Archive for the ‘Fukuoka’ Category

The zombie apocalypse, no doubt, will start in Japan – some claim it actually already began; and if you’ve ever been in a train with salarymen you cannot help but wonder. Nevertheless zombies were the last thing on my mind when I first visited the *Shime Coal Mine* with my buddy Enric in March of 2010, a mere 4 month after I started doing urban exploration in Japan. Despite being a noob back then I realized quickly that the concrete construction was beautiful, but inaccessible, at least during daytime. The mine shaft entry was fenced off and the area was freshly converted into a sports center, with a new community building, playground and fields for soccer, baseball and other sports. I took a couple of quick photos and a short video before we left for *Gunkanjima*, now known as Skyfall Island thanks to the latest James Bond movie, without thinking much about the Shime Coal Mine. Until… it came back, but not to haunt us.

The Anti-Zombie Fortress meme started on April 1st 2011 (no joke!) when somebody on reddit by the nickname of Mitsjol posted a photo of the winding tower of the Shime Coal Mine, mentioning that it would make an awesome fortification against zombies. Back then zombies were the latest upcoming hot thing, so the board sucked up the idea like the previous trendy monster sucks blood. People were longing for more information and I have to thank the user bakerybob for linking to Abandoned Kansai – when the meme picked up speed in the following days my small and otherwise pretty much overlooked article about the Shime Coal Mine took off, too.
Since then I passed through Fukuoka several times, to visit *Ikeshima* and *Navelland*, but I never had the opportunity to have a look at the location that turned out to be my first 10k+ views article. Last weekend was different though. I hadn’t been on a rushed and packed urbex trip for a change, but on a short vacation to the south of Japan. So I took a couple of hours of my day in Fukuoka and went back to have a look at the now famous mine shaft.

As expected the situation hasn’t changed much. In the past 3.5 years a couple of local Japanese explorers were brave enough to sneak into the winding tower at night, taking some unique shots, but when I arrived around noon on a national holiday the same thing would have gotten me arrested in no time – the place was buzzing thanks to what appeared to be a soccer tournament for kids. Hundreds of children and the same amount of adults were enjoying the Respect-For-The-Aged Day, so I basically did what I did years before: I spent 15 minutes taking photos and a video – and then I left… not for Gunkanjima, but for a small bakery 2.5 kilometers down the road.

The Konditorei RothenBurg, undoubtably named after the stunningly beautiful German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, differs from your average local cake shop in two ways:
1.) It doesn’t suck up to the French (as 80% of the bakeries and pâtisseries in Japan do…), but chose a German setting with the same (or at least similar) concept, including German cook books in the store.
2.) It sells urbex cookies, which most likely makes it unique in all of Japan, probably in the world.

About a year ago I saw a small story about RothenBurg on a Japanese blog, not only mentioning but showing a cookie designed after the winding tower of the Shime coal mine. I knew I had to go there the next time I was in Fukuoka… and I did. (Thanks to my buddy Gen for making sure that the bakery was open for business on this national holiday!) Upon arrival I was a bit disappointed. RothenBurg was a really small store deep in the suburbs of Fukuoka – and apparently the cookie information was outdated. But then I saw two of them lying on a white plate, about 4 by 6 centimeters, 252 Yen each. Of course I bought both of them; one for Gen and one to try myself. Upon closer look it turned out that the small package contained two cookies, a brown one above a black one. Luckily the cookies were not just a novelty item, they actually tasted good. If you are a true urbex fan visiting Fukuoka, you have to go there and try them yourself! I added the location of RothenBurg to my *GoogleMap of Touristy and Demolished Haikyo*, but here is the address, too: ローテンブルグ, 福岡県糟屋郡志免町別府120-18, telephone 092-936-0009.

