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Archive for the ‘Haikyo’ Category

The Thug Hotel has been a staple of urban exploration in Japan for many, many years – yet it was one of the strangest, shadiest (and sunniest!) places I’ve been to.

Located along one of many Skyline toll roads in Japan, the Thug Hotel once was part of a lively resort area, nowadays clearly past its prime – driving up there we passed vacant lots, rundown restaurants and other dilapidated structures. Most of the area around the Thug Hotel was fenced off, but fortunately there also was an opening that was unobstructed both times I went there. Two or three private houses to the left, the partly demolished hotel to the right, a shrine in the back – in-between dog kennels, so no doubt that somebody was living on the premises…

The first time I went to the Thug Hotel I went there with my buddy *Hamish* – and since we were not in the mood for trouble, we actually tried to make contact with whomever lived in the house right next to the kennel – nobody answered. So we started our exploration, always an eye on the house and the road leading up to it.
The Thug Hotel was built from 1969 on and opened in spring of 1970 – a massive concrete behemoth, still quite impressive, but probably 1000x more back in the days. And it wasn’t a cheap accommodation! According to one of the few intact signs a night at the Thug Hotel set you back between 13.000 and 30.000 Yen per person. Apparently everything went fine until 1990, when a food poisoning incident happened at the hotel, reducing the numbers of visitors significantly. The Thug Hotel consequently closed in 2003 and was severely damaged by a fire in 2007 – and that’s probably when the demolition of the Thug Hotel began, long before my first visit in March of 2014. Interestingly enough there weren’t any signs of recent progress visible, so demolition most likely was halted for whatever reason. Two and a half hours later the sun was setting and still nobody showed up, so Hamish and I called it quits and left the site (once famous for tight security, alarms and cameras) undetected.

Two years later I came back with two one-time co-explorers. We drove up behind the hotel like last time, only to see half a dozen cars parked in the back, as many muscle-packed, sweat suit and sneakers wearing mid-20s guys with grim faces standing there. The conversation after getting out of our car went something like that:
“What do you want?”
“Just to have a look around.”
“You better leave!”
“We just want to enjoy the view…”
“The owner of the house over there (pointing next to the kennels) is currently not here, but he will be back any minute. You don’t want to be here when he arrives…”
“Uhm…”
“Seriously – you better leave!”
“Sure thing…”
I didn’t get the finer details of this short conversation, but it seems like those guys were rather nice – as in “they politely asked us to leave”, while their whole appearance screamed “GET THE F#CK OUT OR WE’LL RIP YOU APART WITH OUR BARE HANDS AND YOUR BODIES WILL NEVER BE FOUND!”
Later it turned out that not only those guys weren’t really kosher, the shrine I mentioned before… apparently it is / was dedicated to Class C and Class B war criminals of World War 2 – only in Japan.

Anyway, as much as I enjoyed my first trip to the Thug Hotel as little did I enjoy the second one. Hamish > random people, warm day with beautiful sunset > rainy day, exploring undisturbed > being threatened by thugs. No surprise that all of the photos and both videos are from the first visit, right? Unfortunately reports about heavy machinery on the hotel’s premises have popped up since 2018 – and unless they demolished the houses, I guess it’s pretty likely that the Thug Hotel is no more as I write these words… another one bites the dust! Let’s hope the somewhat similar *Nakagusuku Hotel* will survive for quite a while…

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Dracula’s House? In Japan? We all know he lived in a castle and was about to buy a house in London! Did he really need another vacation home? In Japan, of all places? I bet it took him quite a few nights as a bat to get there!

