A virtually unknown abandoned 1970s clinic in the Japanese countryside spectacularly unspectacular!

Everything can happen when exploring potentially abandoned places you’ve never seen or even heard of before. Best case scenario is you find an untouched place that sat there quietly for decades and was just waiting to be discovered or you can trigger alarms… or inhabitants, as the location looked abandoned, but wasn’t really.
Driving up to the Local Doctor’s Clinic we had no clue whether or not the building in front of us was really abandoned, except for somebody in the group claiming that it was – and arriving there very, very early on a Sunday morning gave no indication whether they were right or not. The visible maintainable area was small, but maintained, the entrance with the pristine clinic’s sign looked like it still could be used anytime. It was tempting to just assume that the risk was too high and leave, but when you got up at 5 a.m., skipped not only the hotel’s breakfast, but breakfast in general, and drove for almost an hour to your first location of the day you don’t give up that easily.
The premises opposite a tourist hotel were surrounded by a large wall, to tall for me to look over, which barely ever happens. But the wall also featured a sliding door… which was unlocked, much to our surprise. So one after another we slipped through and found ourselves in a small garden that needed some “ing”, which was a good sign as it indicated that the building was indeed abandoned or at least not recently used. But access to a slightly overgrown garden means nothing if the house is locked – which it wasn’t, as it turned out quickly. So we continued our stealth mode and entered… only to find a dead body in the living room! Nah, I’m just kidding… The house was empty (i.e. nobody was there, neither dead nor alive), but some explorers found a corpse at an abandoned hotel in Miyazaki prefecture rather recently. What a nightmare that must be… The Local Doctor’s Clinic, at this point more like the “Local Doctor’s House” as we entered through the private quarters, was safe to explore though, except for the wooden floors making some squeaky noises. The interior was clearly outdated and rather traditional, a bit cluttered maybe, but still in remarkable condition and kind of ready to move in.
The same goes for the actual clinic part, which mostly consisted of a rather large combined office / pharmacy / examination room, but also a small reception and even a tiny waiting room, if I remember correctly. The amount of details was fascinating! So many items to take pictures of, so many ultra-wide shots worth trying to capture! Unfortunately time was of the essence and we barely spent an hour at the Local Doctor’s Clinic before we we left through the garden. Or tried to, as some early risers from the hotel across the street did a very Japanese thing and gathered outside just to have a chat for the sake of having a chat and exchanging pleasant empty phrases. It would have looked very suspicious if a group of people with photo gear would have left through a door in the garden wall of an old clinic that probably everybody within 20 kilometers knew at one point. So we waited for about 10 minutes until the chatter became silent before we finally left in an orderly hurry.

Despite being quite short, the exploration of the Local Doctor’s Clinic was absolutely mindblowing – this traditional mix of private house and medical clinic in nearly pristine condition looked like something from an open-air museum. It was one of those jackpot locations you always hope for as an urban explorer, but that are actually close to impossible to find. Out of respect for the Local Doctor’s Clinic and my co-explorers I waited several years with this article and refrained from using pictures of the exterior or the garden, and hinting where the clinic was or whom I was with – but you guys know who you are and how amazing this experience was! Without a doubt one of the best abandoned clinics in all of Japan and basically the small town version of the much bigger and significantly more modern *Wakayama Hospital*.

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Even without the Olympic Games and the crippling tourist masses Japan has turned into a hot mess as the number of new coronavirus infections is exploding and a humid summer is descending on the pretty much fireworks and festival free country after a comparatively mild rainy season. “You’re living on an island – grab a beer and enjoy the beach!” is easier said than done as the coast in central Kansai is pretty nasty. It mostly consists of artificial islands and tons of large industrial areas. To get to somewhat acceptable beaches it takes me between 60 and 90 minutes door to sand (Suma / Omimaiko), the nice beaches at the “Korean Sea of Japan” or Shirahama are more like three hours away – not really suitable as day trips, especially in the days of social distancing and the mixed messages by the Japanese government and private companies about subsidizing a domestic travel campaign while dropping subtle hints regarding avoiding unnecessarily crossing prefecture borders. Yes, it’s one hot humid mess with temperatures up to 34 °C (felt like 37!) and a piercing sun – if you ever wondered about the origins of Japanese mythology, just spend two weeks in August in Kyoto or Osaka and you’ll easily piece it together yourself.

