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Japan is a mountainous nation, so it’s no surprise that there are ropeways and cable cars all over the country; except for Okinawa and most of the smaller islands. By the Japanese use of the English terms, a cable car (ケーブルカー) is a funicular / cable railway, while a ropeway (ロープウェイ) can be an aerial tramway, a gondola lift, a ropeway conveyor or even a funitel or a Funifor; ski lifts are a category of their own. I am not sure when the first ropeway opened in Japan (probably in the early or mid-1920s), but some of them were already closed and demolished in the 1930s as non-essential lines to use their metal in Japan’s war efforts at the time. (Fun fact: The oldest surviving aerial tramway in Japan is the Yoshino Ropeway here in Kansai, especially popular in early to mid-April as it is located right next to Japan’s most famous cherry blossom spot. Built in 1928 and opened in March of 1929, the Yoshino Ropeway is not just a sightseeing line, but used by locals for regular commute.)

Exactly three years ago I went on a first urbex day trip with my now regular fellow explorers Dan and Kyoko – first stop: the lower terminus of the Yubara Onsen Ropeway (YOR). Opened in 1975 to connect the spa village Yubara Onsen (known for having one of the few mixed baths in Japan, as most of public baths here are gender separated) with a prefectural park at the top of Yubara Dam, the ropeway must have been a total financial flop as it closed just six years later in 1981. The YOR was built by Anzen Sakudo, currently known as Ansaku, the leading ropeway designer and constructor in Japan with more than 60 ropeways and 250 ski lifts built in its almost 100 year long history. A ride on the Yubara Onsen Ropeway was a little more than one kilometer long and took about seven minutes, running once every 15 minutes with a capacity of 40 guests on each gondola. (Prices and opening hours can be seen at the end of the first video and the beginning of the second video.)

After more than 30 years of abandonment the YOR was in really bad condition and probably had more visitors than in the six years of being in business.
The road leading up to the lower terminus was mostly overgrown and quite slippery, the building itself somewhat of a death trap. All three floors were pretty much rotten and vandalized, the interior being exposed to the weather for three decades.
The first floor had several offices and we were able to find items like a Morinaga ice cream cooler and a Thermos bottle. The second floor was home to the ticket gate and a shop, while the platform of the ropeway was on the third floor. The gondola and rope leading up the mountain were long gone, but the pillars in the forest were still visibly standing there. Through the control room we were able to enter the machinery room, all well-lit since there were hardly any signs of a roof. This behind the scenes area was super interesting, but probably dangerous as hell – and of course nobody was foolish enough to use the spiral metal staircase leading three stories down. The concrete public staircase was somewhat dodgy, but the metal one in the back looked like certain death.
After shooting the walkthrough video on the way to the ground floor (accidentally split in half…), I found an open door at the back of the building, leading to the same lower part of the machinery room as the rusty spiral metal staircase. Not much to see there other than concrete and more rusty metal, including some ropes on the group.

On the one hand the Yubara Onsen Ropeway was a horribly run-down and dangerous piece of garbage, on the other hand it had that amazing amount of decay you barely see these days as hardly any building gets the opportunity to rot for that long. And while this is not the most beautiful set of photos I have ever taken, it still contains some really lovely shots; for example of that rusty control box or the white hardhat. This was the first intact ropeway station I ever explored, so it will always be a special one for me, but since then I’ve seen better ones – some I have yet to write about, but a good example would be the *Shidaka Ropeway, Upper Terminus*.

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With hanami parties everywhere, spring is officially conquering Japan, quickly ending skiing season in almost all parts of the country for the first half of the year – time to have a look at one of the most impressive abandoned ski areas I’ve ever visited!

Ski resorts are a dime a dozen in Japan; abandoned ones, too. Sadly not in the Kansai area, where I live. There are a few places where you can ski in day trip range, but serious skiers go as far as Hakuba (near Nagano) even for weekend trips. Abandoned ski resorts date back to the 1940s (that’s when oldest one I found was closed, not opened!), but there are not many of them. In the past I wrote about the *Kyoto Ski Resort*, the *Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope* and one called *Alpen Rose* – this time let’s head north, towards Hakuba, but stop about halfway in Gifu prefecture.

