Even Modern Ruins can be almost 200 years old in Germany – and the Hildebrand’sche Untere Mühle (Hildebrand’s Lower Mill) was quite an impressive example, its history dating back to 1071…

The Codex Laureshamensis (or Lorsch Codex) is a manuscript created between 1170 and 1195 to document the rights and riches of the Abbey of Lorsch in modern Southern Hesse. For the year 1071 it mentions a grand mill in nearby Weinheim, owned by the abbey. Since today’s Hildebrand’sche Untere Mühle has the location with the best conditions of all the mills in the so-called Sechs-Mühlen-Tal (Six Mills Valley), the general assumption is that the mill mentioned in the Lorsch Codex was a predecessor of the Hildebrand’sche Untere Mühle. In 1845 the Hildebrand family bought the property, just before the industrial revolution reached the pre-unified Germany full on. Georg Hildebrand invested in the dying industry (countless small mills were literally and figuratively steamrolled by modern technology) with big plans – including a failed one to build a dam right next to the mill, 27 meters high. Instead the family business created one of the first fully automatic industrial mills worldwide. The landmark tower, finished in 1896 right next to the Gründerzeit mansion (1882), was able to store up to 5000 tons of flour.
In 1982 the company shut down and both the villa as well as the mill with the gigantic granary started to fall into disrepair. Several investors showed interest in converting the property into a senior citizen home, a hotel with a casino, an apartment complex, a brothel or a technology museum, but all those plans fell through… Mainly because the valley is rather narrow and has lots of traffic – and that the granary is heritage protected didn’t help either…

Upon my exploration of the Hildebrand’sche Untere Mühle in 2012 a new investor just started (de)construction, fencing off the whole area, building a new bridge across the Weschnitz to provide heavy machine. The goal: Demolish everything that’s not protected by law, turn the villa into condos (between 500k and 625k EUR!) and build new apartments (283k to 735k) – the prices of up to 5900 EUR per square meter considered borderline insane for the area. In 2013 the first buildings were finally demolished, in autumn of 2014 the villa was scaffolded – the plan was to get everything done in 2016. The plan clearly didn’t work, as the last two photos of the set show, taken in 2016. The area is ready for the new apartment buildings and some renovation work, but except for demolition not much happened since my visit in 2012, mainly because the investor wasn’t able to pre-sell many of the apartments / condos.
Sadly those deconstruction works made it nearly impossible to get access to most of the area, and it took me a hike up and down a hill to reach the tower and the mill – the mansion was out of reach at the time. And even the area I was able to access wasn’t fun to explore, thanks to the more than questionable condition the buildings were in – it was basically one big death trap. Nevertheless I was able to take some neat inside photos and some scenic outdoor ones.

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“Why are there so many abandoned hotels in Japan?”, is one of the questions I am asked most frequently. The Santorini Hotel just added a new aspect to my answer…