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2012 didn’t start well for urban exploration in Japan – January has been a sad month for abandoned places in Kyushu. Two of the most famous haikyo in southern Japan were demolished:
The demolition of the *Kawaminami Shipyard* didn’t come as a surprise. It was decided on June 9th 2011 by the Yamashiro City Zoning Committee and executed in mid-January 2012 after all the greens were removed in late 2011. Nevertheless it is a big loss to the urbex community in Japan as it was one of the few locations that aged for decades without being affected much by anything but nature itself.
At the same time (late 2011 / early 2012) an up-and-coming location called *Navelland* was destroyed just 70 kilometers away from the famous deserted shipyard. The former amusement park was turned into a lot to soon become another campus of the Teikyo University. I was lucky enough to visit both places during Golden Week 2011 before they were destroyed and I have fond memories of both visits. You can find out their exact locations on my *map of touristy and demolished ruins in Japan*.
I guess it’s the normal run of things. New abandoned places show up, well-known ones get demolished. Nevertheless it makes me a bit heavy-hearted, especially since I decided a while ago to concentrate on western Japan and leave the east to all the blogs and people who live there. I already missed the famous Sports World in Izu for sure, but even if I change my mind chances are “good” that I might miss *Western Village in Tochigi*, the Russian Village amusement park near Nagano, *Kejonuma Leisure Land* in Tohoku and the Irozaki Jungle Park in Izu. Famous abandoned military installations like the Fuchu Air Base, Camp Drake Army Base or the Tachikawa Air Base. Popular deserted mines like the *Matsuo Ghost Town*, *the Taro Mine*, the Ashio Mine, the Murakashi Mine, *the Osarizawa Mine*, the Seigoshi Mine, the Kamaishi Mine or the *Nichitsu Ghost Town*. Not to forget the quirky remains of the sex industry like the Queen Chateau soapland, the Hotel Royal love hotel, the Fuu# Motel, the Yui Grand Love Hotel, the Akeno Gekijo strip club or the Pearl love hotel – and all the other places like the Royal House, the Small Pox Isolation Ward, the Japan Snake Center, the Okutama Ropeway, the *Heian Wedding Hall*, the many spas and resort hotels of the Yamanaka Lake, the Mount Asama Vulcano Museum, the Okawa Grand Stand or the Gunma Motor Lodge.
I probably forgot some famous spots as the east of Japan has plenty of wonderful abandoned places – but so has the west, and most of them are only described on Japanese urbex blogs until now. So I guess I’ll continue to focus on deserted locations east of Nagano / Nagoya, hoping that I will be able to see as many as possible before they falls victim to jackhammers, wrecking balls and other heavy machinery…

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There’s nothing like abandoned theme parks. Everybody seems to love them, including yours truly. No matter if just recently closed (*Doggy Land*), closed a while ago (*Nara Dreamland*), mostly demolished (*Koga Family Land*), completely demolished (*Sekigahara Menard Land*), under deconstruction (*Expoland*) or left behind after a nuclear catastrophe (*Pripyat Amusement Park*) – each and every one of them has a unique, absolutely stunning atmosphere; even if they were just waterparks (*Tokushima Countryside Healthspa* / *Kyoto Waterland*). “New” abandoned amusement parks barely every show up – it’s more likely that well-known ones get demolished. Here’s an exception to the rule: Navelland. (ネイブルランド)
You would think that Navelland (or Navel Land), a science themed amusement park with an aquarium and a greenhouse that welcomes its guests with a huge half-“diving” whale in front of the entrance, most likely should have been called Navalland (or Naval Land) – but you would think wrong. The Japanese investors and creators chose the name on purpose, at least to some degree. Initially it was supposed to be called GeoBio World in the “BioCity” (or “Bio-City”) Omuta – but the name of the executing company was called Navel Land for three reasons, all related to its location in Omuta, Kyushu: GeoBio World was considered the “belly button project” (heso jigyo, 臍事業) of Omuta’s revitalization efforts with several other projects being based on it, Omuta’s history is strongly connected to coal (mined from the “belly” of the earth…) and Omuta is located in the center of Kyushu (or so the makers thought – to me it looks more like the “nipple of Kyushu”). At which stage of developement did GeoBio World become Navelland? I don’t know. But I guess a lot of things wrent wrong planning and executing the project, so the naming issue was just one of many, considering that Navelland was open to the public for less than two years…
Omuta’s economy was intertwined with coal for more than five centuries, for the longest time it was actually based on it. In 1467 a local farmer named Denzaemon found coal when making a bonfire in the hills of his home – like many Japanese cities Omuta is spread from the sea to the mountains. Mining on a larger scale didn’t begin until 1721 when Ono Harunobu (most likely not related to the producer of the series of “Street Fighter” games) was granted coal mining rights. When the age of industrialization finally reached Japan after the Meiji restauration the number of mines in the area was increased. In 1872 the Meiji nationalized the mines, most of them in the township of Miike (三池), nowadays part of Omuta. Towards the end of the 19th century the Japanese state privatized a lot of their model companies und sold them way under value. Mitsui, for centuries successful in finance and trade, got into heavy industries just a couple of decades prior when they aquired a mine as collateral for a loan they gave, bought the mine cheaply and turned it into the Mitsui Miike Coal Mine (三井三池炭鉱) in 1899.
The mine’s history is similar to most coal mines – a huge success in the early 20th century it became less and less profitable thanks to the fact that coal was replaced by oil as the most important natural resource in highly industrialized countries. So when the local politicians realized that the industry that provided the area with both jobs and wealth for centuries would be gone soon they looked for alternatives and came up with several ideas – one of them being Navelland, which ironically closed in 1998, only one year after the Mitsui Miike Coal Mine. (A rather interesting fact that shouldn’t be swept under the rug: The Mitsui Miike Coal Mine was also home of Fukuoka 17, a Japanese prisoner of war camp, mostly for Americans, Australians, British and Dutch – soldiers of the latter three nationalities survived the construction of the Burma Railway in Thailand; nowadays still famous thanks to a movie based on a book by the French author Pierre Boulle, The Bridge over the River Kwai. The camp was opened on August 7th 1943 and help up to 1735 prisoners. It was liberated on September 2nd 1945, almost a month after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The camp’s commandant, Asao Fukuhara, was later executed for war crimes.)
In 1988 it was more than obvious that coal wouldn’t be Omuta’s future. Mining it just wasn’t profitable enough anymore. At that time amusement parks were the current money makers, biotechnology the future ones. So why not combine both? Throw in some history and you’d get GeoBio World – split up into Geo Zone to remember Omuta’s coal history and Bio Zone to celebrate Omuta’s biotechnological future at the Ariake Sea. An amusement park with affiliated research labs and a mining museum. Turning Omuta from a dirty coal city into “BioCity”. In Kitakyushu, another former center of heavy industries only 1.5 hours away by car, a similar concept called “Spaceworld” was about to open, so the planners in Omuta spared neither trouble nor expense with about 82 million dollars to spend and about four years to plan and execute.
Navel Land (not the park, the company behind it) was finally established in September 1989 with the sole purpose of constructing and managing GeoBio World – to get the idea off the ground they even sponsored a large bio symposium in Omuta in November 1989. But four rejected concepts, one of them being presented by Futurist Light and Show who worked on Tokyo Disneyland, and more than two years later, Navel Land decided to come up with a concept by themselves, since none of the previous ones could convince the Japan Development Bank – the main backer of the project.
At this point information about GeoBio World and Navel Land becomes vague. While it’s a fact that the park finally opened under the name “Navelland” it seems like everybody agrees that it was closed down on December 25th 1998. What happened to GeoBio World and the biotechnology concept between the early 90s and 1998? I have no idea. All I know is that by the time Navelland closed its costs went way over budget (between 100 million and 200 million US-$ – or up to 160$ od debt for each Omuta resident) and that the visitor numbers never came close to the projected 600,000 per year. One of my sources said Navelland was opened in July of 1995, another one stated that it closed after less than two years – all three agreed it closed in late 1998. Maybe we will all find out more about Navelland soon since it is becoming more and more popular as a haikyo, a Japanese ruin, recently. Until then I’ll leave you with some photos and a quick video walking tour. The “House of Coal” exists as well as an aquarium and a greenhouse, so I guess the main concept was realized and not yet demolished. The amusement part of Navelland is mostly gone by now – both rollercoasters can only be seen on maps and the one thing that’s left of Kiddie Land is the entrance…
Addendum 2012-1-30: Navelland was demolished in late 2011 / early 2012. Now you can find its exact location on my *map of touristy and demolished ruins in Japan*.
(If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)