The Gifu Ski Piste was actually part of a bigger resort, but closed down about half a decade ago, most likely due to the lack of customers, while the rest of the resort kept running; only 4 kilometers closer to civilization. Fully autonomous, the Gifu Ski Piste had its own lift(s) and its own rest house with a fully functional hotel and ski / snowboard rental. All the owner had to do to save money was shut everything down and have the few guests ski on the remaining slopes. And if business would have picked up again, it would have been quite easy to revive the dormant slope after a season or two. But business didn’t pick up and there is only so long you can wait before buildings suffer damages just from sitting there… and so the ski lift was dismantled, sealing the fate of this once fine place. Sometimes a 4 kilometer ride up and down rather narrow roads can make the difference between success and failure.

I had little to no expectation when arriving at the Gifu Ski Piste, mainly because the place is virtually unknown to the internet and has only appeared on a Japanese ski blog, but not on any urbex blogs, at least to the best of my knowledge. Furthermore I hadn’t seen any inside photos in advance, which is usually a sign for inaccessibility, alarm systems or security. This was urban exploration in its truest exploration form. (Quite a few abandoned places in Japan, and I guess it’s the same worldwide, are photographed to death – I prefer those rather unknown locations, where you can let your eyes wander to find new angles and new things to take pictures of.)
At first sight the rest house looked in really good condition, luckily the dismantled ski lift was stored in the former parking lot, so it was pretty clear that this ski area was abandoned. Yet no windows were broken, no doors were smashed… and after having a peek inside through windows, it was clear that this place was shut down on purpose with the option to reopen.
We finally gained entrance through an unlocked door in the back, but taking photos inside turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated, since the building was massive and didn’t have that many windows, except for the huge glass panels in the front. Strong light / darkness contrasts almost everywhere, and being in the middle of the mountains on a spring afternoon didn’t help either; neither did the lack of a tripod. Sadly most photos didn’t turn out nearly as well as I thought they did – because at the time of this exploration, it was definitely my favorite abandoned ski resort, and exploring it was a blast. (Since then I went to the *Gunma Ski Resort* and an even better one still unpublished…)

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On the Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo you can hardly throw a stone without hitting an abandoned place – though I doubt that it was a simple rock that brought down this bright red loop bridge…

There are actually several stories / story elements why this iconic *haikyo* became a modern ruin:
– One part of the bridge collapsed during an earthquake in the 1970s and the bridge was then abandoned.
– Somebody planned a spa resort on top of the mountain, but the plans fell through and construction of the bridge stopped.
– Somebody planned dozens of holiday homes and company retreats on top of the mountain in the 1970s, finished building the bridge and opened it to the public, but then went bankrupt without constructing anything else – so the bridge fell into disrepair and the road leading up to the bridge was dismantled for security reasons.
– The bridge was built in the 1970s, but didn’t collapse until 1993.
– The bridge was built in the 1970s, collapsed in the 1980s, but city officials didn’t admit to that fact until 1993.

40 years later and without access to a local historian or some kind of city archive it’s pretty much impossible to say what happened here. You should think that building bridges is the responsibility of the State, but there are plenty of private roads and bridges in Japan, so having a private investor being responsible for this modern ruin is by all means a possibility. Given that there are no solid roads beyond the bridge, I doubt that it was ever finished and opened to the public; that’s supported by the surroundings, which looked like an unfinished construction site abandoned decades ago. On the other hand it is very likely that somebody wanted to build something on top of the mountain, given that there is another “colony” with dozens of holiday homes and company retreats in walking distance. The Izu Peninsula was indeed hit by three serious earthquakes in the 1970s (1974, 1976 & 1978), but there is no way to say that one of them caused the bridge to partly collapse – though I think it is likely that the bridge was finished in the 70s, then whoever was in charge went bankrupt / stopped caring about the construction, it fell into disrepair and finally came down in the 1980s or 90s. The current position looks very, very instable, too – the massive rocks the nosedived bridge element is resting on now shows huge cracks from the pressure and I wouldn’t be surprised if we will see more movement in the not so far future…

