Thursday, January 10, 2013

Japanese Village, Buena Park - October 1973

Not far from Knott's Berry Farm and Movieland Wax Museum, you once could find a fun little park called Japanese Village. JV was a beautiful little oasis in the middle of Buena Park; formal gardens, koi ponds, doves, deer (of course), and more. There were also a number of animal shows, performing seals, dolphins, bears, and more. How about a demonstration of martial arts? They had that too, I'm guessing at least partly due to the popularity of Bruce Lee, and the movie "Billy Jack". Here's a great photo at a tori gate, obviously placed there for pictures like this.

By the time these photos were taken in 1973, Japanese Village only had about two more years before it would close. It had a brief return (with a number of changes) as "Enchanted Village", which opened in 1976 and closed only a year or so later. 


Rich T. said...

Really wish I'd visited this place before it vanished.

Wouldn't it be great if that guy in the second shot didn't actually have any bird seed in his hands, but was simply in the middle of trying to discuss something serious...

Anonymous said...

Second pic looks like Kevin Spacey waiting for Keyser Söze.

Was there a significant Japanese population in Buena Park for this to be a popular attraction? We lived in Colorado Springs for several years, and they had a "sister city" relationship with Fujiyoshida, Japan that included a tori gate in our downtown that celebrated the international connection.

Bill in Denver

K. Martinez said...

Nice first pic. Sadly this is one of those places I missed as well. There's something special about the smaller parks from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Major Pepperidge said...

Rich T., ha ha! Now I can't help seeing the guy's expression as a sort of Jack Benny "take"!

Bill, I just like saying "Keyser Söze". Regarding the origins of JV, a pamphlet says: "On a business trip to Japan, Allen Parkinson, founder and director of Movieland Wax Museum, filled a desire of many years when he visited the world-famous deer park in Nara. As he strolled the ground he began to think of the great fun an authentic Japanese Deer Park would give the people of America".

K Martinez, it must be hard for a small park to survive in today's economy, unfortunately. I feel lucky to have seen some of the lesser-known examples in SoCal.

Melissa said...

There were probably a good number of ex-servicemen who had been stationed in Japan after the war and maintained an interest.

Anonymous said...

Good point Melissa.
Those little parks just don't exist today, and it is a loss for all. Now everything is sponsored before it even opens, so it would probably be "International House of Pancakes Japanese Village" today.

Bill in Denver

Anonymous said...

We visited here once. I remember it as a fun visit, there wasn't much to do, as I recall, except feeding the animals. Deer, mostly and the koi fish. There may have been some exhibits about Japanese culture or history, but I don't remember.

The deer were very tame, you were let into the enclosure by an attendant and deer came right up to you seeking food. They would let you pet them as long as you had something to eat, but when or if your hand was empty, off they went.

The food of various types was vended out of machines similar to gumball dispensers, all coin operated. I don't remember any human food service or gift shops etc. It was a long time ago, sorry.

Mom didn't care for it since the deer enclosure wood chips also contained a good deal of deer dung, which adhered to our shoes. Also, the deer slobbered on your hands, so that was fun too.


Rick West said...

The death knell for this park was at the end when Six Flags took control of it. There was some sort of deer virus outbreak and most of the deer had to be euthanized; it was REALLY ugly and very public.

Unknown said...

What was nice about this small park was that it WAS so quiet! The post before Rick Quest by Anonymous was right on for what all there was to do. I think there may have been a small train ride or something, but not much for kids. For awhile in the late 60's, it was a very popular spot for weddings.
I remember how sad it was when the deer virus outbreak happened. My parents said it was tuberculosis, but I don't know about that for sure. The park never did recover.

Unknown said...

It was a very nice, quiet park. Part of the draw was Japanese performers and the deer. There may have been a small train that circled the park, but I'm not sure.
What Anonymous said above Rick West is really true - the deer were super tame. Alot of weddings in the late 60s were done there as well, for awhile, it was "the place" for your wedding.
I remember how sad the whole virus thing was that Rick West mentioned. My parents said it was "tuberculosis," but I'm not sure. I just know they had to put the animals down and close.
Now it's all just houses and strip malls. :(

Major Pepperidge said...

therickdude40, I have heard about the supposed tuberculosis outbreak, but something about it seems fishy to me. "We HAD to kill them, they had tuberculosis!". Hmmmm. Maybe I am just a suspicious dope, but I think it was just cheaper and quicker to put the deer down.

Ken S.: said...

The photo is actually of the entrance to the former Japanese Village at Sea World San Diego