Japan welcomes flood of foreign tourists with a new nature theme park in Okinawa
Located by subtropical mangrove forest Yanbaru, the new theme park in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa to have air balloon tours, zip lines, dinosaur area etc
A new theme park centered around a UNESCO World Nature Heritage registered forest will open in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa in 2025, as more tourists flood into the country and consumers stage a post-pandemic retail recovery.
The new park called ‘Junglia,’ located by the subtropical mangrove forest of Yanbaru, will have dozens of attractions across 60 hectares (148 acres) showcasing local nature. That includes air balloon tours, zip lines and a dinosaur-themed area, as well as an infinity spa and outdoor restaurants.
The new destination is the brainchild of Tsuyoshi Morioka, a former Proctor & Gamble Co. executive who made his name by turning around Universal Studios Japan with the introduction of new attractions, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The project raised about ¥70 billion ($470 million) to revamp a former golf course in northern Okinawa, Morioka said.
“By taking the full advantage of the large, untouched tropical forest, I want visitors to fully experience the real luxury that they can’t get in large cities,” Morioka said at a briefing in Tokyo. He hopes the project will trigger more investment in the area as Okinawa has large room for growth as a tourism destination for both foreign and domestic visitors, he said.
The new park announcement comes as the number of foreign visitors to Japan in October surpassed 2.5 million people, exceeding the figures seen in the same month in 2019 — before the Covid pandemic — according to Japan’s National Tourism Organization. Inbound tourism has been one of the few bright spots in Japan’s patchy recovery, with the uptick an example of how the weak yen has benefited the economy.
Katana Inc., a marketing and entertainment company Morioka established in 2017, has revamped other theme parks in Japan. There’s Huis Ten Bosche near Nagasaki, which recreates the Netherlands, and Seibuen Amusement Park, which reopened as a retro-themed destination inspired by 1960s Tokyo. Morioka is opening a new attraction in the capital next spring called Immersive Fort Tokyo, which puts visitors in the middle of fictional situations like murder mysteries or treasure hunts.
Tokyo Disney Resorts’ two parks and Universal Studios Japan were among the top five most-visited amusement and theme parks worldwide in 2022, with each attracting more than 10 million people annually, according to a report by infrastructure consulting firm AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association.