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Archive for the ‘Abandoned’ Category

Half a dozen water slides, several pools and a couple of buildings made the abandoned Tohoku Water Park quite photogenic – and a wonderful exploration overall!

Rainy season started three weeks earlier this year in Japan, so summer already is full swing in parts of the country, making life a living hell, unless you are a real masochist and enjoy hot humid weather. And while your body already screams “Make it stop. Good Lord, make it goddamn stop!” your brain knows very well that it will get worse for at least two more months before it will only slowly be getting better. Four months of hell, that’s Japanese summers in most parts of the country for you – and for the second year in a row there is no way to GTFO and relax with family, friends, and homemade cooking / baking thanks to you know what. One of the few things making this s#!tshow bearable for some people are water parks – of which Japan has surprisingly many. One of the biggest abandoned outdoor water parks is off the beaten tracks in a tiny town in Tohoku, quite a pain to get to from Osucka. Fortunately I had the chance to explore that wonderful location on a trip up north three years ago. At the time the place was only semi-famous and GoogleMaps was rather blurry in that area, so I had to progress carefully, especially since I was flying solo. Exploring without a co-pilot is always more dangerous and more nerve-wrecking, so I probably wasn’t as excited initially as I should have been – first I had to make sure the place was really abandoned and not secured, then I could relax and enjoy the pools and slides; well, not myself, but by taking photos of them.
Built in the late 1970s, the Tohoku Water Park was one of the largest of its kind in Japan – which is a bit mind-boggling, considering the fact that Tohoku isn’t exactly known for its cruel, cruel summers, but instead is mostly covered in snow for half of the year. It was closed in 2010 and is currently owned by the local prefecture, which is kind of bad news, as state owned “abandoned” places tend to be most secured ones. They happily keep the lights (and alarms) on by paying the electricity bill and the police tends to show up more often than average, because, well, they are on the clock anyway, so they can as well have a look around and get some fresh air.
Fortunately there were no alarms (at least I didn’t trigger any…) and I was also spared a run-in with our friends and helpers, so while I was enjoying the exploration more and more I realized that I was quickly running out of time. Two hours was my previously set time limit and I was able to stretch that a little bit by walking back to my mode of transportation a little bit faster. Unfortunately the weather decided to be a bit hazy, causing dazzlingly white skies instead of the clear blue or dramatic cloudy ones I much more prefer. But hey, weather… nothing you can do about it – except for bitching about it in an attempt to make you feel better!

So… The abandoned Tohoku Water Park… A nice one! Large, remote, outdoors, theme parkish – this place ticked plenty of boxes! Another hour so would have been nice, but sometimes you gotta work with what you’ve got. Especially the large twin slide gave the *Hot Spring Water Park* and the *water park at Nara Dreamland* a tough fight for the #3 spot – but I’ve already shot two other abandoned outdoor water parks that I’ve liked even better; and I can’t wait to get them published, too!

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I’ve explored and documented hundreds of abandoned places in Japan, solo and with friends, over the course of more than 10 years – this is this only one that gave me nightmares! (And yes, I mean actual nightmares… for months!)
Japan is a large country with all kinds of weather, from +40°C humid summers to -30°C dry winters with several meters of snow, so depending on where you are when, some abandoned places are only accessible for a few months a year. The Biohazard Facility is accessible all year long, in theory, nevertheless we went there in autumn “because of the unbearable smell in summer”, as a friend told me. The smell? Gosh, how bad could it be? “I brought masks to wear for all of us!” Now, this was about three and a half years ago, at a time when the rest of the world looked with amusement and confusion at those quirky Asians for sometimes wearing masks despite not being in the medical profession – and while used to seeing them being worn, I wasn’t eager to wear one myself, especially while wielding photography equipment for hours in the still hot and humid early autumn weather; sure, technically it wasn’t summer anymore by Japanese standards, but it still kinda was by German standards. At the same time I didn’t want to be rude, so I grabbed one, said Thank You, and put it on – shut up and deal with it, like you do in Japan. My first mask ever and the only one till March 2020, when wearing them became kinda mandatory for obvious reasons. (And phew, was I grateful to have it about half an hour later – lifting it to wipe off some sweat made a big difference as the stench became barely bearable instantly!)

