I listed three locations that possess excellent miniatures of landmark buildings from around the world. These sites are my favorite destinations that take me both forward and backwards in my mental travelogs. Maybe it is similar to children rotating a globe of the world imagining their future lives (in my case, in retrospect to where I have been).
1) Carlsbad, California, USA
Carlsbad is about 25 miles north of San Diego, a culturally progressive city and the home of Legoland California. When I volunteered to look for a theater to stage a Japanese Hisashi Inoue play called “Kesho”(make-up), Carlsbad was one of the two cities that offered its municipal facility to the troupe (which included veteran actress Misako Watanabe). My son was living in Carlsbad about the time Carlsbad City Council was debating whether they should permit Legoland to be built. Whenever I traveled to Europe years ago, I used to bring back Lego toys for my son.
I have visited Legoland California three times before I left for Japan and among all their displays, my favorite was their “Miniland USA.” Models of New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Washington DC and parts of New England were shown. The displays were quite dynamic with working city streets, running trams, a live shipyard and a presidential motorcade! There was even a fire with a Lego Fire Boat putting it out!
2) Kaoyuan, TAIWAN
I have made numerous trips to Taiwan upon my return to Japan, including the trip to Kaoyuan, 50 kilometers south of Taipei. And there, close to Shihmen Dam, away from the bustling industrial semiconductor centers of Xinxchu, there is a theme park that exhibit miniature landmark buildings of Taiwan, China, Japan, India, Greece, Italy, France, Russia, etc. Included were the Taiwan Presidential Office Building, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Osaka Castle, Todaiji Temple, Taji Mahar, Parthenon and Pantheon, Nortre Dam and St. Basil’s Cathedrals and many others at an astonishingly accurate 1/25th scale. (I’ve been to the Great Wall but just one spot near Beijing where you can walk over from the east end to the west end, Liaonin Province to Gansu Province).
3) Tijuana, MEXICO
Tijuana is just 25 miles south from my home where I resided in San Diego. Crossing the Mexican border and walking along the Rio Tijuana, the Estrella Mexitlan building stands right in front of you. I used to accompany my Japanese guests to this building before taking them to tourist spots along Avenida de Revolucion. In the evening, the Mexitlan building becomes alive with live music. On the top floor of the building, there were miniature Mexican landmarks which included the Teothuacan Pyramids of Sun and Moon, Zocalo and Palacio de Bellas Artes, Basilica de Guadalupe, Coastline of Tihuatanejo Ixtapa, etc. It was the best educational exhibit to get my visitors’ feet wet on Mexican culture and history. I searched to find out the latest info on Mexitlan. There was no mention of Mexitlan except as a music venue. The exhibit seemed to have disappeared. What a shame! I finally found an announcement by management that they had to close the facilities, probably due to the economy.
I feel Tijuana has lost one of the more important educational and cultural asset that had attracted Americans as well as foreigners alike to preview inner Mexico at the gate town. They should consider relocating something similar, perhaps to Ciudad Juares, as the central border station.