The Partly Collapsed Red Bridge is actually quite a famous abandoned place in Japan, first reports date back to 2004, when hardly anybody did urbex in Japan, and I was never really eager to see it – photographed to death, potentially instable, fences around, rather remote location… and just boring. An abandoned bridge with a collapsed element, come on, how interesting can that be?
EXTREMELY interesting, probably one of the coolest places ever! Yeah, there were large construction fences where the bridge was planned to connect with a regular street, but a few dozen meters down the road was a flat parking area to the right and partly overgrown steps lead up the hill directly to where the bridge begins now, past auxiliary structures to support the construction workers, now more looking like a dump. (And probably used as a dump by locals these days as getting rid of electronics and bigger furniture can be really expensive in Japan…) So I climbed these fading steps with little to no expectations, but then I left the shadow of the forest and stepped into the light, literally and figuratively – I know it sounds cheesy, but it was like a choir of angels started singing. Holy shit – there was a partly collapsed bridge right in front of me, its damaged element pointing almost vertically to the sky, and one step to the left the asphalted loop started! Before I went to see the bridge myself I had seen dozens, maybe hundreds of photos… of quite a rather simple and not very elaborate (failed) construction, yet none of those pictures came even close to capture what I felt like standing there, all of a sudden feeling very small and vulnerable. So cool, so damn cool!
Although I swore to myself that I would not get even close to where the final bridge element slipped off the huge pillar, all of a sudden I realized how my feet were walking towards the metal fence once put in the middle of the road to keep nosy people with bad sense of balance from killing themselves accidentally or on purpose. The lower part of the wire netting had been long gone, so it was easy to get past this now rather symbolic obstacle. In the main corner of the uphill loop I took a photo (now the wallpaper of my computer) and all I could think of was: “This would be an awesome Mario Kart 9 track!” The bridge was actually quite wide, perfect for sliding karts, especially in a video game environment as the crash barrier wasn’t very high and the width of the road varied. I’ve seen my share of amazing yet weird bridges in Japan (including one coming out of a mountain tunnel and looping back in a few meters lower, all of that several hundred meters above the ground!), but this one didn’t look like it fulfilled any modern safety standards!
The very top of the bridge was every little bit as vertigo-inducing as you would it expect it to be – what an awesome sight! Sadly not for me, so I took a few quick shots and filmed some video material on my way back to the “barricade”. From there I headed over to the element that had fallen off at least 20 years prior to my visit, not without a bad feeling in my stomach – the massive piece of dented metal, plastic and asphalt was resting on massive rocks with huge cracks in them, and despite weighing tons, the setup looked very fragile. A few more shots and a quick video from underneath the slipped off part and back to safety I went… still not really believing how cool this location was, especially on a sunny spring day!

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After more than 400 explorations only a few things wow me anymore. The Irozaki Jungle Park did, more than once; continually actually!
The first thing that wowed me was the extremely bad weather upon arrival: March 1st, but heavy rain like in late June / early July. Urbex isn’t fun like that, especially when the first things you find are the former gift shop and another building boarded up! A few minutes later we reached the main entrance, patched up, too. Wow, damn, no easy access! I decided to have a look outside first, only to realize that the buildings of the Irozaki Jungle Park stretched across an area of about 200 by 400 meters (wow!), while my friends decided to find a way in closer to the main entrance. The back of the gigantic botanical theme park was roped off, the main building complex sealed tight, a car with license plates parked on the premises. Wow, this former urbex paradise definitely had been more welcoming before the city of Minamiizu took over to re-develop the area about two years ago.