Why? What? Biohazard?!
So, what was The Biohazard Facility? Well, at the time the place was still more or less a secret and people didn’t know much about it, but it turned out that it was a research facility that developed blood tests for dogs – the kennel outside was mostly gone / overgrown, but there were still some cages and transport boxes in the main building. Apparently this was the second facility the company had – and much like the first one it was reportedly closed by the authorities after animal mistreatment and health code violations. While most of the building consisted of offices and more or less regular laboratories I remember at least two air showers that lead to what I assumed were cleanrooms. In addition to that there were several doors and windows with biohazard signs – hence the name of the location among urban explorers. Oh, and there were several large freezers with locks… So if you combine all of that (air showers, cleanrooms, lockable chest freezers, biohazard signs everywhere in a building of a company with a history of health code and animal treatment violations) then you basically have the stuff that nightmares are made of.
Of course I wasn’t aware of all of that upon entering – to me this was a real exploration, I just knew about the standard laboratories and a few biohazard signs… and that was all I got for the first few minutes. Then I saw one of those freezers with a lock… and it had a laminated piece of paper on top, clearly added long after the facility was abandoned. (How one can abandon or even just close a facility like that without the authorities stepping in is beyond me – but hey, welcome to Japan!) At first I ignored the freezers – I’m not the touchy / moving things around type of explorer anyway and in this case I valued my health and safety even more, so I made my way through the building, at one point losing contact with my co-explorers – which was actually scary, because this place was by far the creepiest I’ve ever been to. That’s the kind of place you explore in a video game while your character is wearing a hazmat suit. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and for protection a 200 Yen mask, no gloves. And this place wasn’t digital, it was real. With real dark corners, real chemicals, real danger! I don’t care about how tough you think you are, but when you explore a dusty, slightly vandalized biotech company that was experimenting on / with dogs and you see a poster about how Coxiella Burnetii, a bacterial pathogen, can affect several parts of the human body, I’m sure your heart drops a bit, too! (“Fun” fact: Coxiella Burnetii was one of seven agents of the United States biological warfare program when it ended in 1969!) At one point towards the end the mental pressure became so big that I decided to find my friends first and explore the last part together… where we found molten plastic gloves on the ground. When you look at the pictures later I don’t know what impression you’ll have, but I can only urge you to remember that this was REAL: Not a movie set, not a disaster museum, not a 4k video game – a real biohazard facility. People walked out, locked everything up, and a few years later we were there; entering through the back, thanks to mild vandalism here and there.

