The first time I visited the *Hiroshima Sports Hotel* it had a reputation for being under close surveillance of the surrounding country club – tough to get in and out. While it wasn’t exactly tough to get in, I still believed the story and barely dared to step outside to take pictures of the pool and the tennis courts, so I was stuck with a mediocre abandoned hotel that was completely overhyped. I hardly ever do revisits, except for *Nara Dreamland* back in the days, so I closed that chapter and hoped that I would never be reminded.
About 5 years and a case of arson later I found myself in front of the goddamn place again – with a different group of friends who never had been there before, which boggled my mind, because they just introduced me to an amazing abandoned hospital I didn’t even know existed. I had no intentions to waste just a single second on that piece of shite hotel, but I couldn’t really say no as I was still high on gratitude. Despite the flaming incident the reputation of the place apparently hadn’t changed (amazing, but hard to enter), so my friends were super excited, and I couldn’t break the news to them that we were about to waste a precious afternoon far from home. Upon arrival we saw a guy sitting in front of the road leading up to the hotel, apparently guarding it. The little devil on my shoulder was like “Perfect! Let’s use that guy as an excuse to bolt and explore a way more interesting location instead!” and my (Japanese) friends started to slightly panic, instantly trying to scout alternative ways in; which didn’t exist. I knew that because I’ve been there before. So I listened to that stupid little angel on my other shoulder and stopped my friends before somebody broke their ankle or sprained their neck (or the other way round…) and introduced them to the concept of gaijin smash. I’d walk up to and past the guy with a friendly konnichiwa on my lips and then head straight for the hotel. If he was in fact a guard, I’d play the stupid bumbling gaijin who doesn’t understand a word or the situation – if he was cool my friends should follow right behind me. And what shall I say? I smashed the situation and got us all in without sliding down a barely angled 5-meter-tall wall none of us would have been able to climb up again… and at the same time ruined the rest of my day.

While I must admit that the second exploration of the *Hiroshima Sports Hotel* was quite a bit more interesting than the first one (the arson added to the atmosphere and I went outside without caring about getting caught), it was still a boring AF experience. I didn’t even go upstairs and stayed on the entrance level and downstairs again. 5 years of additional decay (and vandalism) made some spots more interesting, so I was able to take a few cool photos, but again: hotel, revisit, exiting morning. BORING! Almost two hours later my friends finally had enough, and I was finally free to leave – just in time for sunset, ending this day of explorations. A glorious day overall that would have been better without this surprise revisit, but sometimes you gotta be a team player – especially in the land of shoganai…

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My favorite abandoned onsen was an original find – and a rushed surprise exploration at the end of a long day.

I think I’ve mentioned it several times before: I really enjoy looking at maps and doing my own research on abandoned places. Over the last one and a half decades I’ve spent hundreds of hours on Google Maps, which has improved significantly since the early days. Sometimes just five minutes to take a break from something, sometimes a whole afternoon on a rainy weekend. After a while certain things catch your eyes more frequently than before, for example overgrown parking lots, which are a great indicator for abandoned hotels, companies, pachinko parlors, … almost anything abandoned!
Exploring those original finds are much more exciting than going to regular established places, because there are so many unknown factors. Is the place really abandoned? What’s the parking situation like? Do neighbors care? Are there active alarms? Is the place accessible? At the same time those are the only true explorations, because you don’t know what to expect. I always hated it when I went to popular spots with fellow explorers and they headed straight to a certain point because they wanted “to take THAT shot, too”, like all those influencer sheeple heading to famous Instagram spots; just on a much smaller scale. At the same time I rather follow unique explorers on social media, people who did their own research and show me places I haven’t seen dozens or hundreds of times before, where I most likely have been myself, because I explore everything, big or small, famous or not. Which brings me to the fact that I have no respect for strangers asking for locations. Nothing says “I’m an entitled little shmock too lazy to put some effort into research!” the way one word comments or e-mails like “Coordinates?” or “Location???” do. My spam filters usually catch those for the blog and e-mail, but social media is more generous, which is starting to really annoy me, so don’t be surprised if you won’t read from certain people anymore soon… or won’t be able to post yourself. 🙂
Don’t get me wrong, I give away coordinates every now and then, and I remember asking myself for a total of maybe five locations (I’ve logged more than 1000 explorations though, so less than half of a percent!) – but the people I’ve asked were people I knew personally from countless explorations we’ve done together; and even then I was hesitant. The people I gave coordinates to were either experienced fellow explorers or they had good convincing reasons… and manners. I don’t know if I’m a bit peculiar in that regard or if it’s sign of the times we are living in, but people who communicate with caveman phrases and emoticons ought to shampoo my crotch!