The Irozaki Jungle Park opened in 1969 on 12,000 square meters, developed and run by the Iwasaki group, a conglomerate of about 50 companies, dealing with communications, transportation and tourism; hotels and resorts as well as artificial sightseeing spots like this humongous botanical garden. The park was an instant success, peaking at about 750,000 visitors in 1973. But instant success is rather easy to achieve in Japan, where everybody is on the hunt for the newest, the shiniest, the trendiest – long term success on the other hand is a real challenge, one that the IJP lost. The numbers of visitors went down significantly as the buildings aged. When less than 100,000 people visited the park within a year, Iwasaki pulled the plug and closed the Irozaki Jungle Park on September 30th 2003. Interestingly enough the JNTO (Japanese National Travel Organization) is mentioning / recommending the IJP in an old version of their official tourist guide to the Izu Peninsula, which is still available online. WOW, that’s a whole new level of expert fail! (According to the guide it is “containing well over 3000 species of tropical plants. Open daily: 8:30 – 16:50. Admission: \900.”)

Upon my return to the main entrance I found my friends were able to gain access to the first huge structure without breaking anything, so I joined them to have a look inside. About 15 meters wide, 50 meters long and maybe 7 meters high, this first greenhouse made quite an impression on me (wow!), though that doesn’t mean a lot given that I am not exactly a regular visitor of botanical gardens… Despite the park being closed a dozen years ago, some of the plants inside of the conservatory were in pretty good condition. There was plenty of foliage on the ground, so I had to choose my steps wisely, especially since the greenhouse was located on a gentle slope. The path split and reunited several times before leading into a pitch black and pretty much empty area, connecting the first greenhouse with a slightly wider one of almost the same length, followed by a 15 meter long Rainforest Zone, connecting the middle part with a third greenhouse; about 20 meters wide and 60 meters long. The height inside the halls varied between maybe 4 meters and probably 7 or 8 meters, before we finally reached the end of the tube like biosphere looking complex. There we found some restrooms, a rest area and lots of pamphlets of other nearby tourist attractions. Wow, I knew that the Irozaki Jungle Park was big, but this was much larger than I expected, even though I had already seen the entire place from the outside! The park’s mascots apparently were two slightly dumb looking white “jungle explorers” equipped with helmets, guns and binoculars as well as a dark skinned “jungle dweller” wearing rings around his ankles, his neck, through his ears and through his nose (!) – the three interacted in “funny” ways, for example when the jungle man was drumming, he used the white guys’ helmets, too. I guess you don’t have to be overly sensitive to find this at least slightly racist, and of course we were cracking jokes that the only plywood cutout scene missing was the black guy boiling the white guys in a big cauldron.
And so we headed through a pair of sliding doors – not the exit, but the connection to a huge last greenhouse, a rectangle of about 50 by 70 meters, probably 10 meters high. WOW, WOW, WOW! This gigantic hall featured several ponds of various sizes, several food stands, sculptures made from different materials, and two large glass containers with specimen; the kind you’ve seen in several of my articles about *abandoned schools* before – a ray and some kind of eel, maybe. Wow! Some of the ceiling panels were broken… pretty much in all halls, but especially in this one, so the vegetation here was especially lush. We could even see and hear a couple of birds inside the greenhouse. This place would be amazing to film a 1970s style science fiction movie or some kind of horror flick – gosh, I bet you could scare urban explorers shitless by playing John Barry’s The Black Hole theme when they enter the last gigantic greenhouse! :)
Overall the Irozaki Jungle Park was a really mind-blowing location! There was so much to see, so many paths to explore. Sadly we had to leave around lunch time already as we had to return our car before 5 p.m. in Mishima, with traffic being unpredictable due to nearby hanami festivals, the first in all of Japan this year – and we also lost quite some time finding a way inside the gargantuan structure, so taking photos was kind of a rushed job, nevertheless I enjoyed my visit to the Irozaki Jungle Park tremendously. The last thing I did, as always, was filming the walkthrough, and for that we looked for the official former exit of the park. And guess what… There it was, the plywood cutout of the black guy boiling a white guy in a large cauldron, tasting the “soup” with a scoop! WOW…

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Urbex is always dangerous – this exploration though turned out to be potentially crippling. And no doctor in Japan was able or willing to help…

Nature loves Germany. Every couple of years the country has to deal with a flood, but that’s pretty much it. No serious earthquakes, tornadoes or typhoons. No giant spiders or insects with deadly poison. The only really nasty threats out there are ticks transferring Lyme disease and ESME (early summer meningoencephalitis).