Umbrella for real?
Of course you can’t explore a place called “Biohazard Facility” without referencing “Biohazard”, the Japanese name of the (in)famous Resident Evil multimedia franchise based on Capcom’s horror video game series.
My personal relationship with RE dates back right to the beginning 25 years ago, to the original game on PlayStation. It was also the first game I’ve ever reviewed, for my high school paper, which lead to a huge argument with the editor in chief as the game was rated M and in danger of being banned in Germany – so of course most of the students at my school weren’t able to legally buy the game and the guy was really conflicted about that. Something like 10 years later, shortly after I moved to Japan, a good friend of mine was working on an obscure Biohazard flip phone game only to be released in Japan, and asked me if I wanted to do some voice acting for two minor characters. With no experience in this area I was a bit hesitant, but how often in life do you get an opportunity like that, so of course I agreed to do it. What my friend failed to mention (or didn’t know himself when he asked me) was the fact that the voice acting didn’t include actual lines, just damage voices – so I was moaning and groaning for like an hour to record stuff what a pro probably could have done in 5 minutes; and what sounded more like horrible dubbing for amateur porn than for an action game. Fortunately it was really only released in Japan, but it was still an interesting experience.
So for my part of referencing Biohazard I brought a prop and created a picture puzzle / rebus which you can find in the gallery. I posted it a while ago on *Facebook* and it took people like 45 seconds to solve, and they didn’t even know the location name and what I was referencing, so don’t expect too much…
My co-explorers on the other hand insisted on recreating CGI artwork from RE6 with several game characters posing. Personally I hate posing for pictures in general, but especially at abandoned places. Urbex should be about locations, not the explorers – at least that’s my take on the topic. But like I said, my friends insisted and I was kinda needed as the fourth person, so they promised to set everything up, so I just had to come in for 30 seconds to be directed in the correct position and take a few shots, just to be on the safe side. And I have to admit, both photos turned out to be very, very cool, especially given the background story of the location. (Unfortunately in hindsight they weren’t be taken by me / with my camera, so I won’t be able to publish them…) During the whole thing we talked about Resident Evil 6 a bit (which in my opinion really didn’t deserve all the hate it received!) and I mentioned the logo. What about the logo, my friends asked. “Well, it looks like somebody fellating a giraffe…” WHAT? “Yeah, it looks like a woman giving a giraffe a blowjob – the game is five years old, you’ve never heard of that?” They hadn’t, but a quick internet search caused gigantic laughter and we left the Biohazard Facility on an extreme high note. (And if you are not a game freak who already knew this, I have a hunch what you just did / will do next… 🙂 )

Best. Urbex. Ever?
So… Exploring the Biohazard Facility… Absolutely amazing! Easily in my Top 20, most likely Top 10, maybe Top 5. We spent about 3.5 hours on location and were absolutely spent afterwards – by far the most exhausting, the most nerve-wrecking half-day exploration of my life! I’ve been to plenty of places where I had the feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be there, I’ve been to plenty of places that were kind of dangerous. But as exciting and somewhat mind-blowing abandoned theme parks and old hospitals are – exploring an abandoned biochemistry lab is not just next level exploring, it’s highest level with a boss enemy around the corner exploring! I wasn’t kidding in the intro, this experience gave me nightmares for months! Not every night, but a series of similar very bad dreams every other week… Nevertheless totally worth the hassle, because that’s the kind of place you normally only see in movies (where you know that it’s fake) or in video games (where it’s virtual) – being there for several hours blew my mind… and probably fried it a bit, too. 🙂

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What do Star Wars and Nicolas Cage have in common? Not much, really – just that his latest movie, Prisoners of the Ghostland, was shot at a location that in winter looks like the snowy battleground of Hoth!

Usually I don’t do revisits. They bore me, they bore you, they don’t do well here on Abandoned Kansai. But there are exploration days when I’m not in charge of the location selection, which sometimes is a good thing (as I get taken to places I didn’t even know existed) and sometimes is a bad thing as I’m stuck at places I don’t like or already have documented extensively. In early 2018 I was on the road with a large group of people (the largest ever, almost a dozen explorers in two large cars) and it was really chaotic as nobody wanted to take the lead (or listen to the only gaijin they apparently considered pretty much dead weight), so there were endless time-consuming consensus discussions, but not much exploring – and of course in the afternoon we ended up at the almost touristy *Sumitomo Osaka Cement Factory, which I had explored about 4 years earlier on a late summer morning*. Seriously annoyed by the inability of the group to make decisions I teeth-gnashingly got out of the warm car and into the mid-winter cold. (While there is no winter in central Osaka, you can definitely get to some snowy areas in day trip range. Not real winter like in Hokkaido, but at least it’s worth putting on a jacket…)
The different time of the day and especially the different season with the completely different weather made this one of the few revisits actually worth my (and your!) time. The outdoor part wasn’t that much fun since the area was completely covered in snow. Not deeply, but enough to make walking around a bit iffy as you never knew what you would step on / in next – and it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photos that I realized that the area had a very strong Star Wars vibe; like after the battle on the ice planet Hoth. A completely different atmosphere than in early September… and an almost completely overgrown building was all of a sudden accessible again. In summer vines and other plants covered pretty much all of the ground floor windows and especially the doors, so the it was only upon my second visit that I could enter the building – which wasn’t spectacular by any standards, but a nice addition to the exploration and the photo set, despite the rapidly fading light.
The winter / Hoth story would have been enough to justify another article, but fortunately I waited a little bit longer and so it happened that Nicolas fucking Cage, hero in two of the best action movies of all time, shot his currently latest movie at this exact same location in late 2019. Of course I found that out after the fact or otherwise I would have tried to sneak a peek. But hey, it’s still the same location I’ve explored twice extensively. Interestingly enough a young Japanese woman called Riko Shibata somehow got access to the venue or at least the film crew – Cage met her in Shiga when she was 24 and he was 55, about one and a half years later they got married in early March of 2021; her first, his fifth marriage. Oh, and the movie is called Prisoners of the Ghostland, directed by Sion Sono and probably way too violent for my fragile little mind. So I hope one day I’ll be able to skip through a Blu-Ray or a stream and watch the scenes shot at the *Sumitomo Osaka Cement Factory*.