One way to find abandoned places is to use the satellite view of GoogleMaps and look for stuff that seems to be deserted. I have to admit that it’s a very time-consuming and unreliable method (at least 50% of the things that look abandoned are actually still in use…), but it’s also a way to get away from the beaten urbex paths, where people take the same shots others have taken half a decade prior. The Santorini Hotel was one of the places I found that way – still marked as in business, but green hotel pools are always a good sign that something’s wrong. (Whereas green pools of public baths or schools don’t mean anything as they are in use for only six to eight weeks per year in Japan.)
Upon arrival it became clear pretty quickly that the hotel was heavily overgrown, but not at all vandalized – I guess the fact that it has a (different) name on GoogleMaps throws off both vandals and urban explorers on a regular basis. We checked the usual points of entries, like doors and windows, but everything was undamaged and shut tight – except for one boarded window, where apparently somebody tried to get in a while ago.
In my experience, most abandoned hotels in Japan are in that unfortunate situation for one or more of the following reasons: remote location, downfall of a once popular area (like the coast of the Seto Inland Sea), too much competition, or new competition with more modern facilities. Built in 1976, the Santorini Hotel wasn’t too old, it wasn’t exceptionally remote and the area in general was still popular with just the right amount of competition. So why was it abandoned? Well, technically it wasn’t. A note at the entrance explained the condition the Santorini Hotel was in: It was closed because of new earthquake resistance standards. I think the ones they referred to made it basically mandatory to execute a ground investigation – a more recent revision put addition pressure on hotels built before 1982 (1981 or earlier, to be specific) and at least three storeys tall. The Santorini Hotel was built on a slope next to water in 1976 on a total of four floors – boom, headshot. Even though probably nothing would ever happen, the owner closed the hotel as the necessary renovations / improvements would have been too expensive. (As far as I understood the situation, most of those regulations are not legally binding, but result in a low score, which results in worried travelers to not book those hotels – just delaying the inevitable…)
I took a few quick shots of the main area and the pool, but considered visiting the Santorini Hotel a failure, as we didn’t find a way inside – but then we figured out a way to the back of the hotel, where I took more photos and a video. Overall not a super impressive set, but I’ve seen much worse locations on other blogs… and they don’t even publish on a weekly basis. So I though in combination with the note from the front door, this would actually make for a neat little story. Especially since the latest update of those regulations resulted in a huge wave of hotels closed at the end of 2015 – and I am pretty sure that some of them will find their way on *Abandoned Kansai* soon…

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Truly unique abandoned places are really rare – Japan is no exception from that rule. And sometimes the only way to protect those locations is to keep quiet about them… until they got demolished. Welcome to the Shodoshima Peacock Garden!

The Shodoshima Peacock Garden (SPG) was a 30000 square meter park on Shodoshima, the second largest island in the Seto Inland Sea, famous for its vast olive groves. Opened in 1970 on a small elevation in sight of the harbor in Ikeda it was closed on November 30th 2008 according to the Japanese Wikipedia; strangely enough I found a calendar from October 2009, but who knows who put it there… The SPG featured 3500 peafowls in its heyday during the early 70s, when up to half a million visitors per year were welcomed – a massive achievement, considering that Shodoshima is not connected to any other island by bridge; but due to its size, a motorized vehicle is kind of necessary, so you either need a rental or arrive by a car ferry with your own set of wheels. (Or you bite the bullet, like yours truly, and depend on the few public busses that make it around the island… but not all the way.)
Anyway, the years of plenty didn’t even reach the count of seven as visitor numbers plummeted quickly – by the mid-70s they were already as low as 150000 per year. The hatch rate of the peacocks also took a dive, which was the main reason why the number of peafowls in the park went down to 500 by 2002, when the park closed for one year for maintenance. In 2003 the Shodoshima Peacock Garden opened from April to November, but got rid of a main attraction that was quite popular before the break: 40 peacocks walked up a ramp inside Mount Peacock and then flew the 10 meters down into the park to the excited visitors – but despite 5 meter high nets and peacocks not being good flyers, every once in a while one them escaped, which was probably the main reason why the so-called Flight Show was cancelled; it turned out that the flight show was too much of a flight risk. By 2007 the number of peacocks went up again to 1000, but the number of visitors went down to a mere 50000 for the whole season; not nearly enough to cover the costs, and so the Shodoshima Bus Company, who owned the SPG, decided to close the park for good – especially since the aging facilities would have required additional investments soon. When the park finally closed in 2008, the remaining 200 peacocks were sold to other animal parks, including Shodoshima’s own Choshikei Monkey Park.

