Friday, January 21, 2022


The other Mount Rushmore

By Chuck Woodbury

I could be so very bad with this photo, and write a fake article about how the National Park Service, because of budget cuts, was neglecting Mount Rushmore, and this was the result. It would be so easy to write a story like that. It would get shared all over social media and create lots of discussion and I would make lots of money from the millions of views it would gather.

But I wouldn’t do that, even though the same sort of thing is being done every day and passed off as news. The fact is, this is not Mount Rushmore, but a replica, built in 1995 at a cost of $27 million, 70 miles from Tokyo at an amusement park called Western Village. It was an exact replica of the real Mount Rushmore. Alas, the park went out of business 13 years ago and the “mountain” has been neglected ever since.

I was writing for the New York Times Syndicate at the time and was invited to the unveiling of the replica. I attended with a delegation of people from South Dakota, including the lieutenant governor, a couple of state senators and three Miss Dakotas. I lusted over the latter, but was too old, even then, to even attempt a move. But dream I did.

I remember my first sight of the park. A bullet train shot by, “Mount Rushmore” not far in the distance. I had visited the real Mount Rushmore in South Dakota a month before and was amazed at how real the replica looked.

THIS IS THE PROUD MAN who created the monument. He owned the park. I have forgotten his name. He had marveled at the real Mt. Rushmore on a visit to the United States and felt compelled to build a replica at his Wild West-themed park. Inside, there were several floors of displays — food courts, exhibits about South Dakota and other displays I no longer remember. The park itself was a cheap imitation of Frontier Town in Disneyland. The mannequin cowboys and cowgirls inside the fake Wild West saloons, brothels and hotels spoke and moved stiffly. John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe spoke English with Japanese accents.

Me, back then, before I dyed my hair gray.

The press unveiling was huge. I have never seen more television cameras in one place. There was a huge buffet, the food blessed by a Shinto priest. I remember one sign advertised “Imported Beer,” which turned out to be Coors and Budweiser.

I recently came upon a website that documents abandoned places, and found a section devoted to Western Village. It was eerie seeing it now as a true ghost town, and the four U.S. presidents stained and covered with moss.

I wonder what happened to the nice man who owned the park, who drove me around for several days along with a delightful Russian girl who was my personal interpreter. He probably went bankrupt. That’s sad.


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Judy S
1 year ago

Well, Chuck, out of curiosity, I went down a rabbit hole, searching for what happened to the creators of the theme park. I found their names– brothers Kenichi and Masayuki Ominami. The park was foreclosed by its creditors, but I couldn’t find anything about the brothers. Maybe someone reading this will be more adept than me at solving the mystery of their whereabouts. Great story!

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

I think most people don’t realize the huge influence the U.S, has on the rest of the world.

1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

That was then but certainly not now.

1 year ago
Reply to  Gman

Sadly true.

Diane Mc
1 year ago
Reply to  Gman

Why are we the number one country everyone wants to immigrate too?

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago
Reply to  Gman

I don’t agree. When you scour sites referencing this year’s election there are tons of remarks from around the world. While that doesn’t necessarily reflect entire foreign nations, it does reflect much interest in what is happening here. This is STILL (as Diane asks) the nation most wanted to be immigrated to. There is more opportunity to be successful here than anywhere else in the world. People are not flocking to Russia or Venezuela. Regardless of what they seem to be teaching our kids in our schools, we are STILL the greatest nation on earth.