How does a quite dull hotel exploration turn into a pretty memorable story? Add some yakuza!
I often forget where or how I found a location as I do a lot of internet research, basically almost every day, but this one I remember vividly. It was on a regular Japanese blog about everyday life, not one specifically dedicated to urbex. The guy who wrote it did some other explorations, but this apparently abandoned love hotel piqued my interest as I had never seen it before anywhere else before. And he did a lousy job disguising the location as he called the article by the place’s real name, only replacing one syllable with a placeholder – and in the article he mentioned the prefecture it was in. Since the hotel looked recently abandoned I just googled it and within 5 seconds had the exact address, because of course it was still listed on dedicated Japanese websites about (active) love hotels. (I might or might not have labelled one of the photos with the real name… but I won’t mention the prefecture!)
A couple of weeks later the opportunity arose to finally visit this abandoned love hotel in excellent condition. My expectations were pretty high – my source didn’t show many photos, but they were extremely promising. Arriving at the hotel finding access was surprisingly easy as a back door underneath the hotel, right next to the parking lot, was unlocked… which was quite unusual for a love hotel. Not that the door was unlocked, but that there was a rather big shared parking lot. Usually those hotels have individual parking booths, so guests can enter and exit without being seen by others. Anyway, we entered and started to have a look around… and were soon quite disappointed. Not only the parking lot looked like those at regular hotel, so did the rooms. No exotic interior design elements, not even outdated 70s or 80s porn atmosphere. Just regular rooms with pamphlets insisting that the hotel was indeed a love hotel – by presenting the typical room rates (making the usual difference between “rest” and “stay”) and advertising the sale of cheap sexy outfits. When we finally made it to the front desk, it looked a bit converted, like everything else there. Yep, this most likely had been a regular hotel originally, converted into a love hotel years ago. At the time of our visit the original bar and restaurant were used as one big storage room… It was then when one of my friends left the hotel to have a look outside and the other two (American guy, Japanese girl) went back upstairs to check something out. I stayed behind and took photos at the bar area. After a while I started to hear voices, which is quite unusual as we usually explore rather quietly. I couldn’t understand what was said and I remember thinking that I would have to ask my friends to speak English at abandoned places, so it would be clear instantly if they were talking – or some other visitors. (Running into other people at abandoned places in Japan is rather unlikely, running into other English speakers is virtually impossible.) As the voices came closer I realized that only male voices were speaking… only Japanese. So those people were definitely not my friends. Darn! Since they were coming from the part of the building where we entered, they basically cut off my way out. As the voices came closer I saw the first lights from their flashlights, so I hid in an alcove next to a door frame. But they came closer and closer and at one point I had no choice but to leave my improvised hiding place, still hoping that they would be fellow explorers. I turned right and… saw a group of about half a dozen Japanese guys in suits, definitely not urban explorers. My camera still mounted on the tripod I mumbled a quick “konnichwa”, one of the younger guys replied with a surprised “konnichwa” and I headed with quick steps past the group through the door into the rather dark hallway that lead to the other side of the building and towards the exit through a semi-basement. I heard footsteps of one or two people following me into the hallway, but they stayed behind and didn’t say anything while I accelerated my steps, my heart beating like crazy up to my throat.
Right outside the door I met my friends. They had been able to leave without being seen, but also without being able to warn me. I think it was my Japanese female friend who instantly said “They looked like yakuza!” – and my impression was the same, just by the way they looked and the way they talked. We left the premises as quickly as possible, and when we reached the road again, we saw a HUGE black Japanese limousine with tainted windows. The kind of car that costs more than a small house in the countryside, definitely nothing like the tiny ones usually used by real estate agents. The license plate had the number 88-00, which apparently symbolized luck if you are a supersticious kind of person. The car basically screamed “If you mess with me or one of my passengers, WE will MESS YOU UP!!!” – whatever was going on there, it definitely wasn’t a normal sales pitch by a regular realtor. They didn’t even use the friggin main entrance, but came through an unlocked back door in the semi-basement!
All four of us were pretty rattled by those events. Like I said, usually you don’t run into people at abandoned places in Japan, especially not half a dozen guys wearing black suits entering through a back door after arriving in a car that cost something like six-figures USD. For the first time in a very long time we took a real lunch break on an exploration day (instead of the usual sandwich / onigiri in the car), just so we could sit down and relax for like an hour. And then we did what you have to do after being thrown off a horse – we got right back in saddle and continued to explore.
Oh, before I forget: No video tour this week for obvious reasons… 🙂
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