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Archive for the ‘Abandoned’ Category

The Ruins of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 / 2021… will come soon, no doubt about it. Unless they cancel the event on very, very short notice. But for now we’ll deal with The Ruins of the Nagano Olympics 1998 – of which there are surprisingly few as most venues are still in use.
The first abandoned place connected to the Nagano Olympics that I am aware of is an abandoned hotel, used to accommodate the curling teams as their event was held at the Kazakoshi Park Arena in Karuizawa; about 80 kilometers southwest of Nagano and the first town to host events for both the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics as the Tokyo Olympics 1964 outsourced the equestrian events to the popular resort area. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of that fact back then, to me it was just a random abandoned hotel with high security (warning signs for both camera and personnel everywhere!). If I would have known I’d probably have pushed harder to get some better photos, especially since one side of the hotel apparently featured the Olympic Rings. And abandoned Olympic Rings always make for a good photo! Unfortunately I was inexperienced, exploring solo and running out of time… so I guess we’ll all have to live with the results. Still better than the original plan of heading back to the train station directly without making the little detour. 🙂

The other abandoned place connected to the Nagano Olympics was a rather small public gymnasium – apparently there were no events there, but it was rather close to two actual venues, so it was most likely used for athletes to exercise and warm up before their competitions. This location I found by chance when I was strolling around town. “Oh, an abandoned looking strange building, let me have a closer look!” The front was closed tightly, but like every good man I appreciate a nice back, so I sniffed around a little bit. One locked door and a couple of blocked ones by large, heavy pieces of furniture to the left – but on the right side I spotted some kind of side entrance. A bit nervous due to some cars coming and leaving at the lot in front of the building I tried to make my way to the most likely locked door across some elevated gravel area when all of a sudden my right leg sank into the ground almost up to my knee. The area I was passing wasn’t solid gravel – it was a pile of melting snow somebody put a thin layer of gravel on top, (almost?) like a friggin trap! As I suffered extremely painful ankle and knee injuries in the past and since there was no guarantee that the side door would allow entrance to the otherwise locked building, I called it a day and was about to leave when I saw a large sign next to some stairs. It featured the Nagano 1998 logo, including the Olympic Rings – not as good as on the building directly, but better than nothing…

Two vastly different locations, explored almost ten years apart. Not the most spectacular ones, but the timing is just right. 🙂 *If you crave more Olympic Ruins, please have a look at my article about the Olympics Ruins of Sapporo 1972.*

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A beautiful pre-war mansion or a large countryside hospital with its own operating room? Well, you deserve both, so here you get both!