The Octagon Onsen was one of those original Google Maps finds I mentioned earlier. I was looking for new places to explore in the Japanese Alps when a mid-sized greyish building with several octagon shaped roofs caught my eyes. The parking lot wasn’t overgrown yet, but it was empty, though it was the shape that made me have a closer look – just to find out what it was. Turned out that it was an onsen. The fact that it wasn’t labeled as an active business made it possible that it was abandoned, the fact that it looked in extremely good shape on StreetView made it unlikely though. In 2021 I was able to see the building from the train when I was on my way to Tsumago and Magome through the Kiso Valley, you probably *remember my article about domestic tourism in Japan during the pandemic*.
When I had the chance to explore the Octagon Onsen we were in the mountains the whole day and actually already on the way home, but I was like “I know this place that probably is not accessible, but we’ll almost pass by anyway, so let’s have a quick look!”. So we used the still empty parking lot, the sun already hiding behind the mountains, daylight fading. I went to the back – nothing. I went to the main entrance – nothing. I went to the outdoor onsen… Bingo! My friend was holding the door open for me, grinning from ear to ear. Of course I forgot my tripod in the car and was running out of time, so I went quickly through the building, taking photos here and there, always worrying about triggering an alarm inside… which wouldn’t have been the first time! And then I finally had to give up due to low light. But what a unique building it was! What a great exploration! What an original find!
Oh, before I forget, some fun facts! Open from 10:00 till 21:00, last entry 20:00; closed on Wednesdays. 100 (free) parking spots, 500 yen (later 600 / 800) for adults, 300 yen (later 400) for children from elementary school age on. One area apparently was mixed bathing, swimsuits not optional though. Sodium chloride / bicarbonate *hot spring*, closed in May of 2012.
So please enjoy the photos – I doubt that you have seen this place before anywhere else on the internet! (22 minutes between the first one and the last one… That’s all the time I had.)

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I admit, the last two locations and articles were a bit dull, so let’s strike back bigly with… oh… goddammit… an abandoned golf course? Really?

First of all: The Trump Golf Resort Japan has nothing to do with former US president Donald J. Trump or anybody in his family. I named it that, because it was rather close to the abandoned *Trump Hotel* – which also had nothing to do with that clan. When you google the name of this article, the Mobara Country Club in Chiba prefecture pops up, because Trump played golf there with Shinzo Abe in 2019 – needless to say that it also isn’t related in any way to this article, neither is the Kasumi Country Club, where those two big shots played in 2018. But when I think of golf resort and abandoned, I think of Trump… with a fox in the distance.

Anyway, the Trump Golf Resort Japan was an original find, so don’t expect to see it very often on the interwebs, weebs. It consisted of a 9-hole golf course and a driving range… but no hotel, so I guess the name is a bit of an exaggeration, although there was a large apartment building with a restaurant right across the street – so I guess it’s kind of appropriate in a weird way? Anyway, tiny golf course, tiny hands; but big boy golf, not mini golf!

The main building was rather unspectacular – a medium sized house with a bar and changing rooms, nothing too fancy. Moss and other plants had already taken over, but this probably could have easily been converted into a nice bachelor pad with a killer man cave. The outside area was equally unspectacular and mostly overgrown. Worth mentioning was an abandoned golf trophy I probably should have taken it with me to send to Trump as a consolation prize for when he loses the primary against DeSanctimonious. Bwahahahahaha! Oh, and there was some other golf stuff left behind, too – bags, clubs, clothing…
The nearby driving range at the other end of the parking lot was mostly overgrown, which made it look a bit more interesting than the club house, which looked more like a surfer shop or something; probably due to location and the real name. Inside I found a first aid kit in a wooden box, plenty of golf balls and some clubs, outside there were some simple plastic chairs and tables as well as some drive mats (?) or whatever they are called.

Abandoned driving ranges in that condition are rather rare in Japan, so I really appreciated the rather unusual exploration – and the main building was just a nice bonus. Sure the *Japanese Driving Range* and the *Countryside Golf Course* were nicer individually, but as a package this was a pretty good abandoned golf site. And now it’s time for dinner… I think I’ll go with meatballs!

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For quite a while now the first article of the year on Abandoned Kansai has been about an abandoned shrine, because pretty much the first thing Japanese people do in the new year, some even at midnight, is visiting a shrine or temple, a tradition called hatsumode. And we can’t change that now, can we?

