Parque Espana/Shima Spain Village: Japan's Spanish-Themed Amusement Park

 Japan loves themes. There are themed parks all over the country, some with amusement rides, some with activities, and some just with food.
 In Mie prefecture, a long way straight south of Nagoya, Shima village has an amusement park designed to look like a Spanish town... sort of.
 The top of the park, near the entrance, has a bunch of rides in a large plaza-like setting.
 The marquee attraction is this inverted coaster, Pyrenees,  that looks a lot like the Six Flags Batman rides in America. It's a unique layout, but I can't help but be reminded of the coasters back home.
 It actually goes lower than the ground, so they dug out a hole!
 Here's the entrance.. you'll see a lot of Pyranees in this post.
 The wide open plaza area has a few rides. On the day I went, the crowds were fairly light, and the large plaza looked empty.

 It's difficult to see what this is from this angle, but Gran Montserrat is a pretty fun mine train.
 It has two lift hills, side by side! I rode it a few times.
 A swinging ship! You don't see those very often at parks in Japan!

 The large plaza area has this building. There's some run-of-the-mill 3D show inside, but you can walk on top of it, and find...
 Another plaza! Amazing, huh? I'm not sure what the designers were thinking when they left so much open space here.
 There's a shot of the plaza area from the rooftop plaza. Pyranees is in the background.
 The first drop is pretty steep...
 And it goes right into a teardrop-shaped loop!
 There's a flume water ride here, which given the lack of shade is probably very welcome in the summer. And there's a train ride back there too!
 The park has a third coaster inside the building at this other very large plaza space. It's a bullfighting coaster and it, too, was fairly fun.
 This legend was lost on me...
 If you're hot, you can go into the ice castle! It's freezing in there... literally!
 Do you wish you could experience Christmas in July? Do you want to see nutcrackers while wearing shorts, like they do in Australia? Well, head on down to this dark ride...
 Hop in your little vehicle and enjoy the show!
 Merry Christmas! Is this image not doing it for you?
 How about animated twinkle Christmas tree!
 Heading down the "left" side of the park from the entrance, you start getting into the Spanish village theming.
 Here, the paths get narrower and have interesting cobblestone designs.
 Pretty flower!
 Each of these buildings has something to offer: a small museum, a shop, a restaurant...
 Things are very quiet in this portion of the park, and it's a good area to just relax and take a break.
 It's downhill from the entrance of the park to the end of the village, including this name small church.
 Behind the village is a storybook path...
 There are lots of recreated scenes from a story book. I'm not sure what some of them are. The story book is apparently a Spanish classic.
 There's a toad on the bump on the log that I found at the bottom of the sea.
 After riding the coasters, this portion of the park was like getting a little bit of culture and nature.
 The icy-cold blue wolf just wanted something to eat. I mean, I think you can see his ribs. The poor guy is starving to death!
 The bottom end of the park has a couple more rides. This was part of a water area that is being redone (note the bulldozer); the shipwreck is awesome, and I understand a boat took you into a dark ride.
 There are a couple other attractions in the buildings around the bottom of the park. This is Don Quixote's Magical Flight.
 It's another indoor dark ride wher eyou board flying boats as you travel across Spain.
 Exiting the ride, you find yourself in... another large plaza! The shipwreck from before is to the right of this photo. To the left is another walkthrough exhibit of sorts, called Chockey's Mystery House. It uses a lot of optical illusions and is a sort of fun house.
 Nothing to see here. Move along.
 Heading back toward the front along the park's loop, you come to this building, and nowhere else to go. So let's go inside, instead of going back.
 It's Escalator, The Ride! Instead of walking uphill back to the front, you can ride an escalator and be treated to a light and sound show. It was kind of fun, and I ended up stopping and watching for a few more minutes.
 Back near the top, the castle comes into view.
 Across from the castle is a collection of "ancient ruins" that sit on top of the building that houses the boat dark ride. There's nothing really cool there, but you can go inside the castle.
 Nothing to see here. Move along.
 The downstairs of the castle has two very large statue pairs. First, the king and queen.
 Then, a couple peasants. Go upstairs and see the exhibits!
 First, a model of a Spanish town. I guess the full-size model isn't good enough?
 There are the giant statues.
 A view of the castle's wall; the top of the escalator ride is inside the turret; the Don Quixote ride is in the building with the windmill.
 The exhibits inside the museum include lots of crafts and goods from Spain, including this pottery and tile work...
 Leather work (making saddles)...
 Guitar construction...
 More pottery....
 More pottery...
 And fabric making.
 There's a small exhibit with costumes from a flamenco dancing pair. I'm not really sure why they're here.
 That's about it for the park. This fountain is in the large plaza in front of the bullfighting coaster; the entrance is straight ahead through that covered walkway.
 Okay, there is a little more; a kid's area is inside one of the buildings with lots of activities for children.
 There are three rides inside, lots of games, and stage shows.
 Here's one of the carnival style games.
 Another view of the mine train and flume. The mine train coaster doesn't go very high, but it follows the ground closely and is pretty fun.
 I randomly saw a very small parade going through the streets in the afternoon.
 Nice costumes. But only one float?
 Pyrenees was fun. Really fun. It's intense, but not too much.
 Artsy "empty waiting train" shot.
 Artsy "lift hill" shot.
The covered area leading back to the entrance. There are lots of stores and a couple restaurants here.

Shima Spain Village has three shows: the parade which also involves a juggling/acrobatic act of some kind, a character show with some animated movies, and a flamenco show that requires same-day reservations to see.

The rides at Parque Espana are fun - Pyrenees is a great thrill ride and the other two coasters are worth riding at least a couple times each. The dark rides are entertaining, and the exhibits throughout the park are interesting and well-designed. But the place is huge for the number of attractions it offers. It takes a long time to walk from one end of the park to the other. And the number of attractions is another problem - there just isn't much to do.

The park needs more thrill rides. And family rides. I could imagine the park adding in a horse-themed motocoaster (similar to Pony Express), and some other inexpensive unique coaster. Toss in a half dozen new flat rides plus a kid's ride section, and the park would become worthy of a full day trip. In fact, with a great selection of unique rides, I'd certainly be all about visiting at least once a year, possibly more.

The same thing could be said for most parks in Japan, and I know I've said this before: it doesn't take very expensive super-large rides to draw in fans; something new, fun, and unique will attract customers. Japan has a lot of children, but the country is still getting older. The population has been stagnant for a decade, and with so many old people and a low birth rate, it will start decreasing soon.

Anyway, Shima Spain Village is about 2 hours 15 minutes from Nagoya, or under 3 hours from Osaka/Kyoto. That includes a shuttle bus ride to the park from Ugata Station on the Kintetsu line.

Admission is 4900 yen, or 6200 yen for a two-day pass (3200 yen for a two-day pass if you stay at the hotel). I'm not sure who'd need that, except for families with parents utilizing the spas while they send their kids off to play at the park. An afternoon ticket comes at a big discount: 2100 yen if you arrive after 2 PM (2900 yen after 4 PM during peak periods). Free admission on your birthday!

The park generally opens at 9:30, closing at 16:30, 17:00, or later depending on the season; the park closes for a few weeks in winter.

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