The Wonderful World of Whimsy is back after 20 years

December 19, 2019 11:40
The EMax shopping center is now home to a Whimsy indoor amusement park, evoking memories of the past as well as offering new tech-based entertainment options. Photo: YouTube

British writer Julian Barnes once said, "Memories of childhood were the dreams that stayed with you after you woke."

So, welcome back The Wonderful World of Whimsy, the vintage indoor amusement park brand that has returned to Hong Kong after 20 years.

It's a name that evokes wonderful memories among many of us who grew up in this city. Who can forget the bumper cars, small trains and the Pierrot clown that we enjoyed so much in our childhood and teenage days!

And of course the shock collapse in the late 90s when suddenly we learnt that all our coupons of the indoor entertainment chain became useless in one single day.

To many people, the exit of The Wonderful World of Whimsy, which means Joyful Place in Chinese, signified the end of the happy days in Hong Kong after its return to China.

Wildly popular in the 1980s and 1990s, the indoor entertainment brand was launched by Japanese entrepreneur Kazuo Wada, who founded the department store chain Yaohan.

The Wonderful World of Whimsy represented Wada’s most aggressive overseas expansion, taking the business to China, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Philippines, and even Guam and the United States.

In its heyday, Whimsy operated 25 outlets in Hong Kong, mostly located next to Yaohan department stores. The business was eventually listed in April 1995.

Unfortunately the good times did not last long. Wada declared bankruptcy after the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the indoor entertainment chain began to wind down until the last shop pulled out in 1999.

During the golden 90s, the entertainment choices were rather limited if you consider the options that today's youth have, with gadgets such as Xboxes and iPhones and various online platforms.

People visited indoor venues for fun that often involved group activity. If there was any serious competition, it came from karaoke outlets, which are now also largely a thing of the past.

For those among us feeling nostalgic about the bygone days, there is good news.

A new investor has brought the old indoor playground brand back to the city, launching an outlet at the EMax shopping center in Kowloon Bay.

Following a soft launch in September, the Whimsy facility is set to be officially opened on Christmas day.

The 30,000-square-foot store comes with a re-touch of the classic games along with a virtual reality technology-enabled AR dynamic park, 5D cinema and artificial snow house.

It is not easy to be back to the future, but the effort is to be welcomed. We can look forward to getting a taste of the past and perhaps try to forget the unhappy days of this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

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EJ Insight writer