There are about 100 000 shinto shrines and 80 000 Buddhist temples in Japan – quite a few cities and towns have their tourism based on them, and the vast majority of those temples and shrines are in remarkably good condition. Thanks to the continuing urbanization in Japan more and more temples and shrines become abandoned though, because there is NOBODY around anymore; but even in still populated areas you can find one here or there. The abandoned Onsen Town Shrine is one of those… Another location with a rather descriptive name as it was located in the outskirts of a dying onsen town. Even though I know the real name of the shrine and it was marked still active on GoogleMaps I wasn’t able to find out much about it. I guess there are just too many temples and shrines in Japan to keep track of all of them. Which is a great opportunity to keep this article short and wish you lots of fun with the gallery at the end – the atmosphere was amazing, with the overgrown long staircase and nobody else around, paint flaking off the rusty building materials. On a rainy day this place would be perfect as the setting for a horror movie!

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It’s this time of the year again… the end, when I post an abandoned love hotel to wish everybody a Merry XXX-Mas!

If you are, or rather were, a regular reader of Abandoned Kansai, you’ve probably noticed that the articles came everything but regular in 2022. Yeah, I’ve explored a little less than in previous years, but I still managed to check out something like 35 locations, which isn’t that bad, considering that I did 33 of them solo and by public transportation; which was probably one of the reasons why I published fewer articles in 2022 – less talking about urbex also meant a strongly reduced urge to write about urbex as the topic became less present in my life; still by far my favorite and most time-consuming hobby though. And the average quality was amazing, so was the amount of original finds I was able to check out. It’s absolutely mind-blowing what you can find in Japan when you get off the couch and leave the Golden Route for a change!

This year’s XXX-Mas love hotel is a rundown piece of s#it I’ve explored back in 2014 and never dared to mention as it was that sub-par – much like 2022 in general! What a piece of trash year overall, so here we go, the Love Hotel Trash. I actually don’t remember much about it, except that it was one of eight locations that day – six of them (love) hotels. Like most abandoned love hotels it was along a countryside road and easy to access (only roped off), but also vandalized and completely filled with trash; 23 minutes between the first and the last photo. At least I didn’t waste much time on it, unlike certain other projects in 2022… In and out without being seeing or heard. According to GoogleMaps the thing is still standing, but I doubt that it looks any better eight years later!

Of course the Love Hotel Trash isn’t even remotely comparable to the greats like the *Japanese Castle Love Hotel* or the *Fashion Hotel Love*, but it kind of fit the trash year 2022 best! *Oh, and if you are not familiar with love hotels and want to know more about them in general, please click here.*
Merry XXX-Mas everyone!

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It’s late November and the skiing season in Japan will start soon – time to have a look at a very special abandoned place deep in the mountains; an original find I’m quite proud of!