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You like abandoned places, gorgeous views, and hikes on beginner level? Then Hokkaido’s Toya-Usu Geopark is perfect for you! Experience a post-apocalyptic scenario in walking distance of a relaxing spa town…

Less than two hours south of Sapporo and its New Chitose Airport is the often overlooked Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark, an era with about 110000 years of activity. Back then an eruption caused a large depression to form, which filled with water over time and created what is now known as Lake Toya. Near its southern shore is Mount Usu, a rather active volcano that erupted at least nine times in the last 350 years, four times since 1910. The 1910 eruption is of importance as it created the foundation of Toyako Onsen, a rather new spa town in comparison to classics like Dogo, Hakone, or Arima. The 1977-78 eruption lead to quite a bit of destruction *as described in my 2013 article about the twisted and now abandoned Sankei Hospital*. But that didn’t keep people from building and living in the area – and some paid a price for that when Mount Usu erupted again in 2000, causing roads to twist and landslides to flood whole buildings. While the Sankei Hospital was just a single building with not much tourism prowess, the good people of Toyako turned lemons into lemonade. They cleaned up the area, constructed some landslide catching dams for safety and built some hiking trails through the destroyed area and past some craters.
The Kompirayama Walking Trail leads from the Toyako Visitor Center past the destroyed bath house and a severely damaged apartment building up the mountain past the Tama-chan crater and the Yu-kun crater as well as an abandoned factory to a sparsely populated area now predominantly catering to tourists – a little hotel, some shops, a bus stop, and a public toilet. It’s also one end of the Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail, which leads past the Nishiyamakakofuchi Park and its destroyed and sometimes flooded road up the mountain to several observation decks and then down again next to several destroyed buildings (one of them incorrectly labelled “Collapsed Kindergarten”) to the actual collapsed kindergarten. From there you can either walk to another bus stop, back to the bus stop between the trails or all the way back to Toyoko Onsen. It’s not a difficult hike by any means (hence probably the name walking trail), but there are some steep and slippery passages, especially after some precipitation – which is probably the main reason why at least the Kompirayama trail is closed from mid-November to mid-April; not sure about Nishiyama trail, which has much fewer muddy parts, but is secured by lockable gates.
I had the pleasure to walk along both trails in early November 2020, towards the end of autumn leaves season and just days before the Kompirayama trail was closed for the winter. At about 10°C the weather was comfortable, but rain on the days before made some part indeed dangerously slippery. It also didn’t help that the weather was constantly changing every 20 to 30 minutes: sunny, overcast, rainy, light snowstorm and back again, sometimes skipping one condition. (*Much like when I was exploring the nearby Chinese themed park Tenkaen eight years prior!*) So… yes, all the photos in the gallery below are from the same day and were taken with the same camera and settings, though they look quite different. It were the abandoned buildings at the foot of the Kompirayama trail that motivated to do those hikes, but there was so much more to it – especially the views at Lake Toya from the Yu-kun crater, the post-apocalyptic scenery of the destroyed and flooded road between the trails and the view at Uchiura Bay from the observation decks of the Nishiyama trail. Having done this on a mostly overcast day in late autumn during a pandemic just added to the post-apocalyptic atmosphere as I was mostly by myself with no other hikers around – I saw two or three other groups with less than a dozen people in total. Wonderful, just wonderful!

