Archive for March, 2010

Living in Japan days off are a valuable thing. And long weekends, even if they are only three days long, are a perfect opportunity to go on vacation.
This time my buddy E and I went to Kyushu to enjoy some days of photography, food and haikyo. Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Sasebo. Not everything went according to plan, we had to cut down the haikyo locations from four to three, but in the end the trip turned out to be great. Great food, great locations, great comradeship.
This posting is accompanied by photos that are not necessarily haikyo related – the haikyo locations deserve three postings of their own, so please keep coming back for more. One of them will be about the Shime Coal Mine, one about the Katashima Training School and the last one… well… it will be about Gunkanjima, the most awesome ruin complex in Japan.

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Initially I wanted to post another haikyo first, but since it took me quite a while to update this blog I decided to come back with one of my favorite haikyo so far: The Takada Ranch Ruin. Coincidentally it seems to be one of the rarest, too…

Located in a totally different area of the Hyogo countryside than “Doggy Land” the Takada Ranch Ruin was a samurai residence given up quite a long time ago – and that’s pretty much all I know about the place. I don’t even know if it’s the real name or if somebody made it up. But the sheer size of the property (including a huge and completely overgrown park) makes it highly likely that it was once owned by rich and powerful people.
Entering the Takada Ranch Ruin is as easy as it can be – it’s located along a rural road with no direct neighbors and the (former) entrance door is wide open.

The first of several buildings on the premises set me back in time 200 years instantly – a long, not very wide wooden house along the road that looks right out of a samurai movie. Too bad it was partly collapsed and some rooms were filled with plastic trash bags, but it was still quite impressive. From there a path lead deeper onto the estate, with a small house to the left and several buildings to the right. The main quarters were quite big and must have cost a fortune to build. Now partly rotten they created whole movies in my head while I was carefully progressing across the wooden floors. I’m sure the buildings were constructed long before electricity was introduced to Japan as all the installations looked like they were added as an afterthought. There were only a few plugs and light bulbs – and the fridge in the kitchen looked very, very old.
East of this conglomerate of buildings I found a car wreck that was clearly put there long after the estate was abandoned – Japanese people love to dump their unused belongings like that as waste disposal can be quite expensive if done properly. Close to the car were two now completely destroyed buildings, one of them made of stone. While the existing buildings looked like they were vandalized (only by a very few people though and not as nasty as most other places), I’m sure those two constructions were torn down professionally. Why it was handled that way? I have no clue.

But it got even stranger when I progressed further. After I passed through a little forest I found some quite thin concrete surfaces and wall remains. Next to them were some weird metal constructions with the leftovers of a few wooden arbors. This whole area looked like it was destroyed a long time before the buildings in the front were given up with no debris to be found. But again I can only guess when that happened. Or what happened. Maybe the buildings were stables, maybe they were some kind of accommodation?

Although not very outstanding on paper (partly collapsed wooden buildings, all stone buildings demolished) the Takada Ranch Ruin instantly grew on me while I was exploring it – and it continued afterwards. The huge estate boosted my imagination like no other place before with its simplicity and history. To me it’s one of the few hidden haikyo treasures, one that gives you a glimpse at a time long gone; if you are patient enough to find the right spots to look at.

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