I first found out about the Shodoshima Peacock Garden from my German friend Chris a little more than four years ago. He was visiting Japan and traveled around a bit with his girlfriend, before we met at a Torikizoku in Osaka. We talked about this and that, when he mentioned that strange abandoned park he found on Shodoshima… with some taxidermy peacocks in a souvenir shop. I had never heard of that place before and was terribly intrigued… So I went there in September of 2012 with my friend Chris from New Zealand. First we (re)visited the *Shikoku New Zealand Village* and an abandoned transformer station, the next morning we took the ferry from Takamatsu to Ikeda. Approaching the harbor, we could already see the Shodoshima Peacock Garden on an elevation right at the coast. 20 minutes later we stood at the park’s entrance – filled with pure excitement upon entering a place we knew hardly anything about and had never seen pictures of before. This was exploration in its purest form. Don’t tell me that people going to *Nara Dreamland* these days are exploring it! At best they are looking for spots to recreate well-known photos they’ve seen countless times on the internet. But Chris and I, standing there, ready to go in, that was pure exploration spirit!
The entrance building featured a small shop and a ticket booth to the left as well as restrooms to the right – a net stretching above the building in an attempt to prohibit peafowls from fleeing the premises. The net actually surrounded the whole park, followed by a line or two of thick vegetation, predominantly massive palm trees. The former garden was mostly overgrown, but after about 100 meters there was the souvenir shop German Chris mentioned… and to the left was the entrance to Birdpia, basically the main attraction of the park, featuring huge outdoor bird cages as well as a building with a panoramic round aquarium and an egg exhibition. The exit of the building was locked, but it once lead to the monument near the coast line, the area Kiwi Chris and I saw from the ferry – from there you got to the gift shop and then to the exit. The outdoor area mostly overgrown and the indoor area mostly dark, this turned out to be one of the creepiest explorations ever – mostly because I had no idea what to expect. Once you’ve seen photos of a location somewhere, it gives you a certain amount of confidence and reassurance, because every once in a while you recognize things and places you’ve seen before; it’s comforting. Never knowing what’s behind the next corner is friggin nerve-wrecking, especially at an eerie place like that! At the same time it’s super exciting, because you are not walking on beaten paths and you don’t take the same pictures as dozens or hundreds of people before you.
The souvenir shop / restaurant was built above a slope and therefor a bit scary in its own way, despite being really well-lit for most of it. The restaurant featured a great view at the Seto Inland Sea, while the souvenir shop offered a wide variety of olive chocolate products. No kidding! Olive chocolate products! As I mentioned before, Shodoshima is famous for olives. But instead of selling canned olives and olive oil, people decided it would be a good idea to sell olive chocolate, olive chocolate cake and olive chocolate cookies. Since the shop was in overall good condition I kept taking pictures of the fake sample boxes… and since these sweets were so original, I think those photos deserve to be published. At least half of them or so… The rest of the building was far less interesting – a kitchen, some dirty toilets and a storage room on the lower floor. Outside again I took some pictures of Mount Peacock, the monument at the waterfront and of the park in general. It was then when I found a cage construction leading down a slope in the back. I followed it and finally reached the empty and cleaned out peacock stable – and from there I got to the internal ramp leading up Mount Peacock, after passing some really spooky concrete areas. Maybe the last photo of the set gives you a general idea…
When I originally planned the day on Shodoshima, I slated about two hours to explore the Shodoshima Peacock Garden. Because, let’s be honest: How exciting can an abandoned bird park be? Well, apparently very exciting, because Chris and I finally got out of there after about five hours! Which left me pretty much enough time to take a bus to Tonosho, say goodbye to Chris (who was continuing to Okayama), take another bus to Fukuda, and catch a ferry to Himeji – beautiful sunset on the water, a perfect ending for an amazing day.

