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Archive for the ‘Hospital’ Category

Old Japanese clinics are amongst my favorite abandoned places – and this one was just gorgeous!

Finding abandoned places in Japan is relatively easy as there are so many of them. Go to an average onsen town and you can barely throw a stone without hitting an abandoned hotel. Finding really good abandoned places is difficult in Japan, too – especially countryside hospitals. Before the rise of modern hospitals after World War 2, general practitioners in Japan tended to live in more or less large houses with a more or less large clinic part included. Some were modest accommodations with a small waiting area, a front desk and an examination room at a separate entrance of the house, others were large mansions with several examination and patient rooms, a pharmacy, a study and maybe even a surgery room. A century after being built, most of those countryside clinics of the early 20th century have been demolished, are in rough condition… or are still hidden between regular houses in the countryside – passing by you’ll never know if it’s a (former) hospital or not, sometimes not even if it’s really abandoned or not.

Like the Hospital By The Sea! Located in a small coastal town, surrounded by a still upkept garden, it just looks like an old wooden building in need of a fresh layer of paint. Maybe still inhabited, maybe maintained at minimum to prevent the worst, maybe recently abandoned… Even three years after my exploration I’m still not sure about it. (Well, nobody lived there anymore, so the building was definitely not inhabited anymore!)
The front was carefully locked, but it’s usually easier to find in via the back anyway – and this surprisingly complex structure was no exception. Overall still in decent condition it was a crumbling wall that allowed access… to the private quarters. Right next to what turned out to be my favorite room, the family bath, featuring yellow tiles, a wine-red tub and an unusual ceiling. Beautiful, just beautiful! Various items on the floor, like a soroban, an old microscope and a box with little bottles filled with chemicals lead like a trace through the house to the clinic part. Coming from the back I first ignored the extremely steep stairs to the upper floor and had a look at the former entrance – the usual: front, waiting room, examination room, small pharmacy hidden underneath a staircase. Some chemicals lefts behind, but otherwise fascinatingly clean – a set of X-rays made me wonder whether they were taken at a different place or here… and if here, what happened to the equipment? Probably cleaned out with the rest of the building.
The upper floor was empty, too, but featured some beautiful woodwork – the hallway, the patient rooms… the windows! One of the wooden panels was removed and gave interesting insight on how electricity was wired throughout the house underneath the floor. I’ve never seen anything like it before or after and it was fascinating to see. You can read and listen to things as much as you want, but seeing stuff and making your own conclusions is so much more memorable! Though only from the inside, unfortunately there were also signs of decay – hopefully somebody will step up and restore the Hospital By The Sea before the damage is beyond (reasonable) repair!

Despite being mostly empty, exploring the Hospital By The Sea was just fascinating – a building straight out of a folk museum; just real and without supervision. Nothing I hadn’t seen before (the now vandalized or maybe even gone *Tokushima Countryside Clinic* comes to mind!), but a really beautiful location and a rare opportunity in general!

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Fully stocked modern abandoned hospitals are rather rare, even in Japan – this one though was still in really good condition when I explored it three years ago on a solo weekend trip!