One of my favorite pastimes is looking more or less randomly at the satellite view of GoogleMaps, trying to find new abandoned places. About two years ago I spotted two large buildings in the middle of nowhere, impossible to get to by public transportation and therefore pretty much out of reach for me, given the recent trend of me exploring more and more solo again. I couldn’t get the place out of my mind, so I got back to it on GoogleMaps every once in a while – and a few months ago I realized that GoogleMaps added a bus stop just two kilometers away from it. 40 minutes by bus away from the closest train station, three buses in each direction per day with different schedules on work days and weekends / national holiday; one set not practical, because the stay in the middle of nowhere would be too long / short. Fortunately my next trip to the general area worked out well and I was able to include the mysterious place into my schedule… at the risk of missing the last bus and being stuck in the middle of nowhere! But hey, no risk, no fun, no explorations…
Public buses in Japan come in all shapes and sizes – from classic city buses to van sized community buses; and of course mine to the middle of nowhere was on the smaller end with only a tiny door for entrance end exit; basically a large van, maybe twelve seats. Now, it being a community bus not only meant that it was going to small countryside communities, it also meant that the bus driver was a bit more chatty and personal. When he heard where I wanted to go, he was quite hesitant to take me there – because “there is nothing there!”, which wasn’t exactly true or false; instead he recommended two other stops to get off, which, he promised, would be much more interesting. I politely declined and the driver finally gave in. 35 minutes later I found myself in the middle of nowhere on a straight countryside road – a small building across the street, maybe or maybe not abandoned, and nothing else in sight. And so I started walking… took a turn… and another one… and after about 25 minutes the buildings I was eager to see for two years finally came into sight!
At this point it was early in the afternoon, yet sunset was upon me soon. I was by myself in the middle of nowhere with no idea what to expect, and the only things I heard were the biting wind and not exactly friendly sounding animal noises I haven’t heard before and was not at all familiar with. Hooray for urban exploration… Were the buildings really abandoned? Would they be accessible? Was there still security of some kind? And what has the facility been used for? A hotel? A research facility? A wedding venue?
Realizing that the driveway was roped off gave me new confidence that the place was really abandoned, but even after passing the first building I had no idea what the purpose was. Large flagpoles implied a hotel or a company, but neither of the buildings had a name sign on it. So I took my time to take some outdoor photos, because both buildings looked quite unusual by Japanese standards and were still in really good condition, considering the harsh environment. The smaller building on the left turned out to be some kind of gymnasium, but it was inaccessible. Its doors were partly covered in spider-webs, hinting that it was abandoned for several years without anybody using said doors. The main building, four stories in total and built along a slope, turning 1F into a semi-basement, remained a mystery, despite me being able to access it. The lowest floor was dark, gloomy, and moldy – I only had a quick look and left as quickly as possible without taking a single photo, though the shared baths are usually my favorite part of an abandoned accommodation. So yeah, it was pretty quickly clear that this was some kind of hotel or company retreat, not a research facility. It also wasn’t a wedding venue as there was no sign of a chapel inside or outside of the main building. 2F was the main floor with a large cafeteria like area and a relaxation area with large couches and a fireplace. 3F and 4F featured a large office (pretty empty…), some meeting rooms and plenty of bunk bed rooms for up to eight people… One of those rooms had some skis in it, so I assumed that it was a rather high-class ski lodge without much privacy, hence the name “Ski Castle”.
Well, in the process of writing this article I found (and after I uploaded the photos…) out that the Ski Castle was neither a bookable accommodation nor a company retreat. It belongs (or belonged?) to a large private university and was used for hiking trips in summer, skiing trips in winter, and even whole classes for a longer period of time – which explains the cafeteria style eating area, the bunk beds, the large bathing area, the skis, the gymnasium, the “meeting rooms”, … and pretty much everything else. To some degree even the location in the middle of nowhere. If you want to create a facility focusing on education, physical health, and nature, this one was nearly perfect.

I left the Ski Castle a happy man and got back to the bus stop just before it got pitch black outside… where I had to wait for half an hour to catch the bus back to civilization. And yes, that was the best schedule possible. Overall a great experience though! Original find, took some effort to get to, accessible, no security / risk of getting caught, spectacular outdoors, interesting indoors, unusual location, … Despite arriving with a healthy level of caution I loved this exploration and I really hope that this reveal won’t lead to vandalism, because at the time of my visit the Ski Castle was in pretty good condition, aside from 1F. I hope you’ll enjoy the gallery below – and if you are looking for a somewhat similar location, please have a look at the *Arai Mountain & Spa*.

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This abandoned old countryside clinic had a surprise in the back – an old X-ray machine that looked like something from a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells novel! And that wasn’t all…

One of the most interesting places to explore in Japan are abandoned hospitals. From 100 year old clinics in countryside mansions to large concrete buildings with rather modern equipment – we’ve all been to them in variations as patients, but seeing them abandoned and with full access is an amazing experience.

The now abandoned Röntgen Clinic was a mid-size countryside clinic only a few hours drive from Osaka and quite unspectacular from the outside – a slightly rundown wooden building near the main street of a small town, barely visible from the road. The entrance with its chemical bottles was promising, the next few rooms delivered, too. In one of them I took a few photos of some Xylit injections without realizing what was right in front of my feet – it wasn’t until I left the room and came back that I found the most bone-chilling dead animal I ever saw at an abandoned place (I don’t know what it was, it neither barked nor meowed) – so be careful when you are scrolling through the photo gallery.

Highlight of the Röntgen Clinic was the name-giving X-ray machine in the last room I explored. How do I know that it was an X-ray machine? Well, the room was labelled “Röntgen Room” and one part of the machine indicated that the whole thing was built by Osaka Roentgen, a company established in the late 1920s and merged with Hitachi Medical in 1969. So… an X-ray machine from the 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s – most likely from the earlier years by the looks of it. What could possibly go wrong? A lot! Which is why I spent as little time in that room as possible and quickly took some photos, preferably through the door or a hole in the wall; not a window, a real hole. As a fan of early science fiction literature this was probably one of the most spectacular finds I ever made and in hindsight I wish would have had more time – but a pressing schedule and the potential dangers only lead to a dozen or so photos. At the time I didn’t even pay attention to who the manufacturer was…

Overall this was one of the great explorations of all time, definitely a highlight of my 2018 season. Equipment like that X-ray machine must have cost a fortune at the time and is something like 80 years old by now – not exactly things you expect to see in a wooden building of the road in countryside Japan… and you actually don’t see them very often, not even on the internet or in museums, so… enjoy the photo gallery!

