Japan amusement park closes after 94 years to make way for Harry Potter

Kieko Uchida poses for a photograph with her husband and daughters against the backdrop of cherry blossoms in full bloom at Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo, Japan, in this handout photo taken 8 April 2000 and released by Kieko Uchida, obtained by Reuters on 29 August 2020.
Kieko Uchida poses for a photograph with her husband and daughters against the backdrop of cherry blossoms in full bloom at Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo, Japan, in this handout photo taken 8 April 2000 and released by Kieko Uchida, obtained by Reuters on 29 August 2020.Reuters
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A popular Tokyo amusement park on Monday closed its doors for the last time after being in business for more than nine decades, with part of the site set to make way for a "Harry Potter" theme park.

Toshimaen amusement park, which opened in 1926 in northern Tokyo, caught the imagination of locals such as Junko and Hikari Abe, a mother and daughter who work at the park and met their partners there.

Junko, a 62-year-old park keeper who has worked intermittently at Toshimaen since the 1970s, said she had assumed it would be there till the end of her life. "I wanted to enjoy that place together with my daughter."

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Daughter Hikari, 30, started working at the park in 2015. She had hoped to take family photos there after getting married with her fiancée, who she also met there.

"It was a spot I had taken for granted because it had been there from the time I was born, so I can't believe that it will be gone," she said.

Other visitors remembered family visits, school outings, and traditional "coming-of-age" celebrations they had at Toshimaen, which limited the number of people who were allowed to enter over the coronavirus crisis.

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The new "Harry Potter" theme park is expected to open in 2023, and will be Japan's first.

"It's regrettable and sad, I can't stop wishing for a delayed closure of the park or for it to survive," said Akiyoshi Tomizawa, 54.

Tomizawa, who visited the park from the age of four, said he used to go swimming in the park with friends and take dates there as a teenager.

Part of the park's charm lay in its variety of attractions, which included swimming pools, eateries and roller coaster rides.

Yasuko Tagata, 56, recounted watching fireworks, which are a nighttime summer tradition in Japan, with friends from the park's swimming pools.

"Toshimaen is a place where people grew up together," she said.

The new "Harry Potter" theme park is expected to open in 2023, and will be Japan's first.

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