Japan is littered… with abandoned countryside clinics – old doctors’ offices, often dating back to before World War 2, usually located within large traditional mansions in more or less small towns; most likely owned by the descendants of former noblemen. A study, a pharmacy, an examination room – but usually no operating tables, patient’s rooms for overnight or even long-term stays, or large modern equipment. For that you’ll have to find one of the handful “modern” Western-style hospitals – one of them being the Coastal Town Hospital, which I was able to visit three years ago, just months before it became popular amongst Japanese explorers and a few tourists. I had a hunch that time was of the essence in this case (and more recent photos confirmed my worries about vandalism and disarray), so I went there during a weekend trip in spring of 2016, solo, because nobody was available on short notice. Despite me arriving at the hospital reasonably early on a Sunday morning I had a hard time getting in (and out, for that matter…) – not because it was locked or boarded up, but because the little town was surprisingly busy due to dog walkers, morning runners… and visitors of an event at a nearby school. So I had to walk up and down in front of the hospital several times until I was afraid that this would attract at least as much attention as slipping in when seen. Once inside I couldn’t relax much either. Solo explorations are always nerve-wrecking, especially when little to nothing is known about the location in question – and abandoned hospitals are always creepy even on a sunny day… which heated the building quite a bit. And then there were those weird noises coming from one of the upper floors… which turned out to be pigeons or something like that behind a curtain. Saw a last flight of stairs leading up to what could only be roof access, covered by said curtain, and didn’t dare to risk getting pecked to death by a bunch of crazy birds! But even without that last percent of the building there was plenty of stuff to see – and since I started my exploration on 3F it got better and better and better… It started with a cluttered room on 3F featuring all kinds of items, from dolls behind glass to music equipment. On 2F were several patient rooms, the nurses’ station as well as the room of the chief physician – and the ground floor… Well the ground floor had the check-in desk, a waiting room – and several rooms stuffed with hospital equipment. The beautiful and still very tidy surgical suite with a scrub room right next to it, a well-lit and a virtually dark room with all kinds of medical devices, including some beds for physical therapy (?) and an X-ray machine. And of course the office with a fully stocked pharmacy – as much medication (most likely) beyond its expiration date as you can swallow!

Abandoned hospitals are among my favorite places to explore and I’ve seen tons of them – old ones, new ones, popular ones, really rare ones, vandalized ones and almost pristine ones. And although I already *tagged 35 articles on Abandoned Kansai with “hospital”* I still have seven or eight of them already explored on hold in my archive – which means that I’ve explored about 40 abandoned hospitals overall, most of them in Japan. And the Coastal Town Hospital definitely was a Top 10 hospital exploration, maybe even Top 5 – because it was in decent condition, had tons of stuff left behind… and it was a solo exploration, which always adds some accomplishment bonus points. Of course it couldn’t hold a candle to my *2010 exploration of the Tokushima Countryside Clinic* (classic) and my *2015 exploration of the Wakayama Hospital* (modern) – but lets be honest, those will be very difficult to beat even if I should explore another 40 abandoned hospitals…

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Abandoned hospitals are a dime a dozen in Japan. Even 100 year old countryside clinics are not that rare, surprisingly, but most of them were run by general practitioners – this one though apparently was a specialist, an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmology is a rather young specialized field of medicine. Until the 18th century it was part of surgery and made vast progress in the 19th century with the development of high performance light microscopes. (The first professorship of ophthalmology was introduced as late as 1818 in Vienna, just 50 years before Japan opened up to the world again after being the blueprint of modern-day North Korea for two and a half centuries…) While the first private eye clinic dates back to 1782 in Germany, the job of independent local eye doctors providing care for the masses is a development of the 20th century. (A declining one, apparently – at least in Germany there are fewer and fewer eye doctors.)
One of the great things about exploring with my buddy *Hamish* is that we always go far and aim high – hardly ever do we explore locations in day trip range of Tokyo or Osaka, which means that we can usually cherry pick interesting or even spectacular locations in areas like Hokkaido, Tohoku, along the Sea of Japan, or Kyushu. Average locations are unavoidable as fillers or places that don’t live up to our expectations, but there hasn’t been a single trip of ours that was even remotely disappointing; probably not even a day within those trips.
The Old Eye Clinic, opened in 1945 and closed in 1991, turned out to be on the more interesting end of this high-class range, though it started as a slow burner. Access wasn’t easy as the large property was pretty much overgrown and surrounded by moats – and when we finally made it, we had to figure out what the half a dozen buildings on the premises were actually used for. Several of them could have been used as a clinic or at least a pharmacy at one point in time, pretty much all of them were used for storage and / or living. Unfortunately they were all cluttered with all kinds of stuff – furniture, medicine, construction material, medical journals, household items, and much, much more. Add 25 years of abandonment supported vandalism and natural decay, then you can imagine what condition most of the structures were in. (Or you can just look at the photos of this article…) I almost gave up hope to find a building or room that actually still resembled a real clinic, when I gave that last building a final chance, despite it not looking promising at all from the (back) entrance – of course it turned out to be a dedicated clinic building with no living space at all. Despite being vandalized and not in good condition anymore either, the clinic was absolutely fascinating and full of items, bottles and books I had never seen before at any other abandoned hospital. All kinds of eye tests, medical devices, and tinctures – wonderful, what an unexpected find at that point.

