Fair Japan

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Fair Japan
Other Name(s) Japanese Village
Type Activity Space
Music and Performances
Park Section Northwest
Built 1905
Opened 1905
Closed Before 1917
Designer Kushibiki Yumindo
Site Area 4-15 acres

Fair Japan was a Japanese Village exhibit space at Olentangy Park[1] where parkgoers could walk through a Japanese-style garden including the Bonzai Bridge, dine at a restaurant in the form of a tea and chop suey house, buy crafts at a bazaar, and watch traditional performances. Designed by Kushibiki Yumindo [published as Yumeta Kushibiki or Umeta Kushibiki], the area was built by 8-15 "native contractors" in 1905 just north of the Figure Eight Toboggan, replacing the Miniature Railway.[2][3] Overall, 40 Japanese men and women came to Columbus to reconstruct the exhibit.[4] The area the exhibit took up ranged between 4 and 15 acres.[5] The "village" included a "toris," a square arch placed in front of Japanese temples; and arched wishing bridge called the "Bonsai Bridge"; shops with Japanese souvenirs; and topiaries of swans and flamingos.[4] It also included a "typical Japanese home" with a family living in the structure; an open stage with continuous performances by Japanese actors, tumblers, and jugglers; a bazaar; and tea houses staffed by Japanese women in costumes, where parkgoers removed their shoes before entering[4] and could drink tea from porcelain cups.[2] The staff, performers, etc. were probably a mix of races and ethnicities but dressed and performed in the representational ways of the time period.

Joseph Dusenbury originally saw the exhibit at the St. Louis Exposition and imported it to the park.[1][4] Builder Kushibik had been in the U.S. for 20 years and built similar exhibits at Atlantic City, Buffalo, and St. Louis. The stage featured Legerdemain, tumbling, and other acrobatic features.[6] The park charged a 5-cent ($1.65 in 2022) admission fee in 1906[7] until June 17 of that year when it was free for the rest of the season.[8]

General games, such as a Japanese rolling ball game, were also available.[9] While Creatore's Italian Band performed during the opening weeks of the 1905 season, vaudeville acts were performed in the Fair Japan exhibition area.[10] The Igorrote Village actors stayed and performed in this area in 1907 and 1908. Two staff members, Shingo Immamura and Toku Magaya were married at the village on July 4, 1909, by Rev. Isaac, pastor of the 10th Avenue Baptist Church.[11][12] The area was rebuilt in 1914 and put under the management of Kenoshita [or Kinoshita], a "modest and young" Tokyo native who worked several years in the mercantile business in Cleveland.[13]

Fair Japan was replaced by the Swimming Pool in 1917.[14][15][1]



Binzo Suzuki and Sohechi Iida sued J. W. Dusenbury in 1905 for $1,102 (over $38,000 in 2023) for Japanese goods and merchandise that furnished Fair Japan..[16]

Also, in 1905, Japanese watercolor artist F. J. Baske and 10 other Japanese workers at Olentangy Park sued Dusenbury for not paying them for their final month and a half of work. Dusenbury told them he'd pay after meeting with the Fair Japan architect, Kushibiki, but the workers did not believe Kushibiki would come to Columbus. This underpayment led to Baske selling his paintings so the group could stay in Columbus or travel to New York.[17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hyatt, Shirley. Clintonville and Beechwold. Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Geisha Girls are to be Attraction." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 2 January 1905. Pg. 5.
  3. "Olentangy Park Opens." The Lantern. 29 April 1914. Pg. 4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Barret, Richard E. "Olentangy Park: Four Decades of Fun." Columbus and Central Ohio Historian. Vol. 1. April 1984. Pg. 8.
  5. "The Amusement Resort of Ohio." The Marion Star (Marion, OH). 29 June 1905. Pg. 5. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-marion-star-the-amusement-resort-of/80089354/
  6. "Olentangy Park Will Be Extended to Doddridge St." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 18 February 1905. Pg. 7.
  7. "Olentangy Opening." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 13 May 1906. Pg. 44.
  8. Ad. Columbus Evening Dispatch. 16 June 1906. Pg. 4.
  9. "Columbus Railway & Light Co." Street Railway Review. Vol. XVI. No. 2. Pg. 70. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Electric_Railway_Review/VlY_AQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22shooting+gallery%22+Olentangy&pg=PA70&printsec=frontcover
  10. The Billboard. 24 June 1905. Vol. 17 Issue 25. Pg. 8.
  11. "Shingo Immamura and Toku Magaya" The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 27 June 1909. Pg. 13.
  12. "Columbus Notes." The Show World. Vol. 5. 10 July 1909. Pg. 7.
  13. "At Olentangy." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 10 May 1914. Pg. 36.
  14. "Pool for Olentangy." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 25 March 1917. Pg. 48.
  15. "A Golden Flora." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 1 July 1917. Pg. 42.
  16. "Sue Olentangy Park." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 10 September 1905. Pg. 1.
  17. "Famous Exhibit of Water Colors." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 22 October 1905. Pg. 12.