During my 2012 vacation to Germany I met my old friend Ira to catch up, and *like a year prior* we decided to explore something instead of having coffee somewhere. I was running out of time and really wanted to see an abandoned hospital (Klinikum der Stadt Mannheim, III. Medizinische Klinik) in a suburb of Mannheim, so we went there to have a look. Well, it turned out that the clinic had moved to a new building, leaving the old ones unused for now. Plans to turn them into a home for the elderly were rather theoretical, but the city clearly still had an eye on the premises and the surrounding park. The fact that the former leukemia hospital was empty and in the middle of a residential area didn’t raise our willingness to risk anything as people could watch our moves without being seen from the comfort of their own homes. The buildings looked interesting enough from the outside, so I took some photos and a video before leaving; though I went through some bushes looking for an easy entrance to a side building apparently used as part of a public housing project; in vain.
When I took a shower that evening I saw a tiny black spot on my belly that didn’t belong there, less than a millimeter in size… turns out that it was a friggin tick! I removed it and hoped for the best – after all, there was only a 1% chance that I contracted Lyme disease with that one bite.

A few days later I went back to the empty hospital with my dad to shoot another video – that summer I bought a toy drone and I thought it would be fun to take some aerial shots. While I was controlling the unsteady thing via a tablet and a WiFi connection, my dad supported my efforts as a spotter, making sure that I wouldn’t hit trees, cables or other obstacles; you can find the whole unedited, more than 9 minutes long flight at the end of the article – without sound as the drone didn’t record any.
Just before I left for Japan again I met my friend Catherine for a day trip to the Black Forest. Out of nowhere and without me even mentioning the tick bite she told me the story how she contracted Lyme disease a couple of years prior and how dangerous that stuff can be – which made me more and more uncomfortable, especially since it takes a while to see some symptoms. And sometimes symptoms never show or indicate a different disease / illness.
About a week or two week after I came back to Japan the spot where I got bitten turned red, another red ring formed around it, at the same time I felt extremely worn out all the time; two very serious hints that I contracted Lyme disease. Yay! So I had to choose between endless treatment by a useless Japanese doctor (95% of them are… some do more harm than good) or a potentially crippling disease – I thought about it for a couple of hours and then decided to see a doctor as Lyme can be really nasty. The one I chose spoke English and was recommended by the American embassy or consulate or something like that. I got an appointment and went there… and the doctor had no idea what it was, despite the fact that I told her the full story, of course. Even when I mentioned that I assume that it might be Lyme she was like “Yeah, but maybe it’s not…” – so she did some blood tests and asked me to come back later that week. Which I did. Her result was… inconclusive. What a surprise, I could have told her that. There was no rise in white blood cells yet and all the other things looked okay, but she talked to her daughter, a dermatologist, and she said that it might be Lyme given the very unusual rash I had (no kidding!), but she wasn’t sure either. What makes this even more ridiculous: Lyme is not an exotic, unusual disease. You can actually get Lyme disease in Japan, too, but only in the Tohoku area, so according to that doctor, there was no way to diagnose Lyme for sure here in Osaka! What the FUCK? Japanese doctors have a reputation for being incompetent by the standards of industrialized countries, but that useless? And what about really unusual diseases, contracted in Africa or South America? Germany has specialized clinics all over the country for that… and in Osaka, one of Japan’s biggest cities, you can’t diagnose Lyme, which you actually can get in Japan, to a point that you are actively willing to treat it?!
Luckily I was scheduled to go on a business trip to Germany soon (what a coincidence, as it was the first and last ever!) and I told her that I might be able to see a doctor then – and you could see her lighten up; finally a way out of this uncomfortable situation… for her! So I insisted that she would prescribe me antibiotics for a few days (to stall the disease in case I was right…) and sent me on my way.
Upon arrival in Germany I made sure to get enough antibiotics for a Lyme disease treatment, which enabled me to continue my business trip without having to worry about my job or my health. Three weeks later the rash and the constant fatigue were gone. Thanks to a business trip to Germany… which saved me from a crippling disease, because Japanese doctors really are as bad as their reputation!