About three years ago, maybe in late 2015, I saw a screenshot of GoogleMaps on Twitter, showing a large brown structure on satellite view; a building the publisher called “Dracula’s House”. On the one hand I consider teases like that a dick move, on the other hand… on the other hand I love them, because I am excellent at finding stuff at GoogleMaps most people fail at as I’m tenacious and very lucky in that regard. Back then the 3D view of SatelliteView was rather new, so to see a screenshot like that was rather unusual. I looked on GoogleMaps… and looked… and kept looking… and looking… and about an hour later I found Dracula’s House. Muahahahahaha! Be careful what you tease with, you might give away more than you intend to! (Years prior I found the now demolished *Daikyo Driving School* under similar circumstances… 🙂 ) Fortunately Dracula’s House was only a medium train ride and a long walk away from the closest station, so I decided to explore this big unknown place solo…
… which was probably a good idea, because Dracula’s House looked much nicer on GoogleMaps and even from the outside than from inside – fellow explorers, especially those who don’t appreciate a rare find, probably wouldn’t have been too excited, especially five minutes into the actual exploration. At first look and from the outside Dracula’s House was awesome – a withered large, wooden barn-like structure; quite Western style. Upon closer look it became apparent that the place was almost completely gutted, only the exterior walls were still standing – pretty much all interior walls were gone and I started to wonder how Dracula’s House kept standing upright; of course being there on quite a windy day didn’t help. Neither did the fact that there was a mamushi (a.k.a. Japanese pit viper) warning sign. I’ve run into snakes before, luckily none of them were aggressive or even attacked, but as somebody who likes nature tamed or grilled I’d rather stay away from venomous creatures.

Even more than three years after exploring Dracula’s House this dilapidated location is still a rather rare one, though I seriously doubt that it is still standing. Too bad that there is not much else around worth exploring, otherwise a revisit would be in order. And I’ve heard rumors of barbed wire and people having an eye on it, so why risking trouble when I can spend my time explore previously undocumented abandoned places?

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It’s been a while since I last wrote about an abandoned ski resort – and this one offered some surprisingly interesting views!

There is a surprisingly large number of abandoned ski resorts in Japan… and even more deserted ski lifts, but a lot of them are a pain to explore as they tend to be in rather remote areas and / or halfway up a mountain – so when the road leading up there is in bad condition or blocked, you’re in for a hell of a hike. Fortunately the Kansai Ski Resort was located on a pretty busy road at a rather low elevation (between 350 and 500 meters) – good for explorers… and vandals, which explains the serious and very unfortunate amount of vandalism at this location.
The ski lift (1 ride = 200 Yen, 6 rides = 800 Yen, 12 rides = 1500 Yen, day pass 3500 Yen) was in rather bad condition by natural decay – after about 15 years of abandonment and no maintenance pretty much every element was rusted, some of the cables even split. The architectural quite memorable resort building with a large machine storage, equipment rental, restaurant, bar, and a few guest rooms on the other hand featured the whole vandalism menu: graffiti, smashed window, misplaced items, damaged ceilings, walls and floor – and as a result widespread water damage, everything from moss to mold. Usually I despise rundown buildings like that, but this one featured some interesting views, for example the moss covered desk, the fully stocked rental corner and the bar on the ground floor. It also helped that there was a good airflow in the building, so it didn’t feel like my airways were shutting down at any second…

Despite being a rather small location it took me almost two hours to explore and document the Kansai Ski Resort – it was a wonderful autumn afternoon, sunny, slightly windy; perfect for a location like that. At first sight it was just another rundown hellhole, but upon closer look it revealed a certain charisma you are either fascinated by or not. I was, and so I left very happy to finally have explored this place after knowing about it for almost a decade. If you are more into clean, gigantic locations, check out the recently reopened, but back in 2014 abandoned *Arai Mountain And Spa*.

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Short and sweet this week – an abandoned water park in the Japanese countryside, a small original find by yours truly and therefore probably new to the internet.

So, yeah… not much to write this week. A while ago I found this small water park in the middle of nowhere by chance, a bit later I took a couple of photos, and now here we are. I don’t know anything about its history – and even if I’d knew the name, I’d probably wouldn’t publish it for obvious reasons.
A quick and easy exploration, in an out in about 20 minutes. Hope you’ll enjoy the photos!

Oh, and if you want to see more abandoned water parks, you can click *here*, *here* or *here*.

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A blast from the past – another part of the incredibly popular Nara Dreamland hardly anybody cared to look for… the trains!