Anyway, heat, humidity, everything’s nasty and I’m not really in the mood for endless hours of research for a well-written profound article, so let me pick up on the Kansai coastline theme and post a few pictures I took nine years ago of an abandoned train line that once went from Osaka’s city center to the harbor. It was, most likely, a freight line built in the late 1950s that split from the tracks of the current Osaka Loop Line near Bentencho Station and went for a total of about 1.5 kilometers to Fukuzaki and the artificial island that is part of it. Since my solo photo walk back in 2011 most of the tracks have been removed, the rest looks more or less overgrown now. As railroad tracks are not very wide the narrow strip of land that has been reclaimed was used for very specific purposes – the Osaka Horie Boys, a baseball club for elementary and middle school kids, use a stretch to stretch and play sports, but most of the ground has been turned into commercial parking lots.

The Osaka Harbor Railroad was nothing more than a nice walk on a sunny autumn afternoon a long time ago, but hopefully some of you enjoyed my little rant or are railroad nerds who appreciate memories of disappearing tracks… And if you appreciate the memories of disappearing trains, *check out my article about this train graveyard*.

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A coal heated school with wood floors in the center of an old mining town? I’m surprised that it survived for more than 100 years!

Japanese schools are infamous for bad insulation and equally bad heating – even the modern ones, so you can imagine what a year of school must have been like in this now abandoned school in the mountains. Though “now” isn’t exactly up to date anymore either, “at the time of my visit” would be correct. I mentioned it several times before, a huge factor when doing urban exploration is timing – regarding the condition of a location, the atmosphere, the accessibility… and of course basics like whether it is still there or not. In this case it was there at the time of my exploration and just weeks later itwas not. Demolished without any attention, so I was really lucky… and I found out about the demolition something like 3 years after the fact. One big difference between this abandoned old school and any other I’ve visited so faris that some of the other ones had ovens in the classrooms, but no form offuel, like a small stack of wood or a pile of coal. This school on the other hand was still equipped with heaps of the black gold – probably the Advantage of being located in a mining town and not hundreds of kilometers away from the source.
But first things first. When approaching the abandoned Mining Town School the whole exploration didn’t seem to be under a good star. Everything was boarded up, and when I looked through a broken window, the place seemed cluttered and dilapidated, not very promising overall. Fortunately my buddy *Hamish* and I found a way in on the far side of the school, where somebody busted through the lower half a of a door. Once inside the atmosphere was rather dark and gloomy, definitely a tripod location. About halfway through the condition of the floor became very, very sketchy; potential ankle break or even worse, which is why Ilimited my exploration to the ground floor and didn’t even attempt to reach the staircase that lead up – safety first!
Hamish left the school before me since I almost always need more time than him to takephotos and do the video walkthrough, which was actually a good thing in this case, because when I approached my half-size exit I heard voices outside – some Japanese guy in his 50s was standing outside, having a look at the school. Hamish was able to distract him, so I could leave unnoticed and it turned out that the guy went to that elementary school as a child! He told us about how more and more people left, how that had to close and combine schools, how many of them already had been demolished.

An interesting talk and an interesting exploration after all. There were quite afew items left behind inside the school, the coal-fired ovens I found especially fascinating. After almost 80 years of use and 20 years of abandonment the school was in decent condition overall, I’d say, but doomed – nearby schools had gone before and about six months of snow per year made sure that this building would either be demolished or collapse on its own within the next decade. I didn’t know at the time, but about two months later the school was gone – and with it another reminder of the guy’s childhood, living in a dying town…

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In Japan you have a museum for just about everything – even gingers! … Sorry, that’s not correct. There are no gingers in Japan, only artificial rustheads (and a few imported real ones…). So it’s a ginger museum. A pink ginger museum! The New Ginger Museum!

