Exploring new haikyo locations in Japan can be quite tricky as you hardly ever know which place is really abandoned and which is not. I’ve seen so many run-down houses and factories I could have sworn were abandoned… but they were not. That’s the main reason why I usually stay away from places that look like abandoned barns or left-behind residences. If a place is a little bit out of the ordinary and is located in the middle of nowhere I usually take a closer look though. And that’s what we did when *Michael* and I found the Kart Pista Hiroshima (カートピスタ広島). We spent about 45 minutes exploring this inoperative looking go-kart race track near the top of a mountain in Hiroshima prefecture, though some things didn’t add up. Nevertheless we both came to the conclusion that the Kart Pista Hiroshima was a haikyo. I even listed it in the *overview article two weeks ago*. Now that I’ve done some research on the allegedly abandoned speedway I have to admit that Michael and I were wrong: Kart Pista Hiroshima is still open for business!
The Kart Pista Hiroshima adventure started when we were looking for a way to get to another location we knew was abandoned for sure. Haikyo on top of mountains can be very difficult to reach, especially when public transportation up there is discontinued and roads are blocked. Our car navigational system was kind enough to indicate another way up the mountain, so we gave it a chance. I was in good spirits until we reached the base of the mountain road. There we found several warning signs that the road ahead wasn’t in good condition and that it is strongly recommended not to use that road. Something I totally agreed with. Michael and I rented a rather small car, but the one lane road in front of us indeed was very narrow and in horrible, horrible shape. Due to other prior experiences I wasn’t exactly in the mood going up a tiny mountain road with more potholes than asphalt. Or concrete. Or gravel. Or dirt. Or whatever the surface was, because it changed every couple meters anyways! But since I wasn’t the driver and Michael was very eager to go up this nightmarish road during his first hours without a driving instructor I suffered through 20 to 25 minutes of a nerve-wrecking ascent – passing several steep, potentially deadly slopes. Oh, by the way, did I mention that it was already getting dark? I must have aged about three years on my way to the Kart Pista Hiroshima without maturing a single second… Luckily the road didn’t end at a deadlock (or with our deaths!), but at a small parking lot about 600 meters up the mountain (yay, a way to turn around, so we wouldn’t have to go back in reverse gear!). The road continued, but it was blocked by an abandoned blue truck – no license plate is generally a reliable sign that a vehicle is abandoned. A slightly rusty and overgrown sign with missing pieces just before the parking lot indicated that the Kart Pista Hiroshima must have been close. So we got out of the car and were surprised to see a mini-van parked there. One with license plates. Michael’s reaction to that was in the line of “Mini-vans are usually driven by older people. Why would a mini-van with valid license plates be parked up here at this time of the day and the year? Because Japanese elderly drive to the top of mountains to commit suicide!” After the friggin nerve-wrecking ride up this specific mountain my respond was something like “Dude, you are not helping here!”, so I passed the blue truck and headed up the mountain while Michael had a look at the car to make sure that there was no dead senior citizen in there…
After a couple of minutes we indeed reached the Kart Pista Hiroshima – and the first building we saw was clearly abandoned, so we starting taking pictures right away since the sun was already extremely low and it was getting darker by the minute. We found rusty karts, rubber tyres, video tapes, toys and even a couple of trophies and medals dating back to the very early 90s; amongst them a medal with the logo of the Japanese Automobile Federation (日本自動車連盟), Japan’s biggest automobile club and member of the FIA, and a really cheap looking plastic trophy commemorating the third place in a Christmas race held on December 16th 1990.
After a while I started taking a video and walked along the surprisingly clean race track, which didn’t look very abandoned to me. But who can tell for sure? I guess asphalt go-kart tracks take a while to look abandoned. When I got closer to the other buildings that were part of the pit lane I hesitated again – that area looked extremely run-down, but not necessarily abandoned. Especially the jacked up karts looked like somebody was still taking care of stuff up here. And I was able to see a rather modern computer in one of the buildings, whereas the first area looked like it was abandoned in the 80s or 90s with all the old stuff crammed in a seriously damaged and overgrown building. Things just didn’t add up. Like another car in good condition with license plates. How could it get up here with the only road blocked by that blue truck? I continued taking photos and my heart stopped for a second when I took a picture of the clock at the start / finish line. Not only did the clock show the correct time (that could have been a coincidence…), but the minute hand was moving!
After about 45 minutes and just before the sun disappeared over the horizon we moved on to find a way to that abandoned place we drove up the mountain for – we found some more abandoned cars (Michael checked them for dead people…) and an abandoned boat, but not the street, road or even path to the place we came for.
By the time we got back to our car it was pitch black outside – and I lost another two years on the bumpy way down that horrible, horrible mountain road…
Back home I did some research on the Kart Pista Hiroshima and was surprised to see that the place really wasn’t abandoned. The latest photos I found were taken on February 18th 2012 showing how somebody gets rid of snow covering the track; the last victory ceremony was taking place on December 11th 2011. There actually is an official homepage that lists opening hours (workdays from 10 a.m., weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. – till sunset), prices (5 minutes for 1500 Yen, which seems quite expensive to me), and a race schedule (7 events from March till December in three classes – Avanti, SSO and Junior…). At age 15 Japanese kart driver Yuko Segawa (瀬川侑子) actually won the Kart Pista Hiroshima series, so I guess it has at least some reputation since it’s mentioned on her (Japanese) Wikipedia page. The “paved sprint” race track is 630 meters long and 7 to 11 meters wide at an elevation of 650 meters with the longest straight being 130 meters – just to get all the facts in here.
Nevertheless there are a few things I don’t understand at all. Why would you build a race track on top of a mountain? At the end of a road that is falling apart? With no signs that there is a race circuit up there? With buildings that look like they were abandoned decades ago? What were those cars with license plates doing up the mountain?
And why on earth would anybody drive up that friggin mountain on a suicidal road to race some karts?