If you like Japan, abandoned buildings and easy hikes, this is a dream come true. And if you should ever plan on doing those hikes, stay a night or two in Toyako Onsen. It’s a really lovely area ignored by most tourists on their way to Hakodate, which is a real shame, because there is easily enough to see and do to keep you busy for two or three relaxed days – much longer even if relaxation is what you are looking for! (*BTW: If you are looking for more risk free urbex places for tourists, have a look at my special by clicking here!*)

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Interior shots and a completely new area (the outdoor swimming pool!) – this revisit almost felt like a completely new exploration!

Yes, I admit: I don’t like revisits, usually I don’t do them. When I explore a location I do it either until I’m satisfied or until I run out of time; the latter happens, but usually after I’m satisfied, because if I can guestimate that I won’t be able to explore a place properly, I usually don’t start. Another reason is: revisit articles usually don’t do well, except for maybe *Nara Dreamland* BEFORE it was demolished. Other than those revisit articles performed exceptionally poor in the past.
This case is a bit different though. First of all, *the original article about the Silent Hill School* did rather well. Both the location and the write-up were quite atmospheric, so I look back on that fondly in many ways. And then there is the fact at my revisit I had access to areas not accessible during my first exploration.
Unfortunately I still didn’t find a way into the school. It was still tightly locked and even had “24h SECURITY CAMERAS” signs in some windows. Whether or not that claim was true I didn’t test, but I’ve never broken into a place anyway. But probably the same person responsible for the signs also opened up some of the curtains, so I was able to get some interior shots, which in my book is almost as good. Sure, no artistic angles, but at least y’all now know what the Silent Hill School looks like inside.
As for the outdoor pool – it was fully accessible this time and I could move around freely, only limited by some shrubs. Why now and not last time? Because last time I went there in autumn, the time of the year when Japan is the bushiest. The staircase to the pool and the area leading up to it was just so overgrown that it would have required some serious gardening before access would have been possible. In late winter on the other hand everything laid bare and ready to access.
Revisiting the Silent Hill School didn’t feel like a revisit, but more like a continuation. Sure, the shrubby vegetation changed, but the surrounding trees were the same, the school was basically the same… and most important of all: the weather was exactly the same; even the time of day was! So unlike previous re-explorations this one was actually great fun, despite the fact that I didn’t have my tripod with me; but shooting freehand made everything more flexible and dynamic – and I really hope that you like the new photo set! *If you have forgotten about the abandoned Silent Hill School or need just a quick reminder of what happened the first time, just click here on this sentence!*

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An abandoned Roadside Restaurant might not sound like the most exciting location, but sometimes it offers a good opportunity for a little rant… 🙂

