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Archive for July, 2010

It seems like Nara Dreamland is quite popular lately. The statistics on WordPress indicate that most of the visitors I get from search engines looked for information about Dreamland. Well, since the once so vivid memories of a crazy Japanese dude yelling like a madman and threatening me with calling the police to get me arrested slowly fades I guess it’s about time to give people what they want: Two more postings about the Dreamland with leftover pictures I took in December. I still wouldn’t recommend going there, and I doubt that I ever will again, but should already taken pictures been wasted?

This posting will be all about the Eastern Parking Lot and the Parking Garage, the next one will show some interior shots of the building with the observation tower.

The Eastern Parking Lot is easy to find as it is part of the main entrance – most of the people entering Nara Dreamland when it was still open passed through here. There are two ways to enter the area and both involve just stepping over a rope; no fence, no gate, no nothing; but a guard showing up once in a while on a scooter. Coming from the east you’ll see the former pay booths for the parking lot, with the phones and stools still in place. The main entrance is now right in front of you and to your right there is a white building with shutters down (it seems like it was closed down even before the rest of the park was, judging by the pictures I saw on the net) and a the Parking Garage – opposite of that building complex are a small building with windows, I guess it was a souvenir shop once, and a huge building that will be the topic of the next blog entry…

The Parking Garage is 4 floors high (including the ground floor) and the different floors are sealed by massive shutters. Next to the (locked) gaterkeeper’s office is a defunct elevator and next to that is a staircase without a door. Going up there you’ll realize that all the doors to the floors are locked – but to my total surprise the last door at the top isn’t. Behind it you’ll find a small room with some machinery and a great view on the top of the Parking Garage.

Overall the Eastern Parking Lot and the Parking Garage are not that spectacular – but writing about them offers me a good opportunity to post some more pictures and it gives me a great lead-in for the next posting that will deal with the exploration of the former hotel and its observation tower. And phew… that is quite an amazing haikyo on its own!
(For all your Nara Dreamland needs please have a look at the Nara Dreamland Special. For a look at the area around Nara Dreamland on GoogleMaps, including some fancy icons linking to articles on Abandoned Kansai and videos on YouTube, please *click here*.)

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One quite unspectacular but rather rarely covered *haikyo* in Kansai is the Rokko Ropeway. While the Maya Ropeway and the Rokko Cable Car are still in use, the now forgotten Rokko Ropeway was abandoned and mostly destroyed in 1944 after a mere 13 years of business.

Since I only found Japanese sources about this haikyo some of the following information might have been mixed up in translation, but from what I understood the Rokko Ropeway was built by Hankyu Dentetsu in close neighbourhood to the still operating Rokko Cable Car (run by their competitor Hanshin Electric Railway – which is part of Hankyu since 2006…) in 1931 – resulting in fierce competition for customers; Rokko Ropeway’s big advantage: excellent bento boxes! In 1943 both companies were ordered to shut down their lines as the military was in need of metal. The Rokko Ropeway was closed for good on 1944-01-11 and the demolition process began. Since it wasn’t completed before World War 2 ended there were thoughts to rebuilt the ropeway, but those plans never came through.

Today the skeleton of the valley station marks the beginning of a hiking trail up to the Rokko Mountains. Sadly there is barely anything to see and I guess in summer a lot of hikers even pass by the remains without noticing them as they are almost completely overgrown. When I went there in March of 2010 on one of the first warm days of the year the Rokko Ropeway was kind of a sad sight with only a few items left in an opening at the back side of the construction – the rest is basically steel and concrete unspectacularly rotting for more than 60 years… And since the location is in the middle of nowhere, there is not even an interesting story I can tell about exploring the place.

But the valley station still has it better than the top station, which I never saw on the internet and only once on a map – it’s supposed to be close to the Rokko Post Office and the Mount Rokko Hotel, but the only thing left is a concrete footbridge mostly shielded by trees and private property – not a building close-by, but at least I could snatch two shots of the thing. (The hike from the valley station to the top station is nice though. About 400 meters height difference with some scenic views.)

