Old family pictures, dry plate negatives, books with titles like “Avoidances From Sexual Temptation”, a wooden wall telephone that looked like straight out of “Boardwalk Empire”… and somewhere there had to be 90 year old porn photos – my head was spinning!
3 years prior to that slightly overwhelming spring day, I went on a *second trip to Kyushu*. It was my first long-distance solo exploration trip and included amazing locations like the now demolished *Kawaminami Shipyard*, the also demolished amusement park *Navelland* and the wonderful *Ikeshima*.
3 months prior to that slightly overwhelming spring day, my urbex buddy Rory and his wife had helped me locating an amazing abandoned hotel I deemed worthy dumping 25.000 Yen travel costs on, so I spontaneously booked a flight from Kobe to Ibaraki Airport… I had 28 hours in the Kanto countryside and I was eager to make the best of it.
3 days prior to that slightly overwhelming spring day, I sent a message to a Japanese dude I made friends with some years ago on Facebook. Back then he contacted me referring to a girl from Tokyo we both kinda knew. Usually I am very hesitant adding complete strangers to my private Facebook account, but I added him anyway after we exchanged messages for a couple of weeks. I thought he was living in Tokyo, but just before my trip I found out that he was living in the city where I booked my hotel, so I asked him if he was available for a chat on short notice. First he told me that he had to work… and before I was able to answer he wrote that he would really like to explore with me – so he changed his working schedule and offered to pick me up at the airport with a friend of his. Positively surprised by the kindness of that stranger I told him about the locations I intended to visit, but that I’d be happy to be guided, too, as he knew the area a lot better than I did.
When I arrived at Ibaraki Airport, Y. welcomed me like an old friend (“Long time no see?!” Heck, we never met!) and his buddy J. was super nice, too. We went to his car and Y. started driving, so we did the obvious, chatting about urbex. He had great stories, I had great stories and all of a sudden he was like: “First stop: red villa!” And I was just thinking: “The old photographer’s house? The guy who had amateur porn on glass plates? THE 2013 urbex hot spot? A place people didn’t even hint about on the internet for a very, very long time?” Since Y. kept insisting that we met before, I just had to break it to him, as I didn’t want to take advantage of the situation: “Dude, I am terribly sorry, but we never met before! You added me on Facebook a while ago, we chatted about urbex because we have that common acquaintance I haven’t even met in person, but I’m afraid that’s it…” Instead of driving me back to the airport he said:
Y: ”You’ve been to Kyushu, right?”
F: ”Yes, I went there three years ago!”
Y: “Me too!”
F: “Oh, that’s great! Where did you go to?”
Y: “The Kawaminami Shipyard!”
F: “Amazing place, wasn’t it? Too bad they demolished it…”
Y: “Yeah, we met there!”
F: “I met people there…”
Y: “That was me and my friend Ben!”
F: “Wait a minute! I remember meeting a Japanese dude and his friend Ben!”
Y: “That was me!”
Check out my article about the *Kawaminami Shipyard* from three years ago! I even wrote the following line: “The guys turned out to be Ben, an English teacher from Otsu in Shiga (close to my current home), and his Japanese friend from Kanto.“
Have I ever mentioned that I am bad with both names and faces? A truly horrible combination – but Y., J. and I had one of the best laughs ever… on our way to the amateur pornographer’s house! :)
Upon arrival, Y. indicated that we should keep a low profile. We were as countryside as it can get in Japan – and we stuck out like a sore thumb anyway, so no need to attract extra attention by being noisy. We walked past small houses and fields until we reached a bamboo grove. The path lead down a gentle slope… and there it was, the photographer’s house. Or rather estate. In addition to the main building, there were two or three side buildings, all of them about 100 years old according to the word on the street. Y. had been here before several times, but for J. and I it was the first visit. Since parts of the main building had already collapsed and the rest was in questionable condition, Y. guided us a bit. The first floor alone could have kept me busy for hours, with all the old photos, dolls, books, furniture and exposed parts of century old construction, but after around 20 minutes Y. called me upstairs; where I had another 30 minutes to take photos of a mind-blowingly gorgeous balcony, old magazines and newspapers, books and dry plates – Y. was kind enough to play hand model.
This was actually my first time in the 4.5 years that I do urban exploration to explore with a fellow Japanese explorer (not just say Hi at places when I coincidentally meet them…) and it seems like they are in more of a rush than I usually am. Nevertheless it was a great experience to explore the Japanese Vintage Pornographer’s House, though we didn’t even try to enter any of the other buildings and the closest we came to find porn was a printed nude drawing in a newspaper. In spring of 2014 the place already had severely suffered from vandalism (despite the obviously pretended secrecy) and it seems like somebody either thoroughly hid or even stole the porn dry plates – and after the really rainy summer this year I am sure the condition of the building hasn’t become better, considering the holes in roof and subsequently in the the ceiling. As great as the place still was, it was sad to see how much it suffered from spray paint, aggression, staging and most likely theft. In the past couple of years Japan had been an urbex sanctuary, but the Japanese Vintage Pornographer’s House is a prime example that the current trend goes to European and American conditions – where you have to rush to new discoveries as quickly as possible, before hordes of people from all over the world trample through and damage or even destroy the atmosphere…
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