I’ve been in a bit of an exploration slump since 2019 – quality I’m still very pleased with, but quantity has been suffered due to empty promises, wives, kids, and / or pets; (un?)fortunately none of them were mine, which makes the whole thing even more disappointing. And as y’all can imagine, Covid-19 didn’t exactly help. Though it did offer new opportunities, to be frank. In recent years Japan has become much more popular among tourists from overseas – to a point where overtourism had become a problem. Personally I stopped going to places neighboring places like Kyoto or Himeji for leisure around 2014 or 2015, but even at sightseeing spots off the beaten Shinkansen tracks it happened more and more often that I’ve heard more Chinese or Spanish at tourist spots than Japanese – which is a real atmosphere killer to me. (And yes, my reaction would be same hearing predominantly Russian at the Coliseum, Italian at the Louvre, French at the remains of the Berlin Wall or German at the Red Square.) Since Japanese people traditionally lived a life of social distancing (Do you know the Japanese term for ghosting? It’s “regular communication”…) and are used to wearing masks, their country was hit by Covid-19 much less than most other countries, so the imposed restrictions were much less… restrictive. Especially travel restrictions within the country. During infection peaks it was recommended not to travel, and I followed all those recommendations, but when it was allowed, I used the opportunity – and saw Matsue Castle with nobody else around, the snow monkeys with maybe 20 other people, and on a six day trip to Hokkaido I didn’t see another Caucasian except for at New Chitose Airport. So instead of lamenting about having fewer people to urbex with I used my new won spare time to visit some places I considered lost forever to the Eurasian hordes (don’t let that get to your heads, people from Eastasia, Oceania, or the Disputed Territories – all animals are equal…). Now, when I travel not for urbex I prefer to travel light – no tripod, sometimes even just one instead of two lenses. I also obviously don’t plan around abandoned places, but look for interesting museums, local food, unusual experiences, and beautiful scenery. But at this point it seems like I don’t have to look for abandoned places anymore, they tend to find me – whether I’m prepared or not. And if I’m not prepared, I either have to ignore the place or make the best of it…

In the case of the Roadside Restaurant I tried to make the best of it. It was a rainy day, I didn’t have my tripod with me, and to be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for a solo exploration. But the place was a bit out of sight and easy to access, so I played the cards that I was dealt and went inside. Congratulations, another abandoned restaurant – well, not all abandoned places in Japan can look like *Nara Dreamland* or the *Hachijo Royal Hotel*, otherwise even Japan wouldn’t have several millions of them. Most abandoned places in Japan actually look like this one here and not like the average one on Abandoned Kansai! After all I’m doing my best to find “beautiful” / interesting abandoned places and take pictures to make them look “attractive”, but sometime the amount of abandoned places in Japan surprises even me – not counting the dilapidated buildings that are still in use!
Anyway, there’s not much to say about the Roadside Restaurant. It was there, I went inside, I took some pictures freehand at crazy high ISO, prepared them for this blog and wrote this rant.
So here we are… Another Tuesday… Confronted with mediocrity… Hoping for something better next week… Just like in real life! But please keep showing your support… or one week there might not be a next week…

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Coastal Wedding Venue

The abandoned Coastal Wedding Venue is one of my favorite explorations of 2019 – and one of my favorite solo explorations of the past few years.

When I started Abandoned Kansai more than 11 years ago I named it that on purpose. Abandoned Kansai. Not Abandoned Honshu or Abandoned Japan. Abandoned Kansai. Because back then I had no intention to explore outside of Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Osaka, and Hyogo. Heck, even Mie and most of Wakayama seemed so far away and inaccessible. Hundreds of explorations in all 47 Japanese prefectures later I just hope that it is not too far away when a new and extraordinary looking location pops up on the internet, because… usually it is. And of course the Coastal Wedding Venue was no exception. First it took me a while to find it, then it took me a while to get there, because not only was the wedding venue far away from Kansai, it also was on top of a mountain in a rather remote tiny little town – easy to access is different, especially when flying solo and therefore relying on public transportation. But thanks to a serious amount of patience and tons of dedication I finally made it there one a sunny autumn day as beautiful as the view from the main balcony of the venue.

