It's not easy being Hokkaido Greenland

In one of his stand up routines, Chris Rock talks about shopping malls: there's the mall white people go to, and the mall white people used to go to. Japan's amusement parks seem to follow a similar theme. There are the amusement parks people go to (Disneyland, Universal Studios, Fuji-Q) and the parks people used to go to (almost every other one). Japan saw a great period of growth in the bubble economy. New parks sprang up all over the place, and older ones expanded quickly. Unfortunately, many of those parks have since failed, and those that survive sometimes seem to be barely clinging on.

Many parks are doing okay, of course. During weekends and vacation times, the crowds pack in, and without any new development the loans get paid. But unfortunately, most of them haven't really added anything in years.
 Hokkaido Greenland is the "smaller" major park near Sapporo. Rusutsu has eight coasters and plenty of other exciting rides, while Greenland has several calmer, less expensive rides that were probably installed twenty years ago.
 That doesn't mean the park looks bad. Actually, it was kept pretty clean and everything seemed relatively well-maintained.
 Once I passed through the turnstiles, I was greeted by a very large plaza area. Several smaller attraction entrances are found right here.
 To the right is the largest Ferris wheel in Hokkaido, at 85 meters. That's pretty tall, but really the number of amusement parks in Hokkaido can be counted on one hand, and the number of major parks can be counted on half a hand.
 There is one fairly recent ride. I think this Roto-Shake was relocated from another park. A couple other rides might have been relocated as well. This was the most thrilling ride in the park, but it has been down for quite some time.
 The grounds are very spacious, but with almost nobody there on my visit (mid-September weekday) the extra space made it feel abandoned.
 After leaving the entry area, you can make a loop around the park. There are plenty of flats seeming quite lonely.

