2017: the year Japan’s Space World reached its final frontier and closed for good

Space World, which opened in April 1990 in the city of Kitakyushu, drew 2.16 million visitors at its peak in 1997

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 2:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 2:55pm

Fans queued from 4am to enter the Space World amusement park in southwestern Japan on Sunday before the facility closes its gates for the last time after 27 years of business.

Space World, which opened in April 1990 in the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, drew 2.16 million visitors at its peak in 1997.

However, customer numbers have since been declining and its operator decided to close the park at the end of 2017.

Families with children were among those lined up in front of the gates before the park opened at 8am Shingo Aramaki, a 26-year graduate student from neighbouring Yamaguchi Prefecture, waited from shortly before 4am with his friends.

Noting that Space World has been in operation for nearly the same period as his own age, Aramaki said: “I also had my coming-of-age ceremony here. Although I regret that the park will be closed, I want to enjoy it fully today.”

A 60-metre replica of the US space shuttle Discovery became the symbol of the amusement park built on an unused lot at the Yawata steelworks by Nippon Steel Corp.

A predecessor of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., the company created the amusement park as it tried to diversify its business amid sluggish demand for steel products.

The amusement park was expected to host a New Year’s Eve fireworks display before officially closing at 2am Monday.