In the 1990s, tens of thousands of people flocked to Ashibetsu, Japan each day to visit Canadian World, a theme park that featured a replication of Cavendish, the town in the popular novel Anne of Green Gables. Here tourists could visit the book's landmarks and snap a picture with the star of the park: an Anne Shirley look-alike.
Once a thriving summer destination, the space has since been taken over by the municipal government and is no longer a fully operating theme park. But for those eager to see what’s left of the attraction, visitors can access the park grounds for free during the summer.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, before the park shut three years ago it employed actors to play the iconic best friend duo of Anne and Diana and wander around landmarks like Kensington train station and the Orwell school house. The theme park is now completely deserted, perhaps due to its remote location (an 11-hour train ride from Tokyo), harsh winter weather conditions, and the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
“It’s kind of eerie,” Terry Dawes, who made the documentary Anne of Japan, told CBC. “It’s like a ghost of Anne of Green Gables’s house.”
Jennifer Long, who played Anne at Canadian World in the mid-1990s, told CBC what it was like being the main attraction at the theme park: “We had this kind of crazy shared experience of almost having a taste of celebrity, but not really knowing how to deal with it, people following you into the bathroom, or you can't eat in public because people are so anxious to get photographs.”
If you’re Anne’s No. 1 fan but can’t make the trip to Japan, be sure to stream Netflix’s upcoming miniseries Anne with an E when it’s released on May 12.