Archive for the ‘Visited in 2009’ Category

Urban exploration usually means visiting places that many people have been before – in most cases those ruins are off the beaten tracks and therefore hard to find. Some places are well known on the internet, some are not. But in the end most of them have pictures and maybe even a description online or in a book – and that’s the way most explorers find out about them.
When I did the bulk of my haikyo research in late 2009 I followed all kinds of hints on the internet to find places I could go to. Sometimes I found names, sometimes descriptions. Most of the time pictures, barely ever the whole package. With “Doggy Land” (not the real name) it was even harder. I had barely any information about it, not even what kind of place it was, but thanks to GoogleMaps I had a vague idea of where it was – so I went to the Hyogo countryside to find out. And I guess I was lucky as the place still existed and was nowhere covered with pictures and reports on the internet, neither the English speaking nor the Japanese speaking. Not even from the time when it was still open for business.
Although the next city is a bit away, “Doggy Land” isn’t easy to enter as there are several roads surrounding more than half of the place, all offering a good view at the whole site – and there is a toll road exit not far away, so cars are passing by almost constantly. Right when I finished checking out the surrounding area the police showed up – I literally had to get my hands off the fence I was about to climb over. Luckily they didn’t come for me, but to re-enact a car accident or something. Since there was no end in sight after 20 minutes I gave up and went home – but I’m looking forward to going back there. Until then I’ll share some pictures I took from the outside.
EDIT: For more “Doggy Land” please click here. (Yes, I went back…)

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When visiting the Mt. Atago Cable Car you should have a look at the Atago Hotel, too – there’s not much left, but after climbing about 640 meters 20 more won’t kill you.

The Atago Hotel was opened on 1930-07-20, shortly after the cable car, and closed down together with it in 1944. Like the top station of the cable car the Atago Hotel is nothing more but a bunch of walls, just in a slightly better condition – but without floors. It seems like the hotel, located at a slope, was built with the entrance at the ground floor and an “open basement”. The ground level is almost completely gone whereas the walls of the basement are still there, or at least some of them are; including openings for windows and doors. If you get to the hotel from the southern side and on a lower level the remaining walls look very massive, almost like an ancient Japanese castle.

Overall the place is quite unspectacular and only worth going there since the cable car station is so close-by. At one side of the hill is kind of a dump with lots of old cans, cups and plates. I’m not sure if everything there is from the time when the hotel was still open or if later visitors left their garbage there, but it’s nevertheless interesting and offers quite a few items worth taking pictures of – if you are into that kind of stuff.

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My first real *haikyo* is still one of my favorite as it combines a quite unique type of abandoned place with a scenic hike. Wrapping itself around sacred Mt. Atago in Kyoto from south counterclockwise this abandoned cable car track offers breathtaking views, six tunnels and a great leg workout – steps for about an hour as well as two short but quite steep climbing sessions. If you are not in decent shape you might wanna think about visiting this haikyo…
When I started to research abandoned places in Japan on the internet I pretty quickly found Mt. Atago Cable Car since it is, next to the *Mt. Maya Tourist Hotel*, one of the most covered haikyo in Kansai – and one of the most accessable. Instead of taking the pilgrim’s path to Atago Shrine just take the abandoned track right next to it. You can’t miss it! (If you are able to find out where exactly Mt. Atago in Kyoto is – if you are not able to solve this little challenge you are not worth going there anyways…)
There even is a great (Japanese) homepage covering the history of the Mt. Atago Cable Car – built in 1929 it was already abandoned in 1944. If you are interested in the background of the places you go to you should have a look, especially at the old pictures from the time the cable car was still used. (If you are not able to read Japanese just click around and c/p the text into a translation homepage. More people than you might think do it that way…)
On the way up there are two challenges – the steep incline (most of it concrete steps) and two collapsed tunnels, forcing you to leave the track and climb the hill by holding on to everything nature offers. Both detours have colorful markers giving you hints which way to get up. But while the one around tunnel 3 will bring you directly back to the track, the one around tunnel 5 will lead to a path close to the already mentioned pilgrim’s way. Without spoiling your search back to the track too much: Just go straight ahead, maybe a bit to the east. A small trail will lead you back to the track.
After the sixth tunnel you almost made it to the still existing top station. Just a few minutes before that your breathtaking climb will be rewarded by a breathtaking view *not visible* from the pilgrim’s path – just after a partly collapsed bridge. More than 65 years after giving up this wonderful piece of transportation history parts of it are in pretty bad shape. Nothing to worry about, but nevertheless worth mentioning.
The top station itself is in pretty bad shape, too – but unlike the completely vanished valley station it is still standing. Basically it’s a bunch of outside walls and floors: no machines, no interior, no internal walls. To me it was nevertheless impressive, maybe because it’s a place with a history. A short one, but still a history, an entertaining one actually since this cable car lead directly to a *tourist hotel* and a ski resort – but that is another story…

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