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Archive for the ‘Haikyo’ Category

Hidden behind tall walls and covered by a thick layer of snow, this abandoned wooden countryside clinic revealed its treasures only slowly…

You can barely throw a stone in the Japanese countryside without hitting an abandoned house. They are everywhere – and most of them are boring and in horrible condition.  At first sight the Showa Era Countryside Clinic was not much different (the Showa era area the years between 1926 and1989). It looked like a decently sized two building property in… well… average at best condition. A thick layer of snow implied that we were the first visitors in weeks, maybe even years. At first sight or on GoogleMaps there was absolutely nothing special about those premises. Arriving at the clinic, we weren’t even sure if there was anything left. According to a friend’s research one of the buildings had been used as a doctor’s office in the past – but that doesn’t mean anything, especially nowadays, when buildings are refurbished or demolished in no time. My two friends I was exploring with that day checked out the structure in front of us, I went to the right, found a door and opened it; looked like a normal room, I guess I picked the mansion part. Shortly thereafter one of my friends passed by me and actually went inside – jackpot! It turned out that my building actually was the clinic and that the door I opened was just to a regular room in the clinic building. So I went inside, too, and took some photos as well as a video, converted to black and white monochrome for this article. Before I switched buildings with the third friend I went through a small opening in a broken door and up a wooden ladder to the attic of the clinic after I was assured it was worth the hassle – as it turned out the floor there was little more than wooden boards, slightly brittle after decades of neglect. After taking photos of the abandoned experiment, which looked like straight out of a 1930s Frankenstein movie, at one end of the attic I made my way back to the ladder and felt how the floor caved in with a cracking noise, so I quickly took off the pressure of my foot before I crashed through. I consider it a small miracle that I was able to get down again before I damaged the building (any further) or hurt myself – wooden attics really aren’t my kind of environment… Speaking of damages: The living space in the main building wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring, so I stayed at the entrance / kitchen area and took a few photos there. It wasn’t until I got home and had a closer look at the photos that I realized how much the walls were really bending! Japan – a polite country through and through… (The building is actually a death trap and can collapse at any time; it probably will within the next couple of years, depending on the amount of snow that will pile up on top of the roof.)

Exploring the Showa Era Countryside Clinic was an amazing experience. Not only because it was yet another time capsule in overall good condition, but because one of the friends I was with found it due to own research and they trusted us enough to take us with them to check it out – so I can almost guarantee you that some of the photos you see here were the first ones ever taken at that place. And there were things I had never seen before, like the strange apparatus in the attic or the large wood and marble contraption that looked like it was used for treatments involving electricity, which was developed about 200 years ago and was quite popular at the beginning of the 20th century. Those are the kinds of objects you’ll probably won’t even find in museums. Seeing them just standing around there is… well worth all the effort to explore at this level.
The pictures of the first abandoned old clinic I explored, the now vandalized *Tokushima Countryside Clinic*, I published originally in converted monochrome photos and a while later in color. Since this clinic reminded me very much of that exploration almost eight years ago (just with much better friends…), I will publish this set both ways in one gallery – first black and white monochrome, then color (otherwise unedited though, as always). Feel free to let me know which you like better!

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Abandoned hotels barely ever excite me anymore – this one was different though. This one was an original find!

