everyone approves of photographing abandoned places — the legality of it can be uncertain, and some feel that “ruin porn,” as it’s sometimes nicknamed, is unsavoury. The more popular a spot becomes for ruin photographers, the more security is increased and the future of the park comes into question.

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