About 10 years ago the Nagano Countryside Clinic was THE abandoned hospital in Japan! It was not as secret as *The Doctor’s Shack*, not as far from Tokyo as *The Tokushima Countryside Clinic* and long abandoned before the *Wakayama Hospital*, all of which are urbex classics in Japan now, too – and yet it featured not only the usual array of bottled chemicals and pre-war medicine books you typically find in countryside doctors’ offices, it also had some early versions of modern equipment, though I wouldn’t be able to tell you what was which as I am not in the medical profession myself; but it looked cool, kinda steampunk-ish, stuff I’d actually use as decoration pieces if I’d had the space or the money for them.
Which brings me to a topic that is more and more annoying to me the bigger my social media channels on *Facebook* and *Twitter* grow (please follow for time-exclusive brand-new material – and don’t forget: sharing is caring!) as it’s not just fellow explorers following each other anymore, but more and more people who don’t really know what urbex is about… or happily ignore what it stands for. They just enjoy the photos and sometimes have a completely different set of values, which is perfectly fine… unless they start to rant about how they would totally take home this and that – or even worse: ask me if I took it and whether I’d sell it to them. Which to me is borderline insulting. “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints!”, a motto widely respected amongst explorers worldwide, but especially in Japan; unfortunately less and less apparently, as the number of people trampling through abandoned places with smartphones seems to be on the rise everywhere. Anyway, I am always grateful when the people exploring before me didn’t loot or vandalize, so of course I try to keep everything as I found it – I don’t even like to move things around or to snoop through drawers and boxes. “But when a place is abandoned nobody owns those things anymore and they are just going to waste, so you / I can as well take it!” Uhm, no! Just because a place is rundown and easily accessible doesn’t mean that there is no owner anymore. In Japan the vast majority of abandoned places are actually abandoned, but especially in Europe and the States a ton of “abandoned” places have alarms or even security, so the whole urbex thing is a huge grey area with different legal implications, as I’ve mentioned before – but removing things from a place, especially with the intention to enrich yourself, is a completely different level, both legally and morally! AFAIK in Japan for example even taking bulky waste from the sidewalk is considered theft! If you find money or items with a value of more than 10 euros in Germany you have to try and find the owner (usually by bringing it to the nearest police station) or you are guilty of stealing by finding – and in that case no owner is in sight either. So again, just because there is no apparent owner doesn’t mean that you can take whatever you want! Unfortunately I’m probably preaching to the choir as people interested enough in urbex to read a blog already know and respect that – it’s usually casuals on social media that annoy and sometimes really scare me as I run this blog to entertain people, not to reveal locations or guide looters to new treasures.
Why this rant about stealing now? Because Nagano Countryside Clinic was loaded with potentially valuable items! (I don’t even know for sure, I don’t watch shows like Antiques Roadshow.) Everything from old medical books, medical equipment, and medical devices to private items like letters, furniture and gramophone records. The Historical Village of Hokkaido in Sapporo has a fully restored countryside clinic as one of their exhibition houses, the Kondo Clinic – and the Nagano Countryside Clinic was kind of a rundown version of that hospital. So when you look at the gallery below you’ll see a ton of pre-war items, of which I took none. Not even one of those large, heavy shellac records. Because I’m not a looter and because I wanted to give the explorers following me the same opportunity to enjoy the sight of this extraordinary location in as much of its glory as possible.
And before the people out there with questionable morals start to drool too much, let me give you a quick rundown of the Nagano Countryside Clinic: It was opened in 1910, its owner apparently studied in Berlin and perhaps Freiburg (according to letters on a table), and it was closed around 1980. In the early 2010s it was a popular abandoned place with many names – and rumors of imminent demolition started to spread soon after. In 2014 my buddy *Hamish* and I were in the area due to other locations, so we had a quick look. Much to our surprise the clinic was still standing and accessible, resulting in a 1.5 hour long exploration until it was too dark inside to take photos – and the use of flashlights was too risky as it would have probably alarmed neighbors or people passing by. So we came back the next day, an hour earlier this time, for another go at it; 2.5 hours this time. (Hence some similar photos, but also pictures of the operating room in darkness and well-lit.) After some more years of waiting, construction workers finally showed up at the Nagano Countryside Clinic in 2018 – not demolish, but to renovate / restore the building, probably cleaning it out first. So obviously there still was an owner, proving all those questionable characters wrong who are trying to convince me that looting “abandoned” buildings is a victimless crime. Stop drooling, it’s over – one way or another. Unfortunately this also means that everybody else had to wait a few years longer than necessary for this article. And now just imagine what other locations are waiting in my vault when I had the patience to wait seven years for this spectacular place to be released… 🙂

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A large outdoor theatre with a spectacular design and plenty of interesting things to discover – welcome to the Cypress Open-Air Stage…

The show must go on! When Covid-19 hit in early 2020 I followed the instructions of the local government and my employer and hunkered down for a couple of months. The first wave was over quickly in Japan and things went back to more or less normal rather soon after – and thanks to an adventurous friend I was able to get in a final day of explorations towards the end of the rainy season and before the summer heat killed any ambitions to leave the hamster cage I call home. Highlight of the day was an open-air theater in the countryside, because… you know… the show had to go on. Built in 1996 by a local businessman who sold his ranch to become a golf course owner, the open-stage was protected by four layers of arches, constructed from Japanese cypress and tin. The guy passed away around 2005 and the stage, once used for children’s events and indie bands, became abandoned – one of the most common “Why is it abandoned?” stories. Usually either the owner died or the place didn’t make enough money… or both.

Exploring during rainy season is risky in that regard that there is a rather high chance of rain – which we were hit by several times that day. Upon arrival at the stage the weather was overcast and super humid, making it quite uncomfortable to walk around and take photos. At least it was before mosquito season, so the exploration was still bearable, despite the difficult lighting situation. The stage was in surprisingly good condition, considering that it had been abandoned about 1.5 decades prior to our visit. The tin roof though definitely had seen better days, especially the highest part of the largest arch, but there was surprisingly little vandalism; probably because the stage is still managed according to explorer consensus, fortunately nobody approached us while we were exploring. The separate restroom building had its own cypress-tin arch, which was kinda cute. Opposite the stage was an elevated building with some storage space to the left. Unfortunately the only way up and in was a rotting tree trunk, definitely not an option for me. The more I was surprised by the large stone lantern at the entrance. At first sight it look just like a nice stone lantern, but upon closer look I found out that the inside of the open part actually had some interesting artistic elements too high up to see for most Japanese explorers. Five minutes earlier being big and tall prevented me from reaching a place, now it enabled me. And just before that the more or less bright white sky broke up a little bit and showed some of the spectacular blue I was so longing for…

Overall another great exploration – the conditions were far from perfect, nevertheless I’m quite happy with it thanks to the stone lantern and the late blue sky; and the unusual construction of the cypress-tin roof makes this abandoned open-air stage a winner at any time of the day.

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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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