I love unique abandoned places. Deserted *hotels* and *schools* you can find by the dozen in Japan, even desolate *amusement parks* are plenty all over the country; though their number is decreasing. But when I explored this cinema / theater / community center somewhere in the mountains of *Tohoku* I instantly fell in love with it.
From the outside the building didn’t look like much, a greyish boarded-up construction the size of a barn with a simple sign in Japanese above the locked entrance: 講堂, auditorium. Before I could even look for another way inside, Ben and Michael already grinned at me through a window. One hop later I stood on a brittle wooden floor with a few holes where previous explorers crashed through with one foot. Looking for nails I figured out where the supporting beams were and took a couple of photos in the room I was in before going to the main storage in the back. There was a plethora of items scattered on the ground and an old bike standing in the middle of the room. The most interesting objects though were a can of Tyrolean Cheese and another one labelled “QBBチーズ“, QBB Cheese. Austrian cheese and Australian cheese. I wonder whether whoever bought them did it on purpose or not. I understand the Austrian cheese, but Australia never stroke me for being famous for its milk products.
From the back I went through another brittle side room to the main auditorium, where several rows of rusty seats offered space for about 150 people. Sadly it was overcast outside, which made it hard to take pictures without a tripod in the main room – and even worse in the basically pitch-black movie projector room accessible via a small staircase near the main entrance, past the swing doors. Luckily I brought a tripod, but the process was still rather time consuming, especially upstairs in tiny room the with two big “Sun Arc” arc lamp projectors. (I strongly recommend watching the video at the end of this article, it will give you a much better impression of the place than the photos I took!)
It were objects like those projectors, like the cheese cans, like the bike, that made this abandoned auditorium so interesting. Probably my favorite item in the building (aside from the spectacular looking cinema projectors) was a small piece of paper, pinned to the wood next to the stage. It was a 5 point checklist to make sure that the fire extinguisher was okay – and it had seven handwritten, dated remarks on it; the last one from August 7th 1967, Showa 42 by Japanese count. But there was more to discover. Old stuff you don’t get to see much these days, like an all kanji bathroom sign and the concrete urinal at the men’s restroom; that must have been a challenge to clean. Probably with the powdered soap we found a can / box of on a table in the auditorium’s back.
I think I could have stayed at least another 30 minutes at this truly amazing building, probably 30 minutes in the dark room upstairs alone. Sadly we had to move on, but I am really happy that I had the opportunity to explore this wonderful place!
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