Tochigi Prefecture is most famous for Nikko and its Toshogu Shrine with the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, but its name-giving capital also has a tourist attraction or two to offer – probably the strangest one is the New Ginger Museum, just a quick 10 minute walk east of Tochigi Station (featuring both JR and Tobu trains!).
When I first heard about the New Ginger Museum I had no idea what to expect, but my buddy *Hamish* and I were on the way to Nikko for a road trip weekend anyway, so why not stop there and have a quick look around?
Apparently the museum is super busy on the weekends, which is why it has four designated parking lots, some of them suitable for buses, but we went on a weekday, so we were able to get of the few parking spots right in front of the building. Needless to say that there was hardly anybody there when we arrived at around 11:30 in the morning.
To both of our surprise the museum was free to enter, but if you want to spend some money, you have plenty of opportunitiws at the gift shop and the restaurant, both featuring a large variety of ginger themed / flavored options. A smart decision, because the museum turned out to be quite underwhelming. Probably 1/3 of the exhibition space was used for self-referencial things like old menus of the restaurant and posters of events held at the museum; basically a museum about the museum! Another 1/3 was used for all kinds of random pink things, from many units of the same plush animals to a pink shrine to printouts of caught pink Pokemon from Pokemon Go – I kid you not! The remaining 1/3 was actually somewhat ginger related as it depicted ginger and ginger products. Still not super interesting, but at least related to the topic. If they would have charged 500 Yen or 700 Yen at the door I would have felt slightly ripped off, but since it was free I was rather amused and more than willing to shell out several thousand Yen for lunch and presents for family and friends, like ginger scented candles and ginger salt. The food at the restaurant / cafe was actually pretty good – on one of the photos you can see pink ginger curry, pink ginger bits wrapped in bacon, ginger tea and ginger lemonade. (Speaking of which, sorry about the photo quality overall. The museum was rather dark and I didn’t bring a tripod inside, so shooting there freehand was quite challenging at times.)

The New Ginger Museum is literally and figuratively an acquired taste. I enjoyed the unhidden nonsense of it quite a bit since I was on vacation – and because it was on the way to our destination we didn’t waste much time to get there. Would it be worth a trip from Tokyo? Probably not, unless you really like (pink) ginger or really are into roadside attractions. Even as a stop to or from Nikko I would rather save the time and spend it in the mountains. But if it doesn’t take you much time and / or effort to go there I’d absolutely recommend it, just for the giggles and the gift shop.

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A crisp, clear spring day at an abandoned driving school. What better way to start an urbex road trip?

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but abandoned driving schools are rather rare in Japan, because usually they are located near train stations for accessibility and come with their own practice course, which makes them rather large (in comparison to the two room driving schools I’m used to from Germany) – and therefore quite valuable, even when abandoned. In almost eleven years of exploring I only documented three abandoned driving schools and found out about two or three more.
The Hokkaido Driving School was a one stop shop. Located on a busy countryside road it featured a large but somewhat dilapidated school building as well a car repair shop and probably once a upon a time a dealership, like back in the 70s. All structures were in rather bad condition, but the school building was a real death trap that looked like it could collapse at any moment. (Which it actually did some time after my visit, so this location is at least partly demolished now.) The combination of more than a decade of abandonment and heavy snow for six months of the year were just too much… But the driving training area usually is the most interesting part of an abandoned driving school anyway – and this one was no different. It was definitely the largest one I’ve explored so far and featured plenty of way to practice parking, starting a car on a slope and just not hitting other cars. 🙂
Exploring abandoned driving schools is always fun to me – and this one wasn’t an exception. Nothing you want to spend half a day on, but there is always something to learn… and with some melon icecream from a nearby Seico Mart exploring in Hokkaido is even better! The other two abandoned driving schools I wrote about was this now completely demolished one *here* and *this one* featuring a driving simulator!

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Abandoned food factories are rather are in Japan, so I was quite excited when I found this one by chance…

About four years ago I spotted on GoogleMaps what looked like an abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of the residential area of a rather big city in Japan. A few months later I had the opportunity to check out the place with my buddy Rory. To both of our surprise the fading sign at the entrance gate said Yamato Food Factory, so my excitement rose significantly as I have fond memories of exploring an abandoned food factory in Hokkaido years prior. Fortunately the gate was open and roped off… and a bit out of sight, so getting on and off the premises turned out to be surprisingly easy. There were three or four different structures, all of them accessible, unfortunately all of them more or less empty. So in the end this actually was kind of an abandoned (empty) warehouse. I also wasn’t able to find out more about the company „Yamato Food Factory“ on the internet, so it’ll probably stay a mystery what kind of food was produced here.