Unfortunately there is little know about the Coastal Wedding Venue, which consists of about half a dozen buildings, including a chapel, a hotel and a restaurant for the main reception, as well as a swimming pool and several outdoor areas of various sizes, now mostly overgrown. It seems like the place opened in the late 1980s and closed about 25 years later – despite or because it’s kitschy design with countless white European style statues outdoors and gigantic Asian style vases and sculptures indoors.
After more than half a decade of neglect and vandalism the venue already was in rather pitiful condition when I explored it 1.5 years ago. The buildings were ransacked and in parts severely damaged, the outdoor areas were hard to navigate due to uncontrolled growth – it wasn’t a fun exploration, but it was a gorgeous one, high above the sea at one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline I’ve ever seen in Japan. The predominantly white venue was very easy on the eyes, despite the dilapidated condition it was in. A lot of shots were hard to take, especially the one of the chapel and the pool from the balcony along the main street – but like my frontal shot of the *Hachijo Royal Hotel* it turned out to be one of my favorite photos ever. I had high expectations for the abandoned Coastal Wedding Venue… and they were fulfilled overall. Unfortunately both vandalism and decay seem to progress at record speed, so it’s only a matter of time until this place will only continue to live in the memories of the few who had the opportunity to document it at the right time.

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Cat Paw Hotel

There are two or three styles of hotel rooms in Japan – if you know those, you basically know them all. Yet (almost) every abandoned Japanese hotel has something special. A rooftop bar, an interesting shared bath, an indoor shrine, a pool area with slides, a vast garden… or a room filled with boxes containing cut off cat paws!

The Cat Paw Hotel was an original find I made at the height of my exploration career in 2017. At first it was just a mark on a map in the outskirts of an onsen town, far away from the StreetView cars. The grey spot also could have been an apartment building… or worse: still in use. But after so many years of exploring you at least have a good gut feeling whether or not a place is abandoned, so when I had the opportunity to visit the area a year later on my last big exploration trip with my buddy Hamish of course I took advantage of it.
At first sight the Cat Paw Hotel was just a random abandoned hotel like so many others. Large lobby, vandalized rooms that looked the same, big party rooms that only differed in size, a somewhat boring bar with a stage and a jukebox, an emptied souvenir shop – even the yellow, green, and black shared bath (where somebody took a dump in the sauna; at least go outside, you animals!) wasn’t that spectacular. What set the Cat Paw Hotel apart from every other abandoned hotel I’ve explored was a room Hamish called me to. “You have to see this!” is something I’ve heard quite often, but barely ever was it that true. In the back of the hotel, at the end of a corridor with guest rooms, were two storage rooms for the gift shop. One where all the cheaply made plastic junk was once stored (not anymore; ransacked, too). And another one filled with boxes upon boxes of what looked like cat paws to me. Now, I’m not an animal expert, so cat paw is / was my best guess. And when I posted a photo a while ago on *Facebook* nobody had a better suggestion. Which is curios, because to the best of my knowledge cat paws are not a good look charm like… for example… rabbit’s feet. Especially in Japan, where cats are really, really loved! And while rabbit’s feet can be rather easily harvested as their meat is quite popular in some parts of the world, hardly anybody eats cats unless they have to. There also were no signs of them in the gift shop, so why would this hotel would store countless boxes with probably thousands of paws? Paws that didn’t have attachments for key rings… or even packaging for that matter. Really, really strange…

But memorable, and when it comes to explorations, that’s an important factor. I for sure won’t forget the Cat Paw Hotel – and you probably neither. We’ll all forget the dump in the sauna, the weird shared bath and the large dining room… but the cat paws we’ll remember. And tell our friends about it. And hope, that the next exploration will be as memorable!

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Welcome to yet another original find! This time we’ll go deep into the mountains to explore what turned out to be a large textile mill!