In the end I ran both out of time and out of light exploring the abandoned Old Eye Clinic, but it was a great experience, despite all the flaws of the place in general – it actually kind of reminded me of my first abandoned clinic, the *Tokushima Countryside Clinic*, still one of my all-time favorite locations.

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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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A lot of abandoned places leave an impression because of what they have been, not what they are now. The Hiroshima Hospital is one of those places…

Japanese urban explorers are quick labeling as haikyo, ruins, their common term for abandoned places – but very often they are just closed, or even worse: they just look abandoned and are actually still in use; especially “abandoned” schools. So whenever I see an “abandoned” place popping up on a Japanese site and it doesn’t feature inside photos, I become worried / skeptical. Was the location really abandoned or did the explorer not bother to have a closer look? Did they have a closer, but couldn’t get inside? Did they try to, but cause an alarm? Were they maybe even caught? (It happens to the best of us…) Did they get inside, but decided against publishing photos, because the interior was too spectacular or not interesting enough? There are a million different possibilities, and they all run through my head whenever I see outdoor shots only of a potentially abandoned place.
The Hiroshima Hospital was one of those places – all I knew about it was its location in a residential suburb of Hiroshima City, all I’ve seen about of it were a couple of outdoor shots, showing massive barricades. It’s quite a drive from Osaka to Hiroshima (between four and five hours, depending on the route and the traffic circumstances), so Dan, Kyoko & I made the hospital the first location of the second day, exploring along the way the day before.
At first all the things I worried about came true: The main entrance of the hospital was barricaded, people were walking their dogs, and even from the outside the places looked kinda vandalized. But coming a long way kinda makes you persistent, so we kept looking for a way in and found a weak spot after a while. Sadly our second impression of the Hiroshima Hospital wasn’t much better than the first one. Except for a couple if items here and there the clinic had been cleaned out when it was closed – as it should be. I still can’t believe the kind of equipment, tools and drugs I found in various other abandoned hospitals over the years, so it’s hard to complain that somebody did the right thing for a change. Unfortunately that person didn’t think things fully through. As confirmed by StreetView, the Hiroshima Hospital wasn’t boarded up at first, which explains the serious amount of vandalism – broken windows, graffiti, airsoft pellets… the whole shebang.

Long story short: I’ve been to three, four, five abandoned hospitals in Hiroshima prefecture, but the Hiroshima Hospital is actually my least favorite one. It didn’t taint a great exploration weekend at all, but to be honest: I was kinda hoping for another *Wakayama Hospital*, and by that standard it was definitely a disappointment.

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Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but puddles of sweat – urbex in July and August comes with its own set of challenges in Japan…

I think I’ve mentioned before that I usually take a break from exploring in Japan during the summer months, especially in July in August. In June the humidity in Kansai and the surrounding areas skyrockets due to the rainy season, in July the heat kicks in, and in August temperatures tend to be between 34°C (day time) and 30°C (at night) in the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto megalopolis. You probably don’t mind if you are used to that kind of weather, but I’m from west-central Germany, where temperatures are 5°C lower in average – and humid days are rather rare… and never for up to four months in a row. In addition to that bugs are much smaller and other animals are less poisonous than in Central Japan, because… well, you know… nature likes Central Europe. But exploring is like celebrating – you have to when you have the opportunity… even if the circumstances are borderline crazy!
2017, late July, Friday evening – after a long week of work two friends of mine picked me up at home at half past 10. The goal? A 24/7 super sento (large public bath with places to sleep – on the floor in special rooms, on benches, or special chairs, …) in a suburb or Hiroshima, a “nice and easy” 4+ hour drive away from Osaka. We arrived at around 2 a.m., took a bath, and crashed on some benches at around 3 a.m. for two and a half cool hours of sleep. The sun rises early in Japan in July, we had places to go to, and time was of the essence! After a kombini breakfast, the *Horseshoe Hospital*, and a quick snack for lunch in the car we arrived at the Hiroshima Countryside Clinic pretty much exactly at high noon – and walking the 100 meters from a nearby parking lot to the hospital mansion felt like being an ant under a magnifying glass. While the partly overgrown (and partly collapsed!) mansion, roped-off by city officials to prohibit people from entering, offered protection from the sun, it did little to nothing regarding heat, humidity and gnats.
While it is hard to say how much of the damage to the Hiroshima Countryside Clinic was natural decay and how much was vandalism (some rooms were nearly untouched, others looked like some people vented their frustrations), it’s easy to say that this was a fascinating exploration. I just love those old countryside clinics, mansions with doctors’ offices. There was so much to see, so many unusual items to take pictures of – like the creepy dolls in the living room, the German medical books, or the labels for medicine bottles.