At the height of its popularity in 2016 the abandoned Nara Dreamland was visited by dozens of people every day, from babies carried by their mothers (all of them foreigners, at least the ones I saw…) to groups of Japanese senior citizens – but hardly anybody really explored that amazing location. Most of those thrill-seeking, bored adventure tourists (including those who call themselves urban explorers) came in through the tunnels underneath the train station, walked past the shops of Fake Street USA to the castle, had a look at the rollercoasters and disappeared again – a few put in some extra effort to check out the water park and / or the rides in the back, but most of them left with a selfie in front of a rollercoaster or the castle to cross off another item on their FOMO hipster list. Hundreds, probably thousands of people came to Nara Dreamland in 2015 and 2016, pretty much everybody saw the train station that dominated the entrance and was even visible from outside the park – yet pictures of the Nara Dreamland trains are super rare, despite the fact that one of the iron horses was waiting for the things to come in an open shed pretty much right next to Aska, the stunning wooden rollercoaster. (The other one was parked on the track in an artificial tunnel in the southeast “corner” of the park, overgrown most of the year…) On the other hand it was probably a blessing for those trains that they only had a handful of visitors in total instead of a handful of visitors per day – they were (mostly) spared the serious amount of vandalism that the monorail and other parts of the park had to suffer through; not to mention all of *Western Village* up in Kanto, which went to hell in a handbasket as soon as it became famous, thanks to a nearby train station and some assholes who can’t behave (pardon my French…).
The pictures in the gallery at the end of this article are mostly of the train in the shed, because it was easy to find, easy to access and easy to take photos of, though it was also next to a surprisingly busy side road and you really couldn’t say if the noise from a scooter was coming from outside or from a security guard on the premises (not counting the one year or so without any security at all, of course – during that time it was pretty clear…).
What happened to the Nara Dreamland trains? I have no idea. The last owner of Nara Dreamland blocked any attempts to make contact, so unless one or both of them show up somewhere in the future (three, if you count the monorail), I guess they’ve been sold for scrap – which would be a shame, because according to the builder’s plate on the train in the shed the locomotive was built by Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows in 1871. I’m not a train expert, so I have no idea how authentic the train and the worksplate were, but at least there was indeed a Vulcan Foundry Company building steam locomotives in Newton-le-Willows, England, at that time… (According to a Youtube comment by user SJ, who googled the engine gauge “1871 #614 2-4-0, 3’6”, this might have been the first train to ever run in Japan – which makes me hope even more that it was donated to a museum and not scrapped, but Nara Dreamland was bought for profit and I don’t think the new owner cared much about anything… Addendum 2019-02-12: According to Youtube user YannickGB the train at Nara Dreamland most likely was a replica as the original is in the Saitama Railway Museum.)

Hindsight is 20/20 and even I wish I would have spent more time documenting the locomotives of Nara Dreamland, but at least I can say that I’ve seen them both and have been on one of them. Unfortunately the general interest in Nara Dreamland died as quickly as it was demolished, but I hope the Abandoned Kansai audience is a little bit more hardcore than the average Instagram hipster out there and appreciates both the photos and the videos of this article. And if you have never seen the Nara Dreamland shrine, you might want to *check out part I of this series*.

(For all your *Nara Dreamland* needs please have a look at the *Nara Dreamland Special**Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

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Outside castle, inside tatami – this abandoned house between the cultures withstood a short hype phase, yet it’s its questionable structurally soundness that makes its survival a miracle.

For some reason there is always a big fuzz about abandoned Western style houses in Japan. There was one near Tokyo, and it when it turned out that the previous owners were high society with ties to the Imperial family the property literally got trampled to the ground by the oh so careful and secret urbex scene in Japan, which is amazing, considering that it’s rather small in comparison to America and especially Europe; and that the average person is much smaller in Japan…
Anyway, when a similar house appeared in another part of Japan paranoia was big – several people published pictures at the same time and suddenly “the scene” became extremely suspicious about who had what information and would be able to take whom there. I was relying on help, too, so out of respect I waited several years with this article and won’t neither mention the area the house is in nor who made it possible for me to go there. Since the hype has died down significantly since this location first came up, I guess it’s “safe” to publish it now.
Sitting like a haunted mansion on a hill, access to the Japanese Western House turned out to be quite difficult for many reasons: fences, gates, steep slopes, at least one unchained dog, neighbours, construction, demolition – it felt like everything was going on at the same time and we somehow had to maneuver through the perimeter like a nightmarish real-life game of Frogger. At least there was no water involved. Wouldn’t have been the first (or the last!) time…

