Just over 50 years ago, a 12,000-meter square botanical park was opened towards the southern point of Izu Peninsula, west of Tokyo, Japan. Constructed in a chain of enormous greenhouses, Jungle Park housed thousands of species of local and introduced tropical plants. The theme park was an early success, though visitor numbers declined as the complex aged. The park eventually shuttered its doors 2003.
By 2016, the abandoned architecture was dense with wild plant life. Tendrils of flowering fuchsia, jasmine, lantana and bougainvillea laced through the tangled skeletons of expired shrubs, vines and trees. With little damage to the integrity of most of the greenhouses (some roofing had collapsed in areas), only the species most acclimated to the dense biome flourished in verdant waves of unchecked growth.
The sparse cages of since relocated monkeys and birds stood unused and unglamorous, the sunken remains of a meercat enclosure, once a main attraction, served as a dump for surplus plant pots. Specimen jars, pens, paperwork, stationary and other paraphernalia rested where they had been laid down years ago. Maps marking out the key features of the site kept vigil as quiet sentinels, navigating urbexers through the remains of displays, souvenir shops and cafes. Plant tags pointed to beds overtaken by roaming specimens. An elephant-shaped topiary raised its trunk high in defiance as it slowly disintegrated - probably succumbing in full with the site's demolition around 2018.
Looking at a recent satellite image of the Izu Peninsula, the demolished Jungle Park site (now a carpark and small visitor centre) is severe in contrast to the concentrated greenery of the former overgrown grounds. But having witnessed the scale of organic repossession in the urban landscape of the amusement park, I feel comforted by the fact that in our absence, nature adapts and thrives.