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Probably the biggest and best abandoned school in all of Japan – and definitely the most overlooked one!

I’m time and again fascinated by how random it is whether an abandoned place becomes famous or not, whether it becomes vandalized or not, whether it gets demolished or not. Why the Onsen Town School never has become famous is absolutely beyond me, given that Kinugawa Onsen is just 10 kilometers away and pretty much everybody and their dog has been to *Western Village* ever since HBO remade Westworld as a TV show – I think it was even marked on GoogleMaps for a while, though it seem that marker was removed. Not that it matters after vandalizing morons marauded through…
Anyway, the Onsen Town School… a former elementary and junior high school dating back to 1874, though none of the buildings were that old. It was located on a slope and basically consisted of two buildings connected by a hallway – a rather modern three storey building from the 60s or 70s on the slope and a probably pre-war complex on top of the slope, including a large and pretty much pristine gymnasium.

My buddy Hamish and I went to Kinugawa for the day and got pretty quickly bored by the rundown onsen hotels, so we decided to check out other places nearby, like the Onsen Town School I never had seen indoor photos of – so our expectations were low, even lower after arrival, when we realized that the school was in pretty remarkable condition overall. But all we needed on that rainy day was one unlocked door… and we didn’t even have to walk up the slope, we found it right on the ground floor, allowing access to the whole school.
We started from a side door near the main entrance, made our way through the library, past some classrooms, through the music and the handicrafts to the almost pristine gymnasium. The school had been closed in 2010, but back in 2015 it looked like it had been cleaned in the morning! A little bit more dirty: The remaining part of the complex south of the gymnasium. I don’t exactly know when it happened, but it’s pretty obvious that a landslide hit the school and damaged some walls badly, with some mud running through the hallways and a classroom or two. There were signs of movement in some areas, implying that the school was not 100% abandoned (but hardly any “abandoned” school is, they pretty much all belongs to some municipality) or had some other visitors before us.

Overall the Onsen Town School was an amazing exploration that took about 3.5 hours, probably twice as much as your average abandoned school. I’ve been to dozens of them over the years, but none of them was even nearly as big or offered that much variety – on the other hand it was pretty much a standard school, nothing usual like the *Clothing School* or the *Round School*. Nevertheless one of my all-time favorites – and I hope you’ll enjoy the gallery!

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Onomichi is famous for the being the starting point of the Shimanami Kaido, a popular car expressway and bike trail stretching from Honshu to Shikoku across several islands… but abandoned places?!

I loved Japanese castles ever since I watched the mini-series “Shogun” with my dad as a little boy – and of course I’ve been to the most famous ones (Hikone, Himeji, Inuyama, Matsue, and Matsumoto) and then some dozens. What I dislike with a passion are fake castles built in the 20th century as tourist attractions – the most famous one probably being the one in Osaka. Great castle park with amazing moats, but the castle itself is one step away from being some Disney crap – at least they went all in and even included elevators, so it’s one of the few wheelchair accessible castles in Japan. The latest of those abominations was erected in 2018/19 – and all it needed was a rich idiot on an ego trip and some local politicians who thought that they can turn an industrial bedroom community into a tourist attraction. “Let’s check out the underrated city of Amagasaki, I’ve heard they have an amazing castle there!” is something nobody ever said. Heck, I live near Amagasucky and I’ve never been to the castle, not even to take some photos and rant about it.
50 years earlier, a couple hundred kilometers southwest. Onomichi, Hiroshima prefecture. An important trade harbor from the mid-12th to the mid-17th century, the town lost quite a bit of its former glory during the Tokugawa period as international trade was mostly limited to Nagasaki’s Dejima. After WW2 the movies Tokyo Story and The Naked Island reignited interest in Onomichi, so in 1964 the local chamber of commerce and industry had the glorious idea to attract the fun hungry post-war workers with a three-story watchtower, modeled after the castle tower of Hirosaki Castle, but without any historical background. It was in business for a few decades (as “National Museum of Castles, Onomichi Castle”), but closed in 1990 or 1992 – it probably fell victim to the asset price bubble of the late 80s, when investors decided to make the Seto Inland Sea THE new tourist destination in Japan and pumped insane amounts of money into the area, resulting in plenty of abandoned places still visible today (like the famous *La Rainbow Hotel & Tower*, where the Japanese police caught 30 urbexers and airsoft players since the start of the pandemic alone)! Located on a hill just behind Onomichi Station and surrounded by hotels, the castle saw quite a bit of foot traffic and therefore hardly any vandalism. At the time of my visit in 2012 most of the premises were overgrown, entrance impossible. I took a few photos and deemed the location not interesting enough to publish… until I found out recently that Onomichi castle (which really wasn’t a castle, just a glorified watchtower) had been donated to the city in 2018 and was demolished between December 2019 and January 2021. On March 11th 2022 the site was reopened to the public as Senkoji Park Viewpoint Hall, after the city spent 200 million Yen on the project.

