My favorite abandoned place in Japan? The Abandoned Dynamite Mine! It was love at first sight, in spring somewhere in the Japanese mountains…
2013 started slow for me, only two urbex day trips until late April, but then my buddy Dan and I decided to go on a weekend trip, a mere four days before I left for *North Korea*. I planned a little roundtrip to the countryside – some schools without children, some abandoned houses, a snowless ski resort or two… and that mine I had seen on a Japanese blog a while ago. It didn’t look spectacular there, and it was in the middle of nowhere, so my expectations were low, but I added it to the itinerary anyway. I like mines, big or small…
Halfway through the second day we finally drove up that tiny little countryside road – so off the beaten tracks that we weren’t even sure whether we would find anything or not. Maybe we missed a turnoff and the remains were out of sight just a couple of hundred meters away? But we continued, just to reach a dilapidated bridge across a tiny mountain river, the steep road we were on not deserving that term anymore – so we stopped and parked… right next to another car, with a dude reading fishing magazines!
We ignored him, he ignored us – and we continued on foot up the mountain, the grey sky slightly drizzling. Some hundred meters later it turned out that it was a good idea to have parked the car: A landslide washed away half of the road, reducing it to a path. Again several hundred meters later. And again and again. There was no way that any car would ever go up here again! We followed what now looked like a street that hadn’t seen traffic in decades, deeper into a valley and up the mountain; and then we saw it for the first time, partly hidden by clouds – the abandoned mine we were hoping to explore.
To some degree abandoned places are like people – with some you connect, with some you don’t. Some you find attractive, some you don’t. Some you want to spend more time with, some you just want to get away from. I looked up the steep slope, this time barely passable thanks to several mudslides, saw a couple of rusty, metal-cladded wooden shacks (I have a thing for redheads… uhm… red roofs!) and somehow had the feeling that this would be a fantastic exploration; especially since the place didn’t look much like on the tiny photos I saw before.
I couldn’t wait to have a closer look, so I picked up the speed, virtually flying up the slightly damp mountain. By the time I reached the first buildings, the low hanging clouds started to retreat and the sun came out – even nature was smiling at us… (The weather kept changing though, much like at the amazing *abandoned China themed park Tenkaen*.)
The first storage shack I entered already had some promising items, like a phone with a hand crank and an old lamp with the paint flaking off; old, rusty technology I really like. So while I was taking photos, my buddy Dan and his friend Spencer went ahead to have a look around. By the time I was done taking photos inside the storage my friends told me to have a look at the next building, as they found a special item there I should really see.
I hurried up the steep, raw steps to a little wooden shack filled with all kinds of electronic installations – and there it was sitting on the ground, a box labeled “新桐ダイナマイト“ – new ammonia gelatine dynamite. DYNAMITE?! Luckily the box was open and empty, but although I had been to several mines before, I had never seen a crate of dynamite. This was getting better by the minute! (Later on it turned out that this wasn’t the only dynamite box left behind…)
Since Dan and Spencer were going on a much faster pace, I was basically on my own at the Abandoned Dynamite Mine – exploring by myself while having the security of fellow explorers nearby is actually my favorite way to approach abandoned places. Especially in this case, where every step was dangerous; all the metal was rusty, all the wood was brittle, lots of corners were dark.
Rusty, brittle and dark, that also applied to my next destination, the loading dock at the bottom of the main building. Sadly there wasn’t much to see, except for conveyer belts and about a dozen 20 liter buckets of Hidiesel S-3, a patented lubricant produced by the Nippon Oil Company.
I left the loading dock, climbed another raw set of steps and entered the main building through what turned out to be a repair and assembly shop, right next to a system of machinery. Of course none of them were powered anymore, nevertheless there was a constant stream of water running through that part of the building. Actually it wasn’t constant, as it was getting stronger and weaker – I assumed my buddies were toying with some valves, but it turned out I was wrong. I still don’t know what was responsible for the variations, but it added to the atmosphere – the Abandoned Dynamite Mine might have been closed down, but it clearly wasn’t dead!
From this machine area with its thin rusty pathways I continued up the mountain inside the building, past more conveyer belts, more machines, more gauges. There I found two unopened cans of “Bireley’s Orange”, a non-carbonated orange soft drink more than a decade past its best before date; interestingly enough the can design didn’t change much since then.
The top of the main building was another interesting spot, offering a great view over the lower part of the Abandoned Dynamite Mine and holding a couple of interesting items, like more hand-cranked phones and a rusty shaving knife along with a pair of pincers.
To get to the upper part of the mine, where I assumed the mine entrance was, I had to go back down and follow a now somewhat overgrown path along the mountain slope. Three and a half hours into exploring this amazing place I was running out of time – luckily my friends were waiting for me up there, giving me advice on where to go and how to get there.
The view was amazing, but what really blew my mind were the wooden buildings – one looked like a one room apartment house, now filled with insect repellant. In April of 2013 bugs were not a problem, patches of snow still lying on the ground, but I can only imagine how the air must buzz of insects in the humid summer heat… The other building of interest must have been used for administrative purposes – there I found more dusty phones, but also old mining lamps, a large table with several chairs, lots of old LPs, books, safety guides, nude magazines… The back of the building smelled a bit chemical and when I left I could see more dynamite boxes from the corner of my eye – and that’s why I named the place Abandoned Dynamite Mine. (Given the stench I didn’t have a closer look at the boxes…)
Due to the known time restraints I only had a quick look at the surroundings, following some lorry rails along the mountain slope, but when the tracks lead me too far away from the buildings I turned around, only to find a really old mine entrance right next to the wooden administrative building – I am sure it wasn’t used to extract ores, at least not since the use of modern equipment, instead the tubes / hoses leading outside imply that it was used to handle the mine’s damps.
At that time the sun was about to set and so I had to leave my new favorite abandoned place in all of Japan before I was able to see everything; it took us about half an hour to get back to the car, plus another six hours to drive back Osaka (including a break at a conveyer belt sushi restaurant…).
The Abandoned Dynamite Mine was a perfect location, maybe THE perfect location; at least to me. I loved every second there, from the moment that I saw the first buildings through the mist till the last time I saw them 5 hours later from the same spot during golden hour. Most abandoned places unnerve me a bit for one reason or another, but here everything was perfect – the amazing condition of the mine, the variety of buildings and items, the tranquil atmosphere amidst the amazing landscape, the low expectations I had upon arrival; everything came together perfectly. As far as abandoned places go, this was true love at first sight… Even the bittersweet feeling of being cut short at the end contributed positively to the experience – leaving having seen everything would have been wonderful, but leaving while longing for more elevated the exploration to a whole new level!