But hey, after some back and forth we finally made it into the surprisingly contorted house – and the entrance area kept the tension alive as it looked like somebody could show up any second to continue some long necessary renovation work. As learned at the *Deathtrap Hotel* we went to the lowest floor and made our way up, though it probably would have been easer for my nerves if we would have started upstairs as the semi-basement looked like it could have collapsed any minute and was only propped by a 4×4 timber or two – one low kick and probably the whole friggin house would have folded like Kevin Spacey should have. And we, being happy finally being inside, took the risk like a bunch of inexperienced schmocks. But hey, the upper floor with its western main room (thick sofas and couches) as well as the ground floor with the large tatami rooms that once must have featured jaw-dropping views offered some pretty decent photo opportunities that were clearly tainted by the overcast-rainy weather and the more than unfortunate circumstances (not knowing if the house was really, really abandoned while knowing for sure that the basement was one clumsy move away from letting tons of material sliding down the slope).

I never thought about it before, but exploring the Japanese Western House would probably easily make it onto my Top 5 list of most uncomfortable urbex experiences – and that list would include my run-ins with authorities, though not even all of them. I was out of so many comfort zones that at one point I stopped counting. But the hype beforehand dragged me in, the beauty of some rooms kept me… and some chances don’t come back – you gotta explore when you have the opportunity to do so, only a handful of locations look better in a couple of years; most look worse or will be gone. So, no regrets – and I hope you’ll enjoy the gallery below!

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Little is more exciting than exploring original finds, places you spotted by chance and haven’t seen on pictures in detail before – it even makes abandoned hotels exciting!

Whenever I have a couple of minutes and access to GoogleMaps I love to randomly have a look around via satellite view. It’s a bit like playing the lottery – you could spend your time (money) better and usually it’s a total waste, but… I’m in Japan and pretty good at it, so I guess it’s more like playing poker. Still risky, but entertaining and often rewarding, because I know what I’m doing, though there are no guarantees. It’s also one of the few ways to stand and be able to do something most other people can’t do – so I guess it’s more like a prize draw with stuff you can’t buy. Whatever it is, it’s kind of necessary to stand out an urbex blog and to avoid doing the exact same locations everybody else does. And as much as I love the *Kejonuma Leisure Land*, the *Matsuo Mine Apartments* and the *Maya Tourist Hotel* – it’s boring as heck to see the same photos of the same locations over and over and over again, because people are too lazy or unable to go for uncommon places and find some of their own. So while the Demon Warrior Hotel was just another abandoned hotel and not a large theme park or mine – at least it still felt like an exploration and the pictures you’ll see in the gallery below are some you haven’t seen dozens of times all over the internet.
There are plenty of reasons why I love urbex, the thrill of the legal grey zone isn’t one of them, which is why original finds are especially nerve-wrecking to me. When you have seen a place a gazillion times you can be pretty sure that there are neither alarms nor security or other unusual risks involved; you also can be sure that access is rather easy as so many people trampled through there before. At original finds though you know nothing, so even if inaccessibility isn’t a problem (which it often is – and one of the reasons why a location hasn’t appeared on the internet yet), there still could be alarms, caretakers, homeless people (rather unlikely in Japan) or druggies (even more unlikely in Japan!). Fortunately the Demon Warrior Hotel was really abandoned – and though the front door was still locked, access was easy via an annex. And while my friend Gen, his son, and I were probably the first or among the first urban explorers there, we clearly weren’t the first visitors after the hotel was closed about half a decade ago. Metal thieves had been there for (as the shared baths showed), so were vandals and at least one arsonist who caused major damage to the gift shop, the bar and the area between. The gender separated baths were still nice, though somewhat unspectacular. The rooms, both Western and Japanese style, were pretty much standard. The bar and some hallways were kinda spooky, but overall the Demon Warrior Hotel turned out to be a rather unspectacular exploration. My favorite room in the whole hotel was unremarkable at first sight, it looked like the typical tatami party room you have in pretty much every Japanese accommodation. One of the cabinets though featured a hotel shrine, including a kami mirror and prayer beads also known as juzu. None of the items appeared to be of high value or craftsmanship, but they were nice to look at and made this exploration at least somewhat special.

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