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The Sumitomo Ponbetsu Coal Mine in Hokkaido is one of the most famous abandoned industrial sites in Japan – and kind of a tourist attraction, too…
I’ve been traveling to Hokkaido since 2012… the first few trips for urbex only, with a couple of touristy exceptions to kill time, like a tram tour of Sapporo to visit Mount Moiwa. It wasn’t until 2019 that I did my first real mini vacation there during Golden Week – wonderful because of places like the Shakotan Peninsula and Kushiro, annoying as heck because of… well… the insane amount of constantly yapping tourists that completely ruined the atmosphere of places like Otaru. A year later that problem had solved itself and in autumn of 2020 I did my first pandemic trip… to see the autumn leaves in Hokkaido – and I totally fell in love with Japan’s most northern prefecture. It was the perfect trip… food, atmosphere, weather, urbex, touristy places. There’s so much to see and do in Hokkaido, especially if you are a history buff with a strong interest in social history and the age of industry, as the prefecture is basically what the Ruhr area is for Germany or the Rust Belt is for the United States – and unlike Osucka the seasons actually feel really different. So I came back four more times since then, another trip is planned, raising the count to six in something like one and a half years – more than in my first 14 years of living in Japan…
Unfortunately more and more train lines in Hokkaido get shut down, making navigating the island much more complicated when relying on public transportation – which has nothing to do with Covid, no matter how much certain overseas tourists like to see themselves as the saviors of the Japanese economy; the partial closure of the Hidaka Main Line was decided in the late 2010s (at the height of tourism to Japan!), the closure of the Yubari Branch Line was announced on August 17th 2016 for March 31st 2019; not to mention the 25 individual stations on various lines closed between March 2021 and March 22 alone! At the same time, Hokkaido seems to remember and hold on to its industrial past – you can find hundreds of sites big and small all over the prefecture. From recently abandoned train stations to whole mining towns deserted decades ago. Some places are completely abandoned, others have been turned into museums… so many museums! Not just in cities like Sapporo and Otaru, but even in small towns hardly anybody ever visits anymore – more about two of those in the future!
Today I’d like to talk about a place in-between… a large complex that looks completely abandoned, but is roped off and features large bilingual signs in Japanese and English, illustrated with photos and maps – so they want visitors there… but not really. 🙂

The Sumitomo Ponbetsu Coal Mine (or Old Pombetsu Coal Mine as it is called on the sign) opened as the Nara Coal Mine in 1900, though Wikipedia lists 1902 as start of mining – if you are really interested in the mine’s history I recommend reading the information on the last photo and doing your own research – long story short: The still visible tower was built in 1959 and operated till the mine’s closure in 1971. When they tried to dismantle the mine and the headframe an explosion resulted in the death of five people, stopping the demolition of the mine. Decades later the perception of the mine remains changed from eyesore to asset, so the area was cleaned up a bit to make it save for visitors. It’s still technically off limits, but there seem to be guided tours (in Japanese) that even allow access to the headframe structure since something like 2007.
In 2017, during an urbex road trip to Hokkaido, I was lucky enough to spend two and a half hours on the premises, including in the hopper building in the background, which dates back to before the spectacular headframe. Since neither guards nor guides showed up it was a very relaxed exploration – mostly outdoors, rust, steel, concrete, natural decay, a rather dramatic sky… my kind of exploration! You could almost feel the history, despite the fact that 90% or so of the mine had been demolished decades ago. And while there are several similar places all over *Hokkaido*, the Sumitomo Ponbetsu Coal Mine is probably the most famous one, thanks to the gorgeous shaft turret.

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