The Rokkosan Hotel, named after the gorgeous Rokko mountain range that stretches from Tarumi (west of Kobe) 56 kilometers in northeastern direction all the way to Takarazuka (fun fact: There is no Mount Rokko, all the peaks have different names!), is one of the most famous pre-war hotels in all of Japan and has an almost 90 year long history that started in the late 1920s, when the stretch between Mount Maya and Ashiya (home to the most expensive apartments in all of Kansai!) was developed as a nearby recreational area. Designed by local architect Masaharu Furuzuka and opened in 1929 as an annex to the equally famous Takarazuka Hotel, the Rokkosan Hotel was served by the Rokko Ropeway (right across the street) from 1931 till 1944, when the latter one was closed to get metal for the last desperate war efforts. (*I explored the abandoned remains of the Rokko Ropeway back in 2010.*) After World War 2 the Rokko Mountains experienced another boom period and the 2-storey wood-frame hotel with its 25 rooms was expanded by a new and modern main building with 45 rooms. In 2007 the Rokkosan Hotel was awarded “Heritage of Industrial Modernization” status and in November of 2015 is was announced that the original and smaller part of the hotel would be closed a month later as the building didn’t meet the updated earthquake resistance standards. Half a year later yours truly showed up to explore a third building on the premises. Bored out of my mind one day I used the satellite view of GoogleMaps to look for abandoned buildings… and I had a hunch about that one – luckily I was right, though I am still not exactly sure what the building was, except that it belonged to the Rokkosan Hotel as you can see written on several signs in the photos. And to bring the story of the Rokkosan Hotel to an end: When the older building was closed in 2015, business continued in the newer building. In 2016 the complex was sold to a car importer in Osaka who closed the last remaining operating building at the end of 2017 to start renovation and the construction of a new annex, both to be (re-)opened in 2019, 90 years after the Rokkosan Hotel first opened.
Now to the abandoned part of the Rokkosan Hotel I explored in 2016 – and I swear, I saw it by chance on GoogleMaps, marked it, checked it out some time later with my buddy Andrew; boom, jackpot! Never saw it on the internet before, never since then. It’s not visible from the street and the front is basically overgrown, though we could hear people talk all the time thanks to its proximity to the main building. Not only were we lucky that I found the building, we were also lucky that a door on the back was unlocked, so we entered, like so many other hotels, through the kitchen. From there the entrance area and the dining room were easily accessible. Due to the layout of the building without a formal front desk, I assume that it was either a low cost hostel type expansion of the main building – or maybe an accommodation for employees. From the looks of it, the building hasn’t been used for at least a decade or two; the vegetation in front was wild and blocked a lot of light. Oh, and the floor… Darn, it wasn’t in good condition anymore. The dining room floor was bending and the hallway next to it was so dark and soft that I decided to look for another way around. Fortunately the building featured two rather solid staircases, one on each end, so the second floor was easily accessible even for a tall heavyweight like I. Unfortunately the kitchen and the dining room were by far the most interesting part, the rest was just a rundown old accommodation, slightly trashed.

Was the third building of the Rokkosan Hotel a spectacular exploration? No. But I loved every second of it – because I found it. Other explorers I admire don’t go after the famous locations everybody can google in five minutes, they find places themselves and show me something I’ve never seen before. The only thing better, much better, than seeing an abandoned place for the first time on photos is seeing it for the first time yourself. True exploration, not knowing what’s behind the next corner, behind the next door, behind the next curtain. So whenever I am able to explore an original find I am having the time of my life, even if it’s just an average abandoned hotel – but things you’ll see in the gallery below you’ll probably never see anywhere else; not in the past, maybe not even in the future. It’s an original find – and as much as I hate to reveal locations, I’m proud to say: You saw it here first, on Abandoned Kansai!

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Small factory, but not small business – concrete is big in Japan!

Cement… concrete… Same difference, right? Well, not really. Cement is actually an ingredient of concrete – along with sand and gravel. That’s why cement factories tend to be much bigger and more rare than concrete factories. Just like most flour factories are much bigger than most bakeries… You can actually find concrete factories everywhere in Japan, because there are so many of them – barely ever abandoned though, because business is good. Despite being only 1/25 the size of the United States, Japan uses as much concrete per year! For buildings, bridges, and roads, of course, but especially for dams and Tetrapods – about half of Japan’s 35000 kilometers long coastline has been smothered with some kind of concrete. Business is good, especially since there seems to be a strong connection between politics and the cement / concrete industry – Asō Tarō, for example, the former Prime Minister of Japan, not only was previously the president of Aso Cement; his family owns the company… Since 2012 he’s the Minister of Finance under Abe – and partly responsible for the insane concrete fortification of the Tohoku coastal line in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami…)
A couple of years ago I found and explored this abandoned concrete factory right next to a big road, which made maneuvering around not exactly easy, but I guess after a while I just ignored the heavy traffic. It was a rather open area with half a dozen ways in and out, so in case of somebody approaching me there would have been alternatives to talking it over. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary, despite me taking my time for something like two hours.

