2014 was the year of the abandoned schools in the Japanese urbex world – probably because endless lists of closed schools appeared on the Japanese version of Wikipedia, and countless bloggers (not necessarily urban explorers!) all over the country headed to the rural areas to check them out. As a result of that, more “abandoned” schools than ever before popped up on Japanese blogs and even mainstream media – the main problem with that: most of these explorers didn’t make a difference between closed and abandoned schools. Sometimes because it is hard to tell whether a place is closed or abandoned, but most of the time out of pure laziness or to get a name and some photos out there. Personally I am still not sure about the *Blizzard School*, while I am convinced that the *Shizuoka Countryside School* was abandoned and the *Kyoto Countryside School* was still maintained by locals – closed, but accessible through open or at least unlocked doors. All schools I will dedicate full articles on Abandoned Kansai were either really abandoned or at least closed and unlocked. The ones that were actively used as community centers, completely boarded up or maintained and locked I might mention in entries as disappointing examples, but they won’t get their own articles.
When Dan, Kyoko and I walked up to the Atoyama Elementary School about a year ago, we expected it to be completely abandoned – instead we found the lawn freshly mowed and some doors covered with weathered and falling off “Do not enter!” signs in Japanese. While I was silently praying that I hadn’t fallen for another one of those useless “four outdoor shots make an article” bloggers, we circled the school and found several unlocked ways inside. Bingo!
It turned out that the Atoyama Elementary School had a long history. Founded in 1875 as a temple school, it became a state school just two years later. In 1948 a new school building was constructed – 1 floor, 3 class rooms, teacher housing. Seven years later a second floor was added, and with it a new hallway, an auditorium and several more classrooms. In 1968, 20 years after its construction and almost a century after its founding, the Atoyama Elementary School was closed; and clearly maintained by the locals, probably partly used, for example the auditorium for sports and other events.
We found the Atoyama Elementary School in overall amazing condition. The weathered wooden outside with the two construction phases gave it an interesting piecemeal look, the maintained inside beamed us back 40 years. I felt a bit uneasy as the wooden floors made squeaking sounds at almost every step, but luckily I didn’t cause any damage to the brittle boards. The reward for our brave curiosity was yet another unique decades old Japanese school. The layout was different than anything I had seen before, the interior was different, the equipment was different – surprises behind every corner. A piano, a scale, concrete urinals, old tools, the kitchen on the lowest floor and the crooked wooden staircase leading there… awesome, just awesome!
What a way to start a weekend of explorations! Sadly the rest of the day turned out to be kind of a disaster, but all of that was forgotten when we found the *Shizuoka Countryside School* the next morning…
(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)