Now, back home I was a bit of in a predicament. On the one hand I wanted to tell everyone about this amazing exploration I enjoyed so much, but that would have meant to reveal information about the location – and I was worried that the increasing vandalism hurting *Nara Dreamland* could also damage this nearly pristine location. Just the information that the SPG once was a peafowl park (without mentioning the real name or location) would have allowed people with minimal Google skills to get on its track, because there have not been many facilities similar to the Shodoshima Peacock Garden, let alone closed / abandoned ones. A fellow explorer once said that he has no problems revealing real names even of locations in fantastic condition as he is not in the business of protecting abandoned places – which I guess is true, but I am also not in the business of exposing abandoned places. And so I kept quiet, always hoping to come back one day – but I never made it, because new explorations always seemed to be more interesting. Last week Monday, when preparing the Nara Dreamland article, I was revisiting some abandoned places via the satellite view of GoogleMaps… and saw that the souvenir building has received some TLC while Mount Peacock and all other constructions (except for the monument) have been leveled. On the one hand I was terribly sad to see another abandoned place gone, especially a truly unique and amazing one like this, on the other hand I was as full of joy as I have been four years ago standing at the entrance of the Shodoshima Peacock Garden – because I knew I could finally write about it without holding back. And now I hope that you will enjoy looking at the photos and watching the videos as much as I enjoyed exploring this wonderful, wonderful place you’ll probably never see anywhere again…

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To the day 10 years ago Nara Dreamland closed forever without a single ride being removed. Since then it has become one of the most (in)famous abandoned amusement parks in the world, attracting both urban explorers and vandals from within Japan as well as overseas. Let’s have another look…🙂

The first time I visited Nara Dreamland was back in 2009, when hardly anybody knew about this strange Disneyland clone – and of course *I almost got caught while exploring the ice skate rental / conference / accommodation building*. The next time I went there, in 2010, I actually got caught by “security”, in hindsight probably the then-owner or his son. While other people reportedly were slammed with a fine or even handed over to the police, I was lucky… because when I realized that I was facing the same fate, I was able to run away.
Since then I’ve been to Nara Dreamland at least once a year – sometimes inside, sometimes just at the rather safe entrance with the huge parking lot and the two mystery buildings. Sunshine, rain, even *snow*. Morning, afternoon, night – pretty much every hour of the day, except maybe 9 p.m. till midnight. I went there alone, with friends, with friends of friends, with strangers. At Nara Dreamland I had some of the best urbex times, but also some of the worst urbex times.
Sadly Nara Dreamland turned out to be the place where I was able to witness how vandalism literally and figuratively ruined a once amazing location… and that process is actually still continuing, probably faster than ever. “Boys go to Disneyland, Men go to Dreamland” – with ridiculous, snappy phrases like that some people publish their Nara Dreamland photos. But the sad truth is: tourists and vandals go to Dreamland, men have been there 5, 6, 7 years ago.
When I first arrived at Nara Dreamland, the entrance was completely unharmed, the pay booth locked. Now the sign is smashed, the kiosk broken open and in shambles.
When I first arrived at Nara Dreamland, there were no graffiti anywhere – at least I don’t remember seeing any. Now half of the park is tagged – including one of the parking lot buildings, the entrance to the Main Street USA clone… and of course the castle. Yes, even the castle!
When I first took a video of the monorail in 2011, it showed some early signs of vandalism – now it is completely covered in spray paint, with a sticker on top: FC St. Pauli, 7. Herren. Soccer fans and vandalism? What a shocking combination… Although that badge doesn’t really make any difference considering the insane amount of damage in total, it kind of hit close to my heart as those vandalizing mofos were not only foreigners, they were (most likely) Germans – so let me address them in a way they hopefully will understand, despite having underdeveloped birdbrains: Ich hoffe, dass euer beschissener Drecksverein auf Nimmerwiedersehen in der Versenkung verschwindet!