Exploring the Small Concrete Factory was a decent experience at the time, given that industrial ruins are much more uncommon in Japan than in the rest of the world – unfortunately it was just a tiny facility in comparison to the *Sumitomo Osaka Cement Factory* or some of the places I explored in *Hokkaido*.

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Construction ruins are something I usually associate with failing tourist spots in the Mediterranean area – Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, maybe Italy to some degree. This one is a rare exception… and probably the most beautiful one of all of them!

When a friend of mine first showed me some photos of this location quite a while ago my jaw dropped to the ground – I was totally fascinated by this gorgeous mansion like unfinished building. Out of respect I didn’t ask him for coordinates, so it took me another year or so to find that mysterious beauty; fortunately hardly anybody else did look for it before or after me, so last time I checked it was still in really good condition even years after I first saw photos…
Located on prime waterfront ground the Most Beautiful Construction Ruin is one of those abandoned sites nobody seems to know anything about. Not even what it was supposed to be. The layout implies some kind of restaurant – there were (service) elevator shafts and the ground floor was basically one big L shaped room. The upper floors could have hold more dining rooms… maybe even guest rooms. Was the plan to build a luxury ryokan? Or wasn’t the building supposed to be a commercial place, but a castle style villa for some rich people… who ran out of money. When was it built? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s a concrete building in the countryside with neighbors close-by on three sides – getting in and out without being seen is rather tough, which is probably why this place is still in good condition and barely known; it could be from this decade, it could be from the 90s or maybe even 80s. While I was inside taking photos and filming the video walkthrough I could often hear neighbors talk, which was actually quite nerve-wrecking. Especially since it looked like somebody was doing at least some gardening on the premises, usually a sign that a property is not really abandoned.

I don’t know why, but I kinda like construction ruins – taking pictures of involuntary brutalism just doesn’t get old. This one I was so eager to explore that I did it solo, despite the challenges that came with the decision. And in real life the building looks even more amazing than on photos, though I have to say that I am very happy with this particular set. If you like this location, you should definitely check out my *two part exploration of the Nakagusuku Hotel Ruin*, a place that easily deserves the title of “Weirdest Construction Ruin Imaginable”!

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Kagoshima is literally the end of the Shinkansen line – and one of the few places in Japan that isn’t completely overrun by foreign tourists yet. It’s also home to some stunning and barely covered abandoned places…

Most people probably don’t know much about Kagoshima prefecture, but within Japan it is famous for its hot sand baths in Ibusuki, the continuously smoldering volcano Sakurajima, and a sweet, juicy and very easy to peel mandarin orange called satsuma; named after the former Satsuma province, which is now the western half of Kagoshima prefecture. Food in general is a very important part of the Kagoshima experience and includes lots of fresh seafood, flowing somen (thin noodles flowing in ice-cold spring water) and the famous kurobuta – meat from black pigs, local sub-breds derived from Berkshire swines; basically the Kobe beef of pork.
And this is where *Abandoned Kansai* comes in… While doing a rather relaxing trip through Kagoshima and the neighboring Miyazaki prefecture with my dear friend *Hamish*, we stumbled across an abandoned pig farm, most likely once used to breed and raise kurobuta. The complex consisted of about a dozen concrete buildings and a mostly demolished area – far from being stunning, but nevertheless quite interesting, because how often does one get the opportunity to see an (abandoned) pig farm? Two aspects tainted the experience a little bit though. First of all it seemed like two or three of the buildings were still in use… people seemed to live there, so we had to sneak around a little bit. Which means that the second negative factor was actually kind of a blessing in disguise: Upon our visit of the pig farm it was raining cats and dogs – which made outdoor photography a pain in the ham, but also ensured that the local locals stayed inside and probably didn’t pay any attention to us. (I also found out afterwards that the company is still active, so in hindsight this was actually quite a risky exploration.)
I’m not sure which way humankind will take in the decades and centuries to come, but I’m pretty sure if it is surviving long-term, “meat factories” like that will be considered a stain on the late 20th, early 21st century. Despite it being a rather cold, windy, rainy autumn day and all living creatures long gone, it took only little imagination that this place must have been horrible in many ways, especially during summers, half a century ago.
Exploring the Kagoshima Pig Farm was interesting, but not pleasant – and it being part of local history and not just another random hotel / hospital / theme park added significantly to its attractiveness. It was also a great complement to the *Pig Auction Market*, which I explored just a few months prior… Definitely an unusual afternoon!