Overall not a bad exploration though. It’s always great to check out original finds (I haven’t seen this location anywhere before or after my exploration), the weather was great… and so was lunch afterwards. Of course the Yamato Food Factory couldn’t hold a candle to the spectacular *Fuji Foods Bibai Bio Center* in any aspect, nevertheless it was a nice little autumn exploration.

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This is an Abandoned Kansai classic! First explored in late 2009 and published in early 2010, Arima Wanda Garden a.k.a. *Doggy Land* was one of the original original finds!

When I first considered giving urban exploration a try and make it a hobby in mid 2009 one thing was clear as day to me: I didn’t just want to follow other people’s footsteps and seek out places dozens of more experienced explorers have been to before me (more like hundreds 11 years later…). I wanted to look for places unknown to the internet, original finds! The first three original finds I’ve located have been the abandoned theme park *Expoland* (now demolished and replaced by the gigantic shopping mall Expocity), the *Hitler Surgical Hospital* (demolished and replaced by an apartment building) and dog themed park called Arima Wanda Garden.
Writing about abandoned places puts you under constant struggle between wanting to present beautiful locations and trying to keep them and their location as secret, so not every shmock goes there and tramples through – or even worse, steals from or vandalizes the place. Both Expoland and the hospital had already been under demolition by the time I ended taking pictures of them, so there was nothing to worry about. But Arima Wanda Garden and many places after that forced me to make a decision between writing about them and exposing them that way, even if using a limited selection of photos (for example not publishing anything with a logo) and a fake name – or not writing about them at all until they’ve been demolished or other people did the dirty work of exposing them first. In recent years I tended to choose option 2 – I have at least two dozen places in my vault that are truly spectacular, but publishing an article about them with all the photos and information I have would probably turn them into tourist spots, some of them actually really dangerous for a variety of reasons. In the case of Arima Wanda Garden I initially decided to write about it with a limited selection of photos, no video walkthrough, without references where it was, and under the fake name *Doggy Land*. Six and a half years and several recent appearances on Japanese blogs later I revisited the once pristine Doggy Land and found it severely vandalized – so I published an article about *Arima Wanda Garden* in 2017 with the full original photo set, video walkthrough, and real name; there was not much damage it could cause that hadn’t been done already. Almost three years later I finally publish the photos and video walkthrough of my 2016 revisit with this article…

Revisiting Arima Wanda Garden was bittersweet. During my first two visits in late 2009 / early 2010 it was in nearly pristine condition and I had to climb over a fence next to a rather busy road. In 2016 I was able to step through a low unlocked window and leave that entrance building through an open door on the other side. What I found was a much wilder, much more vandalized park. The first time around all the buildings were still locked, this time most doors were open and a lot of windows were broken. It was sad to see Arima Wanda Garden in that kind of state, on the other hand it looked so different that it almost felt like a new exploration. Usually I avoid revisits as I tend to explore locations fully the first time and only little things change from on year to another – but those six and a half years definitely made a difference! You can see for yourself and find out more about Arima Wanda Garden by *clicking here to get to the comprehensive article I posted in 2017*.

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A rundown abandoned „Japanese pinball“ venue with a shocking surprise on the upper floor – welcome to the Nightmare Pachinko Parlor!