What else is there to say? To be honest, I feel a bit tired now. Being reminded of how much Nara Dreamland suffered in the past couple of years really makes me sad (and I am not used to curse in German anymore…). NDL was such a wonderful place in 2009/2010, now it’s just a shadow of its old glory. Unfortunately there is no way to keep a place like that a secret. It’s too big, it’s too well-known amongst the Japanese population and theme park fans worldwide. 95% of the photos taken there are very recognizable; because of the wooden rollercoaster Aska, because of the Screw Coaster, because of the general cheap Disney clone atmosphere. Luckily that doesn’t apply for all abandoned places in Japan – so next week I will present you a truly unique location you’ve most likely never seen anywhere else before, even if you are into Japanese urbex as much as I am! Until then I hope you’ll enjoy some more photos I’ve taken at *Nara Dreamland* over the course of almost seven years (if you have an eye for details, you’ll find the same motorbike on several photos; needless to say that I never even touched it…) – most of them unpublished before, the rest to illustrate the soaring amount of vandalism at this once pristine abandoned theme park…

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Last week I was kind of complaining about a mine / quarry (as it was cutting deep into *Mount Ibuki*), this week I am writing about one…

Researching “new” abandoned places is something I really enjoy. To me it’s part of urban exploration as much as traveling, taking photos and writing articles like this one – it’s an integral part of the experience. For that reason I have absolutely no time or love for messages like “Yo dog, where’s this place” (that’s an unaltered quote – the whole unabbreviated, unedited text!). I don’t mind sharing certain locations I found with friends and people I trust, but if I don’t know somebody, this is definitely the wrong way to get in touch with me; not just because of content, but also because of (the lack of) style. At the same time I am a bit hesitant receiving location hints, though this barely ever happens anyway as the request (or should I say “demand”?) to offer ratio is something like 40 or 50 to 1 – at best!
The Asuka Quarry was one of the few… probably the only, thinking of it… reader hint I actually followed through with. And the guy hinting, Colin, was kind enough to show me the place, so we met at a countryside train station and walked for a while in the intense late April sun. Soon we left the asphalted roads by circumventing a fence, continuing on the graveled road behind it, leading up to quarry. Colin never made a secret of the fact that the quarry he found wasn’t spectacular in any way, but at this point he tried to keep my expectations so low I started to wonder if it was worth risking a sunstroke. After passing some greenhouses and circumventing a large gate we finally made it to the quarry… And Colin really didn’t exaggerate – there wasn’t much to see, but the atmosphere was very soothing. When you are used to the loud, hectic and somewhat smelly city center of Osaka, this oasis in the suburbs was quite nice; the perfect location to find a place in the shadow and read a book.
Or to grab some white tuff, which apparently was mined here for centuries before it became unprofitable. Stone from this area has been used for Buddhist statues, temple stylobates and coffins in burial mounds.
The quarry was quite big, but wherever we looked, we didn’t find any buildings or abandoned machinery – and so we left after about an hour to check out a deserted love hotel I knew about…

The Asuka Quarry was probably the most unspectacular location I ever took pictures of – but it was nice to spend a spring day outside and not having to explore alone, which I did quite a bit this spring. And it finally got me in close proximity of the already mentioned love hotel; I most likely will write about that exploration around Christmas, as it has become somewhat of a tradition.
To be honest with you, I wasn’t super proud of most locations I published recently – but with one location per week they can’t be all like *Nara Dreamland*. But in some weeks, especially when a big anniversary is on the horizon, there can be more than one article… so come back soon or you’ll have to catch up with a bonus post upon your next visit!

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Two abandoned ski resorts halfway up one of Japan’s most popular mountains – one at about 500 meters, the other at about 750 meters… and no working lift anymore to get up there! The Ruins of Mount Ibuki.