Here is a click through gallery, zoomable versions of the photos follow below:

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I guess a Twitter account is kind of a must have nowadays when writing a blog – so here’s mine: http://twitter.com/AbandonedKansai

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I felt a bit like John Rambo at the beginning of First Blood when I was walking through the mountainous countryside of Shiga prefecture, kilometers away from the next train station or bus stop. But only in that way that I was completely out of place, expecting some xenophobic misanthropic cop to pick me up and drive me to the city limits (where another xenophobic misanthropic cop would pick me up to bring me to the other end of the city limits, where… this repeats until I would have been back to Osaka) – luckily the only police car I saw ignored me…

This April day started with an uncomfortable decision: Being halfway through a cold with general weariness and a serious cough I felt a little bit under the weather, I had no plans for weekend and my haikyo buddy was busy – on the other hand I just spent 5 days in an artifically lit office and this was the last sunny day before another period of rain. The choice was between staying at home and watching a sunny day passing by or going for a haikyo all by myself (which I enjoy less and less since I’m more and more aware of the dangers involved) or going on a hike – which I did the weekend before.
I decided to do a hybrid of the last two options. A while ago I marked a spot on my very personal haikyo map that I labeled “Taga Mine”. The problem with that was, that the name given by the (online) map creators was completely different and that there was another Taga Mine that is still active till this very day (and usually only active mines are marked on online maps like GoogleMaps and Mapfan anyways). So in the end I was hoping for a nice hike to find out if the marked spot is the active or the abandoned Taga Mine; or if there was anything at all. The only hint I had about the abandoned Taga Mine was a Japanese video on Youtube, which could have been mislabelled – so my trip was a long shot.

A few minutes after I left the country road to walk up the mountain I found the T crossing where I should walk to the right. Sadly it turned out to be a dead end with heavy machinery. So I gave up hope finding the abandoned Taga Mine and continued to the left, expecting either to find an active mine or nothing at all, switching into hiking mode. After a while I found another T crossing and I continued to the right. I kept walking and I reached an unimposing forest road to the right again. I don’t know why, but I left the paved road and followed it for a while, dragging my coughing self up that mountain – you can’t imagine the joy I felt when I reached an open rusty gate in front of a stone pit!
The excitement calmed down quickly when all I found was a rusty shack and a concrete room at one side of the slope – was this really the Taga Mine or just something else? Getting closer I saw that there was a machine in the ground that was obviously used to crush the rocks from the stone pit. At that moment I heard some twigs cracking. Would there be security at a remote and long abandoned place like that? I coughed a bit louder than usual, but I got no response. Maybe a fellow haikyoist? Well, I minded my own business taking pictures and after I was finished I heard the cracking twigs again, so I went towards the direction where I assumed the sound was coming from – that’s when I found the main remains of the mine with a huge conveyor belt and several other buildings, built very closely to the steep slope. I heard some noises as if somebody was walking across corrugated iron and when I got closer and looked down I saw lots of it lying on the ground in front of the mine – by nobody was there.
Not really feeling well thanks to the mix of fatigue and adrenaline rush I slid down the mountain a little bit to reach the main part of the mine. The ground was covered with metal, concrete and tons of leaves from many, many autumns. It was hard to tell if the next step would be solid earth or something else. I got closer to the buildings and then something happened that really, really scared me: I heard two animals fighting on the ground behind me, must have been pretty close to where I stood, maybe 100 meters away. At that point I looked at the ground and realized that there was wild boar feces everywhere all across the mine. I’m not a wildlife expert, but I know what a boar sounds like – and I know that you don’t want to run into one in spring, especially when exploring a seriously rotten mine at a steep slope all by yourself.
I continued my explorations, but I could feel how both my fatigue and the adrenaline rush got stronger by the minute, trying to make my way through the concrete and metal structure while taking pictures, expecting a wild angry animal at any second. To be honest, at that point I didn’t enjoy the haikyo at all and I only realized when I was looking at the pictures from the safety of my home how great of a location the Taga Mine was (and still is until it collapses – which I guess will be relatively soon…). That’s when I also found out that it took me a whopping 2 hours to take pictures, although the place wasn’t that big and I felt like I was hurrying; man, was I in a hurry…

Looking back at the adventure I consider it one of the dumbest and at the same time most exciting things I’ve ever done. Yes, I worked hard all week, I wanted to take some haikyo pictures (for the first time in three weeks) and I wanted to be in nature enjoying this beautiful spring day – but being sick and exploring a hillside rotten mine in the middle of nowhere on your own is pretty much the urban exploration definition of stupidity. If you are ever happy enough to find the abandoned Taga Mine and not the active one make sure that the weather conditions are perfect, that your gear is top notch and that you have at least one person at your side. As much as I like my pictures of the Taga Mine… this is the first place I’ve been to that I consider a deathtrap and I highly recommend to stay away from it if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. I definitely learned my lesson from that trip!

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