The Nakagusuku Hotel Ruin on the Japanese island of Okinawa is a prime example for a problem pretty much everybody has when writing about abandoned places – how to name the location? I could have called it the N# Hotel or the N# Hotel Ruin, but it would have been pretty pointless, because the name is revealed with a location description when you google “urban exploration Okinawa”. First hit, at least at the time I am writing this article. I could as well mark it on a map, but I’m still reluctant to do that since the Nakagusuku Hotel Ruin clearly is not a tourist attraction – the Nakagusuku Castle (中城城), right next to the hotel ruin, on the other hand is a tourist attraction. A major one, since they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and it’s visible on a lot of photos and videos I took. Gusuku is a term to describe Okinawan castles (jo, 城) and in Japanese it actually uses the same kanji – and that makes a gusuku-jo a castle-castle. But this article is not about the castle ruin, it’s about the hotel ruin, which actually is a place of many names. Most people refer to it as the Nakagusku Hotel Ruin in English, but I’ve also seen it been called the Royal Hotel (I have no clue why…) and the Nakagusuku Takahara Hotel / Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel – both names are based on the common Japanese term for the place, 中城高原ホテル. The first two characters mean Nakagusuku, the last three mean hotel. Characters three and four can be read takahara or kogen / kougen. The latter reading makes more sense as it means plateau – the Nakagusuku Plateau Hotel, because it’s actually on the Nakagusuku plateau…
The complex naming of this deserted hotel is rather suiting, because nothing about the Nakagusku Hotel Ruin is simple or small. The place is actually gigantic and fascinating. So gigantic and fascinating that I decided to split up the article in two. This first one will be about the background information, a soon to come second one will describe my experiences exploring the never finished hotel.
Yep, the Nakagusku Hotel Ruin is an unfinished building – carcass and interior completion are both unfinished. The story is that a rich business man from Naha, Okinawa’s capital about 10km to the southwest, wanted to take advantage of the beautiful location right next to the Nakagusku Castle, where both the Pacific Ocean and the East Chinese Sea are visible. Locals warned him not to build a hotel there since the area overgrown by jungle like vegetation was the home to countless old graves – of course he ignored the advice, even when a Buddhist monk told him that the land was sacred and that he was building too close to a tomb inhabited by restless souls. Upon hearing that some of the workers quit – and others died by accidents on the construction site. Having spent millions of dollars on the vast concrete construction the unnamed businessman wanted to prove that the hotel wasn’t cursed, so he pledged that he would sleep on the premises until the building was finished. After three nights he went insane and people still don’t agree if he was institutionalized or if he committed suicide – or both.
That’s the folklore story you can read in most articles about the Nakagusku Hotel Ruin. Another version, less spectacular, is that the hotel was built under the responsibility of the Nakagusku Park Union (中城公園組合), which was in charge of the Nakagusku Castle since it was declared important cultural property by the government’s Cultural Properties Protection Committee in 1955. The first plans became a political issue when the information became public that the hotel was supposed to be built too close to or actually on the castle ruin, risking its status as a cultural property site (and making it impossible to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a program that was ratified in 1972). So the planned construction site of the hotel was moved from the castle’s rampart further to the west, away from the historical ruin. Construction of the massive concrete hotel began in the first half of the 1970s and was supposed to be finished right on time for the opening of the Okinawa International Marine Exhibition (better known as “Expo 75”) on July 20th of 1975. But of course the inevitable happened: The contractor went bankrupt and the access road was specified as part of the “preservation of cultural properties zone” after Okinawa became part of Japan a couple of years prior (between the end of WW2 in 1945 and May 15th of 1972 Okinawa was run by a U.S. military government), bringing the construction of the Nakagusuku Hotel to a complete standstill – permanently. (I had to compile / confirm this version of the hotel ruin’s background story from different Japanese sources, so if there is an inaccuracy I apologize in advance.)
And to end the stories about the history of the Nakagusuku Hotel Ruin with another one based on rumors, not on facts: It’s said that a part of the hotel was used as a brothel for several years – the upper part, where the now burned interior was already finished. A highly unlikely story, since that brothel would have been within sight of a major tourist attraction and kind of tough to access, especially at night – I can’t imagine that happening without the knowledge of the authorities…
Okay, so much for the background story. The next article will be about *Michael* and myself exploring the huge concrete carcass. We spent about 8 hours on the premises, so there is plenty to tell you – and to show you! All the photos below are from the easy to access parts most urban explorers see, and so is 22 minute long video, representing maybe a third of the huge complex. *If you like what you see below you better read the next article, too, because it will blow you away!*
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