Travel Around the World Without Leaving Japan

 A nursing home for the elderly & the handicapped sits adjacent to a run down replica of the Great Wall of China. Welcome to Taiyo Park. 

Located in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Taiyo Park is an expansive park of replicas of famous architecture and statues 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, almost abandoned, version of the world! 

Created by a philanthropist with a vision to help people in need, 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. 

According to the Taiyo Park homepage, there are three purposes for the park. 

1. To allow people with disabilities or difficulties with travel, the feeling of traveling the world. 
2. To create a tourist destination that encourages empathy & awareness of people with disabilities. 
3. To create employment for people with disabilities. 

So, entry to the park is not only a ticket for a round-the-world trip, but is contributing to the welfare and employment of people with disabilities. 

Your trip around the world includes destinations such as France, USA, Mexico, Easter Island, Egypt, China, Micro Polynesia, Japan, and Germany.

The replicas are all slightly (or significantly) shabby and run down. The Great Wall of China is overgrown with weeds and the Pyramids have turned slightly black with age. Inside the small Micro Polynesian huts, hang yellowed pictures of the park’s founder with local people. Touches like this allow us to see that this park was truly one guy’s dream and life work.

Perhaps the park had a different atmosphere when it was shiny and new, but these days, this park in the middle of rural Himeji, is deeply absurd and eerie. 

Recently, presumably in an attempt to attract a younger crowd, the castle replica was fitted with several floors (yes, you heard correctly) 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, and is frankly worth skipping if you are only interested in the weird side of the park.

Taiyo Park makes an excellent addition to a day trip to Himeji. Open 9-5 every day. Adult tickets ¥1,300. Best accessed by car.
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Caitlin Frunks