Usually I avoid personal stories like that on Abandoned Kansai as the deserted locations clearly are the focus of this blog, but since it is closely connected to both the hospital in Mannheim as well as my life in Japan, I thought some of you might be interested – especially since my fractured ankle story was quite popular when I wrote about *an amazing abandoned hospital in Hokkaido two years ago*. And don’t you worry – all bad things come in threes, too, so you can look forward to a really messed up story about eye surgery gone wrong. Imagine the movie A Clockwork Orange minus the violent movies and Beethoven…

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Small, but spooky… Hardly any abandoned place gave me the creeps as much as the Sanyo Securities Vault, a massive semi-underground construction inhabited by bats and gigantic bugs.

Sanyo Securities (not to be confused with the world renowned Sanyo Electric!) was a mid-size Japanese brokerage firm. Founded in 1910 it got into serious financial trouble after the Japanese price asset bubble burst in the early 1990s. In March of 1998 the financial situation was so dire that there were talks about Mitsui Sumitomo taking over, but that option fell through. Even a restructuring of the company in June of the same year couldn’t save it, and so all employees were sacked on August 31st.

Like many successful companies of the 1980s, Sanyo Securities owned a scenic countryside retreat and training center for employees, in this case with a massive semi-underground safe. The first thing my explorer buddy *Hamish* and I found upon reaching the premises were some tennis courts in really bad condition – it was more than obvious that the area had been abandoned for quite a while.
On the way back to the training center buildings I spotted a low dome like construction in the vegetation to our left. It took us no time to find the entrance, though I can’t remember seeing any sign of the metal door, except for its left-behind solid frame. The hallway behind was lit from above through the glass dome we spotted from the outside, the walls probably quite massive ferroconcrete – the thing looked like from a 1960s SciFi movie! And there it was, behind a corner, the biggest metal door I’ve ever seen in my life, open – as if a watching mastermind was just waiting for somebody to enter, so it could be slammed shut via a remote control. Some bored people with too much strength actually removed a panel on the back, so the locking mechanism was exposed; quite interesting! Behind that door was a narrow square hallway, surrounding the inner sanctum: a room about four by four meters, guarded by another set of inside concrete walls at least 30 centimeters thick and another massive metal door with a complicated lock. This must have been the safe for most prized possessions owned by the customers of Sanyo Securities; now inhabited by a few bats in the inner hallway and some huge bugs (giant grasshoppers, if I remember correctly) in the center room. Fascinating place, but creepy as hell!
The company retreat part was quite interesting in its own way. Built from various materials and partly in line with its surroundings, I especially liked the fire place and the huge windows in what must have been some kind of cafeteria / conference room. Sadly the upper floor suffered from arson – and whoever took care of that problem probably cleared / cleaned some of the building, as parts of it looked a lot more cluttered on older photos I’ve seen before my visit. The burned-out room offered a gorgeous few at the other building below and especially at the lake across the street. The other rooms were either tatami rooms that looked like regular hotel rooms – or carpeted dormitory style rooms with bunk beds. I guess not all Sanyo Securities employees were treated the same…
The training center below was quite unspectacular though; mainly conference rooms, from the looks of it. The upper floors were mostly moldy and rotten, the lower floor showed signs of severe vandalism – broken windows and graffiti. Usually I try to avoid showing graffiti to not motivate those “artists” vandalizing abandoned places, but the One Piece one kinda looked nice and almost suited the wall it was sprayed on.