When we left after just 1.5 hours it was a bittersweet departure. On the one hand I would have loved to stay at least another 1.5 hours to finish taking pictures, on the other hand I was happy to get back to an air-conditioned area. At that point I was literally dripping of sweat, my T-shirt wasn’t able to hold an additional drop. To accelerate the drying process in the car I actually took it off and wrung it out – much to the entertainment of my fellow explorers. Apparently one of my many useless ‘skills’ in life is ‘sweating’… Sadly I’ll never get a chance to return to the Hiroshima Countryside Clinic, one of the little known abandoned hospitals in Japan – last week I found out that it has been demolished shortly after my visit; again bittersweet… On the one hand I would have loved to have another look, on the other hand I am forever grateful to my friends who took me there… and for my decision to join them, because when you have the opportunity to explore, you better take it – there might not be a next time!

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About two weeks ago I became uncle of twin boys – probably a good opportunity to finally write about the abandoned Maternity Hospital.

The Japanese countryside is littered with abandoned small clinics and hospitals. There must be hundreds of them all over the country, yet most of them are really hard to find, because unlike large modern hospitals the majority of the traditional small clinics look like regular big houses – countryside clinic or just a mansion? Often impossible to tell when passing by, even harder when trying to find locations like that via GoogleMaps. In my early urbex days eight years ago, people knew about maybe half a dozen of those clinics all over Japan – now the number is closer to half a dozen per prefecture, and yet some of them are very, very hard to find. In this case I was lucky and very grateful that some friends took me there…
The Maternity Hospital is a small clinic in a somewhat surprisingly touristy town in the middle of a quiet residential area, surrounded by houses with regular residents. Driving or even walking by you would never guess that it is abandoned and actually in rather bad condition already – the road facing side looks like a regular old building, but the back… the back suffered some serious damage. About a quarter of the house has already collapsed, and it’s pretty likely that the rest will follow rather sooner than later. Luckily most of the damage so far was done to the private section of the building, though the clinic part wasn’t in good condition either. The wooden floor of the lobby was either gone or in really bad shape, the former examination room was so cluttered I could barely position my tripod… or walk around the room without stepping on anything. Fortunately the signature item of the Maternity Hospital was still there – a half-size model of a pregnant Japanese woman with traditional hairdo. Between the examination room and the surgery room was a room that looked like a regular bedroom, but it once was probably used for patients to recover from the deeds that were done in the bright white room right next to it. The operating room was probably the brightest room I’ve ever been in, even on that overcast day of my visit. White tiles, white paint flaking off the walls and the ceiling, and even the surgical lighthead was mostly white – the weight of the latter already showing negative effects on the ceiling, most likely one day a contributing factor to bringing this part of the house down. Give it another two or three years and the Maternity Hospital probably will be gone. Like the next room, probably the former living room, where the ceiling and the roof were already gone.

Overall the Maternity Hospital was an interesting exploration. At first sight the whole thing looked like collapsed chaos, but once I figured out how to navigate around, I was able to find and capture at least some of the hidden beauty of this place. I wish I would have known about this hospital at the beginning of my urbex career, but at least I was able to have a look before further damage was done. A good location, still rather rare – but no *Tokushima Countryside Clinic*, my first and still favorite abandoned wooden hospital…

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