When I first picked up urbex as a hobby, I was an avid hiker and actually bought my first DSLR to take better pictures of scenic landscapes and waterfalls – I received it the day before I climbed Mount Atago in the outskirts of Kyoto. Not the normal route, but along the *abandoned cable car*, my first real abandoned place I visited on purpose. I started to go to abandoned places more often, quite a few of them in combination with hiking, like the *Taga Mine* or the *Mount Hiei Artificial Ski Slope*. In summer of 2010 I decided to climb Mount Ibuki and brought my big camera just in case there would be some spectacular views, because I didn’t expect to see any ruins along a popular hiking trail like that – I was wrong…
Mount Ibuki is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, a list compiled by mountaineer Kyuya Fukada in 1964 and made popular when Crown Prince Naruhito took note of it and decided to climb them all. It’s the highest peak of the Ibuki Mountains along the border between Shiga and Gifu prefectures and offers a great view at Lake Biwa on clear days.
With an early start, the 1377-metre-high peak can be climbed even by occasional hikers like myself in a day trip from Kobe / Osaka / Nara / Kyoto – usually by taking a train to Omi-Nagaoka and a bus to the trailhead near Sannomiya Shrine (bus stop: Ibuki-Tozanguchi). As fate willed, the regular bus wasn’t running that day without a reason given, so I shared a taxi with three ladies in their 60s, as the 5 kilometer walk would have totally messed up my schedule. The first 200 metres in altitude you gain by walking up what is basically a long staircase through the woods (the trail starts at about 220 meters above sea level). Steps, steps, steps – hardly any even stretches, but protected from the sun. Then you step out in the open right next to an abandoned lift on the right and a large abandoned ryokan to the left. Upon further exploration I found a still partly stocked abandoned ski rental shop, another accommodation, a restaurant / ski rental called Dorian, and some ski lifts right next to a beautiful slope. At one point this area must have been quite popular, now only the Mount Ibuki Plateau Hut and the Mount Ibuki Paragliding School are open for business – accessible for employees (and maybe customers) by a road closed to the general public. Already feeling the climb in my legs, surprised by the photo opportunity and only half a year into writing Abandoned Kansai I took a couple of photo, but I’d have to lie if I’d claim that I would be proud of them; now, six years later. Anyway, I continued to follow the track up Mount Ibuki for about 150 meters (height, not length!), past another abandoned restaurant, to the top of this lower skiing area, which included a still active accommodation, a temple (I didn’t visit) as well as another large abandoned rest house / ryokan with a beautiful UCC vending machine in front of it. At this point the hiking trail disappeared between some trees for another 200 meters of height gain – the lift leading straight up to connect the lower skiing area with the upper skiing area left abandoned.
The upper skiing area, basically another plateau, was riddled with about half a dozen lifts in all directions – and it also featured an abandoned hotel (Mount Ibuki Highland / Plateau Hotel) as well as an inaccessible gondola station connecting a parking lot next to Sannomiya Shrine directly with the upper skiing area. Even more exhausted thanks to the gruesome June summer heat and humidity I took some more pictures, but again… I was in hiking mode. And that was necessary, because at the upper skiing area the hike up Mount Ibuki becomes exhausting. For the final stretch of about 550 meters of height difference you see barely any tree, instead you have to hike up a rather narrow trail in serpentines without any natural protection from the sun – back and forth, back and forth, between 5 and 50 meters each. Like I said, I did quite a bit of hiking the previous year, but nothing like that! Upon reaching the top of Mount Ibuki I was surprised to find a small hut village, selling everything from food to crappy souvenirs. I wasn’t aware of it beforehand, but as it turned out that there is a pay road leading up the back of Mount Ibuki, called Ibuki Driveway. In summer, you can even take a public bus from Sekigahara Station! It kind of ruined the atmosphere up there, but at the same I was really, really, really happy to have some kakigori (shaved ice with syrup) to cool down! According to the hiking maps, it takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes to climb Mount Ibuki – 1157 meters of height difference stretched across exactly six kilometers.
On the way down, flooded by a motivating feeling of accomplishment, I continued to take photos… and I actually think that they are the better ones. I was more relaxed, more focused on framing – and to be honest, the warm afternoon light was much better than the rather harsh morning light. After a total of about six hours I was back at the bus stop – and this time it actually came!