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Japan and Germany are both famous for their castles – the ones in Japan are either tourist attractions or (in very rare cases) abandoned. In Germany there is a third kind, the ones that were turned into accommodations. Youth hostels, hotels or private homes; usually located in a very beautiful landscape on top of a mountain. To the best of my knowledge all “castle hotels” in Japan are hotels NEAR famous castles, not former castles themselves. Until a few years ago there was one sort-of exception, a huge hotel that kind of looked like a pre-modern fortress, but was a post-war concrete construction – similar to the tourist trap called Osaka Castle… ;)
Then the Great Tohoku Earthquake a.k.a. 3/11 hit the northern half of Japan in 2011, and while the hotel was spared the flood, it suffered some damages from the earthquake and its aftershocks. Even worse: tourists avoided the area between Tokyo and Hokkaido like the plague… or an earthquake-ridden nuclear wasteland… and so the Japanese Castle Hotel had to close its doors.
In 2013 I saw a video on Youtube (now offline…), taken at the then closed / abandoned hotel – everything was in almost pristine condition, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like the best abandoned hotel ever! I had to find it somehow, yet I failed for months. In early 2014 I was talking with my urbex buddy Rory about (finding) new locations and I sent him a link to the then still working video. A few days later he got back to me: his wife watched the video, too, and based on that she not only found the hotel’s location, but its Twitter account and blog, too. In moments like that I wish my Japanese was better…
Almost a year had gone by since I first watched the (edited) walkthrough, but I still considered it one of the most amazing and rarest abandoned places in Japan – so I got a plane ticket to the north and headed there a couple of months later. Upon arrival at the hotel disappointment set in quickly: it wasn’t abandoned… not even closed – it was under renovation! This was only the third time I’ve heard that a once abandoned place was under renovation. The first was a windmill restaurant, the second a regular hotel. Now this…

But well, what can you do – you gotta roll with the punches. My two fellow explorers though seemed to be of different opinion. Judging by their faces, they would have called it a day and went straight to dinner instead, but I took a plane to explore this very location… and an open door and the noise of construction work in the background wouldn’t prevent me from doing so!
We carefully progressed through the building, trying to avoid making any noise, but sooner or later the inevitable happened – we ran into a construction worker. Luckily my friends agreed to my strategy, so instead of trying to bolt, we approached the guy and explained to him what we were doing. He clearly thought we were crazy, but didn’t mind that we were hanging around taking photos… and from that point on it was easy going.
Now you might ask yourself the question whether or not exploring a hotel under renovation belongs on a blog about urban exploration. Personally I prefer 100% abandoned places, but that’s the ideal. Most of the interesting locations, especially in Europe and the States, are patrolled by security, so technically they are not abandoned either; and who could imagine urbex in Japan without *Nara Dreamland*? So this was kind of a special exploration and very interesting in its own way, as the renovation work wasn’t limited to roofing and a new layer of paint for the building. While some of the rooms were in surprisingly bad condition considering that only three years had passed since 3/11, others just had been renovated, still looking and smelling brand-new. That before / after experience is almost as rare as castle shaped hotels in Japan… and I truly enjoyed it, almost as much as the gorgeous weather and the beautiful architecture, including shots of the damaged roof with its shachihoko, a Japanese folklore creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp.
Sadly once again time was of the essence, so in the end I had to squeeze an exploration that should have taken at least three hours into less than one – nevertheless I am happy that I was able to see the Japanese Castle Hotel at the beginning of its renovation. I have to admit that it was not as spectacular as I hoped it would be (not nearly as impressive as the *Hachijo Royal Hotel*!), but it still was one of those unique places you long to see as an urban explorer, as there are hundreds of other abandoned hotels all over the country – but none of them looks like a Japanese castle…

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