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What do you do with your little angels when you are a loving father and tired of your small apartment in the big city? Right, you spend a weekend in the countryside and let your children roam! Until that piece of paradise gets closed down and abandoned…

The first thing I thought when Dan, Kyoko and I drove up to the Cherub Land almost a years ago? “Well, there went another theme park in Tohoku thanks to that darn earthquake…” Well, it turned out that I was wrong. Cherub Land wasn’t really a theme park… and it wasn’t abandoned in the aftermath of the Tohoku incident, it was long gone at the time already.
Cherub Land was basically a campsite with bungalows, an onsen across the street (still guarded by a dog…), a free playground, fruit picking and a small pay as you go amusement park with attractions like bike rentals and go-cart – all of that in the middle of nowhere and in somewhat close proximity of the whole Fukushima thing that went wrong. Opened in the late 90s the campsite side was closed only 10 years later, three or four years before Tohoku 2011. The onsen part apparently survived a bit longer, but was also closed in 2016 when I explored the area. Fortunately there were no fences or other barriers, so we could park easily and out of sight of the main road on the former premises. Center of Cherub Land was a pond of about 20 by 30 meters, surrounded by wooden huts for couples and small families to stay at. There also were several different greenhouses, where tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and melons were grown – and an especially beautiful one full of kiwi vines… unfortunately they weren’t ripe at the time of the exploration. While some of the structures were partly demolished and / or decaying, the rental area was still in decent condition. Rusty and with a few signs of vandalism, but since Cherub Land is rather little known and off the beaten tracks, it was in a surprisingly good state overall. My personal highlight of the overall rather dangerously looking playground: the fading boxing ring, which did probably more damaged to kids than all the children hitting each other.

Overall exploring Cherub Land was heaven, especially on that beautiful autumn day – outdoors, quiet, virtually unknown, the right amount of decay, at first sight underwhelming, but offering tons of details to look at and explore… exactly my kind of abandoned place!

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As much as I love Japan, there is one serious aspect about my adopted home that really disgusts me: Japan loves to disguise its role in WW2, often even portraits itself as one of the victims, continuously downplaying the committed atrocities. In August the self-pity reaches the all-year height on the occasion of the nuclear incidents – which is really sad, especially since July 31st would be a perfect day to show some remorse.
Unfortunately “July 31st” isn’t a thing – neither in Japan, nor anywhere else. Last year I used the date for a little rant about this topic on *Facebook*, but that’s it. Why July 31st? Because of Unit 731, one of Japan’s darkest chapters. To quote *Wikipedia*: “Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II.”

Being from Germany myself, I grew up in a society that quite openly dealt with the darkest chapter of its history, but also with its attempts to make up for it – not just by paying reparations, but also by showing regret and remorse (*Warsaw Genuflection*) and by being a driving force behind organisations like the European Union. Japan on the other hand were trumping Asia before Donald J. Trump was even born – making half-ass excuses or even apologies, only to taking them back soon after. Japanese history school books tend to be a joke, barely dealing with the 1930s and 40s. As a result Japanese old men grunt “brassas in aams” when they find out that I am German (which is wrong in many ways…), more people seem to know Josef Mengele than Ishii Shiro (which is a shame!), and Japan still has conflicts with Russia, China, Taiwan, both Koreas and probably even more countries over topics that date back 75 years or more and should have been resolved generations ago!
I really love Japan, but the country desparately needs a day for sincere remorse – and what better day than July 31st?!

If you are interested in the topic, please start with the *Wikipedia page about Unit 731* and get more information and further reading recommendations from there.
Abandoned places closely and loosely related to Unit 731 are the poison gas island *Okunoshima*, a *school for suicide squads* and *a factory for suicide squad vehicles* – those are older articles, but of course they haven’t lost any of their fascination.

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