In recent weeks pachinko parlors quite often made national news during the coronavirus crisis in Japan, especially in Tokyo and Osaka, when several prefectures ordered them to close temporarily as they were / are considered hotspots for spreading the disease. In addition, legally opened parlors attracted attention, when gamblers from prefectures with successful shutdowns crossed borders specifically to play pachinko, The 1985 opened Nightmare Pachinko Parlor fell into neither category as it was closed down for good (or should I say „bad“?) more than a decade prior to my exploration in 2017; a decade that didn’t treat the establishment kindly…
It was a cold, rainy autumn day and the trash scattered all across the slightly overgrown parking lot lowered my hope of having found another good abandoned pachinko parlor significantly – the busted doors and windows didn’t help either… The good news: It was still there and easily accessible. The bad news: Pretty much everything else. Because of course the inside was severly vandalized and dark instead of pristine and well-lit. But that’s not all! Since it took me a while to take pictures due to the difficult lighting, my buddy R. kept exploring the rest of the building – which included a soba and udon restaurant as well as the non-public rooms upstairs, usually a mix of offices and living spaces for owners and employees. And when I was finally documenting one of the rooms that was either part of the restaurant or the prize exchange (you can’t win money with pachinko, only „gifts“ of limited value), which included the boxes of several sex toys, R. came back and told me a little disturbing story. While he was upstairs he saw a young guy hiding in the cabinets! Since there was no longer exchange of words we don’t know if it was somebody hanging out there for the afternoon, if he was some kind of squatter (very unusual in Japan!) or maybe a murderer on the run, but R. suggested that I could have a look myself in case I didn’t believe him. But there is one thing you can believe me – I believed him! And I had not the slightest urge to turn this really bad exploration into a nightmare…

Exploring the Nightmare Pachinko Parlor felt more like a duty than fun (it was there, so I had a look…) – but I’m generally not a big fan of rundown, vandalized, trashed places on rainy days. Add unexpected people to the mix and it’s even worse. If you want to see some abandoned pachinko parlors in much better condition and find out more about the economics of pachinko, please have a look *here* and *here*.

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After several poultry farms and regular nurseries I finally had the opportunity to explore an abandoned plant nursery – and all I had to do was traveling 10000 kilometers…

Yesterday was Greenery Day in Japan, a public holiday to remind people to appreciate the beauty of nature – originally celebrated on April 29th, Emperor Hirohito’s birthday (because the guy apparently liked plants…), it was moved to May 4th in 2007 to annoy Star Wars fans. Nah, it was actually moved due to a revision of public holidays in 2005, which included stuffing Golden Week with one more day off to make it really shine! Unfortunately this year GW didn’t really shine at all as it was rebranded „Stay Home Week (To Save Lives)“ – which seems to be much more successful than the rest of this weak state of emergency the government proclaimed in Japan.
Anyway, Greenery Day reminded me of an unpublished plant nursery I explored on a vacation to Germany back in summer 2016. Since it was a virtually unknown business in the outskirts of a small town I basically know nothing about its history – but since I’ve never explored a garden nursery before it was nevertheless quite interesting, despite sounding dull at first sight.

The location basically consisted of several green houses, some sheds and a private house – since there were no signs of a shop I assume that they either produced for wholesale, a shop in town, or had seasonal stands somewhere on the property. Unfortunately I’m not much of a botanist, so I have no idea what they were growing there; though I think I spotted a couple of blackberry bushes. I just snapped a few pictures and got the hedge out of there… I was late already anyway as the exploration of the nearby abandoned school *Alte Martinsschule* with its large indoor pool took much longer than expected…

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A nice little original find along of one of Japan’s most beautiful coastlines – the Seto Inland Sea Rest Stop!

The Seto Inland Sea separates three Japanese main islands (Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku) from each other and is part of eleven prefectures. While some areas are highly industrialized (especially the part from Kansai Airport to Himeji and near cities like Hiroshima, Takamatsu, and Tokushima) others are popular tourist spots famous for their beauty – like Miyajima, the Seto Naikai National Park, and Shodoshima). And where you have tourists, you almost automatically have abandoned tourist infrastructure, like hotels and restaurants.
The Seto Inland Sea Rest Stop was a large restaurant and omiyage shop in one of those touristy areas – closed and boarded up about 15 years ago according to the last calendar. I found this place by chance on GoogleMaps and it turned out to be a nice, quick exploration I’ve never seen anywhere else before… or after. Not a spectacular place, but with lots of parking space and rather easy access – and relaxed original finds I’ll take over photographed to death spots any day, especially since this one hasn’t been vandalized (yet). A fun little spot that offered some nice photo opportunities with an abandoned, but not rundown / destroyed look. If it was for me, I’d do one of those every other weekend…

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