 The first coaster I came to is tangled in with a water ride that appeared to be open.
 It's themed like a mine train.
 Once you get up close you can see the ride. It's pretty standard.
 Despite the lack of crowds, almost every ride was open. Except the Roto-Shake, of course. I ended up trying many of them.
 There are also some putt-putt courses in a couple places. I think the park was designed with Roller Coaster Tycoon. The courses could use some re-turfing and possibly rebuilding. But they were still fun.
 Death machine! Here's another ride that might have been relocated. It has one loop and two corkscrews.
 I think it was plopped down on the hill. It stands all alone on the edge, although there is a plaza at the entrance with some more rides.
 RCT theming! This is a pretty neat booth.
 A view of the Roto-Shake from beneath. I hope they get this working again because I enjoyed the last one I rode.
 There are several small building attractions scattered around the park. I went in all of them, including the mirror house, an aquarium themed walkthrough, and a haunted house.
 There was an incline heading up to the the Ferris wheel which had several buildings. One of them had a game building with some crane games.
 I wanted to win some poo, but I settled for another prize.
 The next building has an arcade!
 There are games from the 1980s in here. Yes, that is Hang On, right in front.
 This looked fun. I wonder how difficult it is.
 A shooting game!
 I might have been able to ride this thing - I've never ridden one. But it was very windy, so I passed.
 I did check out the other haunted house across from it.
 On the hill behind the Ferris wheel, there's a long, tame-looking jet coaster. Unfortunately, it was closed, possibly due to the high winds. In fact, they warned me about the winds before riding the Ferris wheel. They were quite high, but it didn't cause too much shaking.
 The view was great, and the sun came out while I was riding the Ferris wheel. I really wish the Roto Shake had been working. It's the only ride at the park I would be able to ride over and over again and really enjoy myself.
 Here's the entry plaza. Roto Shake is just out of the picture to the right.
 You can see the flats and tons of open space.
 Look, the ride is operating! I think the maximum number of groups in the park at any point during my visit was around 12. I passed a few people occasionally, but I rarely got to see rides operating.
 See? Nobody's there!
 I wonder if you can slide down that blue thing to the bottom of the park.
 The yellow coaster is really spread out wide. I wish it had been open, so I could have checked all the coasters here off my list.
 What's that? Another coaster? this is a tiny kid's coaster that is built on the side of a hill. And there's a small pirate ship up there too.
 Another view of the plaza. Behind that is a lake with a trio of "transport" rides going around it.
 Oooh, someone's riding the swings! Look how windy it is.
 If you look closely, you can see the islands in the lake form the shape of Japan. Hokkaido is on the right, and Kyushu is on the left. There are two overhead rides, one with a red track and one with a white track, that go over or near the lake; also, a train makes a loop around it on the ground.
 The cars for the yellow coaster look like this. Or used to. I couldn't tell because it was closed.
 There are two go-kart tracks that travel under and through the yellow coaster's tracks. One is for solo riders, the other has two-seater carts. I was able to ride both of course, and being by myself I was able to stop quickly to snap shots along the course.
 That black and red looping coaster is on a nearby hill. Note the old Ferris wheel cars; they are scattered all over the park and you can go inside to relax for a while. On a cool windy day, they were a great place to take a break and eat a snack or check my phone. A couple of girls were hanging out in one for a while.
 It's sad that the looping coaster looks so nice. It's so painful!
 Heading to the very back of the park, far away from the entrance, there are a couple attractions. I didn't realize they existed until I rode the Ferris wheel. A few boats are available to take around another lake, and there's an out-and-back go-kart track.
 Back near the front, I caught some people on the train as it was passing around the lake. The island of Kyushu is right there. I think the major mountains of Japan are represented.
 I'm not too familiar with Japan's volcanos and mountains, but I'm sure that's Mount Fuji in the middle of the main island. I can't see Hokkaido in this photo.
 I tried almost every attraction once. Nothing was exciting enough for me to ride multiple times, though. And as I said, the park suffers from old-itis.
 It's fun for kids to ride a car along a track, and taking a spin over the lake or around the park gives the opportunity to take more photos.
 I wish the weather had been better; the park's rides with the mountains in the background give lots of photo opportunities.
 Look, someone's riding the torture wagon!
 Every time I think I've found a ride that has to be the most painful on earth, I come across another. And right now, this is the reigning champion. After one spin, I had a headache that lasted for hours.
 But it's so beautiful! Due to a lack of things to do, after riding everything I wanted once, browsing the shops, and taking a ton of photos, I was done after just two or three hours at the park. Had the Roto-Shake been open (or if the park had another comparable thrilling flat ride) I would have probably stayed all day. It's a great place for kids, though, or possibly on a date for Sapporo-ites.
The amusement park opens in late April through October, from 9:00-17:00. Admission is 1500 yen and a free pass is 3000 yen; there is no discount for buying the two together. In the winter, they do a "White Park" with skiing, though the attractions must be closed.

Access is through Iwamizawa; a discount ticket is available that includes round trip transit (Sapporo -> Iwamizawa -> park), admission and a free pass. Alternatively, you can take a train to Iwamizawa and the bus to the park. It takes about 60 to 90 minutes to get to the park from Sapporo.

Be sure to check the bus timetable before your visit, because they don't run very frequently; also note that if you want the discount combo ticket and you want to leave early in the morning, you should buy the ticket the day before from the Chuo Bus office at Sapporo Station.


  1. Wow... I'm usually intrigued by abandoned parks. But I sort of felt bad for these guys. I'm surprised they had all of those rides open with so few people in attendance. Hopefully they're packed during the summer... otherwise I've got to think that this is some sort of money laundering setup.

    1. It's been my experience that everywhere people go on days off (namely places like museums and amusement parks, but shopping malls too) in Japan feels empty and abandoned most of the time. Weekdays are the best days to do anything here. Sundays are really crowded, because almost everyone has the day off. So museums get massive lines. The malls and shopping areas become seas of shoppers. Amusement parks get massive lines.

      There are some amusement parks that are struggling, but it seems that the ones that are going to close are closed now. I also traveled off-peak, at the end of summer. It was a weekday workday with school in session, the weather was cold and windy, and there was an extra holiday either the week I went to the park or an adjacent week. I am sad to hear of some parks closing; there are some that were on my list when I came to Japan that don't exist anymore, having closed within the past five years.