One of the best things in life, other than to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women, is to explore a previously unknown abandoned place you found yourself without the help of others – something I take much pride in since my very first days of exploring, because let’s be honest: every shmuck can ask or even pay for coordinates and do the traveling involved, but finding and exploring a new place… that’s special!
A while ago I spotted a rather big rusty red roof amidst a thick forest. Not too far away were a couple of still inhabited houses and next to one of them I assumed was a now abandoned road that seemed to lead towards the roofed area. Unfortunately the area was rather blurry and of course no StreetView car had ever graced the area with its presence. But I guess almost a decade of “reading” GoogleMaps paid off again and the layout was exactly as expected – which didn’t make the exploration any easier though. The uphill road to the large corrugated iron construction had turned into an overgrown muddy mess over the decades… and the “building” itself still only sticked out on satellite photos because of the massive amount of ground it covered. At first sight the whole thing seemed to be some kind of storage facility. We found several numbered garage like bays, some empty, some filled with random stuff that could have been part of a factory, but also been owned by private people. Frustrated by the heat, humidity, overgrowth and inaccessibility I was ready to call it a day and move on, when my exploration buddy realized that the wall that we were standing next to was actually a corrugated iron door – it blended it perfectly. After years and years of not being opened the thing was rusty as heck, but fortunately unlocked.
Inside the “Mountain Textile Factory“ was in really bad condition. Whole walls were missing, the roof was leaking at countless spots and yet the whole thing was surprisingly gloomy on that rainy day. It looked like they just shut down everything and left, half of the machinery still stocked with material and a porn magazine in a drawer; yes, the good old Japanese urbex rule – no 80s location without a porn stash… Unfortunately it wasn’t only a rainy day, but also late in the day, so it was getting dark quickly.

Overall though I’m super happy with this exploration: It started out underwhelmingly, but turned into a lovely surprise, it was an original find, and one of the yarn bobbin photos is absolutely fantastic IMHO. A perfect addition to the *Japanese Garment Factory* exploration a while ago…

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Half-Abandoned Shrine

Hatsumode, the first shrine visit in a calendar year – another Abandoned Kansai tradition…

Up to 3.5 million visitors on three days some shrines can have. That’s a recipe for disaster! This year apparently plans were made to prolong the traditional year end winter break (yes, Japan has a traditional shutdown around New Year’s Day every year, even without a pandemic! Much to the dismay of millions of salarymen who have to spend time with their alienated families and equally as many housewives who can’t go luxury purse shopping for two or three days in a row… lucky are the few who are able to visit their parents in the middle of nowhere and feel like a child again for a couple of days), but of course those plans were scrapped quickly, because… Japan. It is dominated by the almighty Yen. Advertising everywhere, shopping opportunities everywhere. Only a money spending citizen is a good citizen!
I remember being in the middle of that millions of visitors per shrine hatsumode nightmare twice in my life – once when I met friends (who have several kids now, which means they moved on to the next phase of their predetermined life in Japan…) and once when my sister came to visit. Ever since then I prefer abandoned shrines, especially NOT at the beginning of winter.
Hence the Half-Abandoned Shrine in this edition of “Hatsumode on Abandoned Kansai”. This one I visited in autumn of 2019 with a Japanese buddy of mine. It’s located in the countryside, next to fields, a forest and a fishing pond. Upon arrival my buddy took on a conversation with two elderly hobby farmers. One of them started to guide us around and soon we ended up in front of a cage with four young wild boars – the boar piglets were clearly not happy about the situation they were in, and they would have been even less if they’d understood any of the conversation the farmer and my friend had; I understood only a little more, but it was enough – “nabe” and laughter… (Nabe is a Japanese hot pot dish, especially popular on cold nights!)

The farmer also told us that we weren’t the first people to look for the shrine, which apparently is popular amongst Osakan university students getting drunk there in summer, as it is widely considered a ghost spot – and when I look at the pathetic suits I have to deal with on a daily basis, I can imagine that getting drunk at a “ghost spot” in the countryside in their early 20s really is the most exciting thing they’ve ever done in their lives… Anyway, we moved deeper into the forest, along an annoyingly muddy path, and finally hit the shrine area, which indeed looked half-abandoned – decaying and falling apart, with a small abandoned hut; a stark contrast to the fresh cut flowers somebody left there recently. Fortunately the photos turned out to be much more interesting than the location really was – and since it was technically only half abandoned I could reveal the exact location… but then again, I’m not another one of those shitty guide books, so let’s move on to the next location – or look back at the *Shiga Shrine*, which I thought was much more interesting in every regard!
Happy, happy, happy 2021 everyone!

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