Climbing Mount Ibuki is quite an experience, whether you are into urban exploration or not – and I can only imagine how nice it must have been before all the lifts, huts, roads, and the big mine that is carving a gigantic open sore into the western part of the mountain. I actually liked it so much that I came back with a friend a year later, in 2011, only to find that most of the lifts had been demolished and the hotel was in use again – not by tourists, but probably by the workers who removed the lifts. What else was different? Well, that’s a story for another time…

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Getting to an abandoned place in the middle of nowhere can be a difficult challenge – but getting back home is the much more important one…

Since premises are really valuable in the bigger cities of Japan, most abandoned places in the land of the rising sun are in more or less rural areas – the more places I’ve explored, the further away from where people live I have to go to find suitable locations; some of them deep into the mountains, near a peak, dozens of kilometers away from the next settlement, past narrow roads riddled with rock fall. And one can only hope that everything goes well on those excursions – no damaged cables / pipes when accidentally driving over a sharp stone, or dead batteries due to negligence when parking the car. You don’t want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception!
Usually I go exploring solo or with local friends, but this time I was on the road with visitors from Europe, Michel and Tom; both awesome guys with impressive portfolios and many, many years of urbex experience. We were heading for the mountains to check out some schools I’ve located – sadly only two out of the seven I found were accessible, but the scenic drive in the countryside and exchanging exploration stories were half the fun anyway.

The first explorable school we reached was the Old Wooden Japanese School – one of those places appearing out of nowhere between a barely ever visited shrine and a ghost town at the end of a long drive up a mountain on a rock fall tormented road. Closed in 1969 and probably finally abandoned when the last resident left the nearby hamlet 30 years later, this was one of the oldest modern ruin I’ve ever visited. Not an easy exploration, as most windows had been boarded up and most entrances were covered by corrugated iron, basically separating the school into two parts – the easily accessible and rather well-lit storage / teacher’s room… and the rather gloomy class room(s), the main area of this wooden single-floor school. Overall the condition of the school was rather bad – which wasn’t really a surprise, given that it was made of wood and abandoned for almost 50 years. While the hallway in the back was almost completely gone and the floor of the classroom looked so bent and brittle that I didn’t dare to put any weight on it, the front was only in slightly better condition, probably thanks to different layers, including a door now lying on the ground. My favorite items in the school were the old Toshiba TV, the Hiruma day light projector, and the metal basketball hoop. (Yes, even as a German who has never seen a full basketball game I know that the thing is called a hoop in English, not a ring…) In total we spent about 1.5 hours taking pictures of the Old Wooden Japanese School, mainly because the lighting required long expose shots (30 seconds or 1/30 second makes a huge difference in how long it takes to document a place!), before we returned to the car and left…
… Well, tried to leave. The electronics of the car seemed work perfectly (lights, AC, …), yet whenever Michel turned the key to start the car, all we heard was a three note sound, as if something was dying; probably the battery. Early afternoon in the middle of nowhere, up on a mountain, past a rock fall riddled section of a rather narrow road, kilometers away from the next street with regular traffic, even further from the next occupied house. ARGH! A look at the car’s Japanese manual didn’t help at all, neither did Michel’s attempt of trying several lever position combinations. Just that depressing dying sound… over and over and over again. Starting to worry, we got out of the car – no visible damage, no liquids dripping; the car seemed to be fine… and the worrying intensified. It would take us hours to get help, at this point I considered getting home on the same day the best case scenario. Running out of ideas, Michel tried more lever positions… and all of a sudden the friggin car started! Three of the loudest sighs of relief I ever heard followed. As Europeans none of us was used to cars with automatic transmission – and without being able to understand the Japanese manual, we still don’t know what we’ve done wrong or how we fixed it. But we kind of didn’t care at that point. We were spared a really shitty afternoon, so we explored another school instead… and at the end of the day had tons of grilled and deep-fried chicken at Torikizoku – dinner of champions!

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