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The first *haikyo* stop on *my recent Kyushu trip* is one of the internet favorites: The Vertical Shaft of the Shime Coal Mine.
Easy to spot from long distances this 47.65 meters high tower was finished in 1943 as the center of a coal mine that opened in 1889 and closed in 1964. But that’s not the only reason why the place is on virtually every haikyo homepage: It’s easy to access by public transportation and even easier by car. In fact there is a soccer field and a children’s playground right next to it. But that’s not all: Since December 8th 2009 it is considered an “important cultural property” by the Japanese state – so they fenced it off and put up some lights as if it was a 400 year old cathedral, so you can enjoy the view around the clock; you can even find the address and coordinations of the shaft on the Japanese Wikipedia. Right now they are putting up fences around two or three other remains of the mine and they planted some cherry trees to create a park surrounding. Haikyo for the whole family with no entrance fee – but nothing else either, not even a photography challenge. The construction itself is quite unique, but other than that it feels kind of dull, nothing anybody would (or should) spend more than 15 minutes on…
(EDIT 2011-04-02: To all the visitors coming from Reddit – thanks for stopping by; and thanks to bakerybob for linking this blog! Since you seem to like zombies, please have a look at the *Hospital #126 in Pripyat* and my *Nara Dreamland Special*. Both won’t make good zombie fortresses, but they would be perfect as settings for zombie movies! And there will be more “zombie style” locations soon, so please don’t forget about this blog in the future… maybe by *following me on Twitter* or / and *on Facebook*?
EDIT 2011-04-04: Since the discussion on Reddit turned into a full-grown meme now known as the “Anti-Zombie Fortress” meme I decided to add a short video clip I took when visiting the mine. It’s nothing special at all – I just put it up since so many people are interested in the topic right now… For more interesting videos, all in 720p,  *please click here*.
EDIT 2013-09-17: *Yesterday I revisited the Anti-Zombie Fortress…*)

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Living in Japan days off are a valuable thing. And long weekends, even if they are only three days long, are a perfect opportunity to go on vacation.
This time my buddy E and I went to Kyushu to enjoy some days of photography, food and haikyo. Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Sasebo. Not everything went according to plan, we had to cut down the haikyo locations from four to three, but in the end the trip turned out to be great. Great food, great locations, great comradeship.
This posting is accompanied by photos that are not necessarily haikyo related – the haikyo locations deserve three postings of their own, so please keep coming back for more. One of them will be about the Shime Coal Mine, one about the Katashima Training School and the last one… well… it will be about Gunkanjima, the most awesome ruin complex in Japan.

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