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Archive for the ‘Hotel / Ryokan’ Category

The abandoned Trump Hotel was as pompous as “The Donald”, as fake as his tan and as forsaken as most of the people who voted him into office…

When entering an abandoned place you always want to be fast and inconspicuous to not gain any attention – and while we didn’t fail as miserably as I did at the *Japanese Mental Hospital*, we had a surprisingly hard time to find a way in, especially considering that some of us had already been there; and if you remember one thing about an abandoned place it’s how you got inside. Apparently somebody was still taking care of the building and so we had to almost fully circumvent it before finding a damaged door through which we could enter on all fours. A couple of rather dark corridors and rooms later we found ourselves in the main dining / entertainment room of the hotel – the luxurious old-fashioned interior of the main areas (not the disappointingly dull room hallways) beared some resemblance to kitschy classics like a Ritz-Carlton; just brighter, introducing some (but not too much!) lightness. White columns every couple of meters, large chandeliers and beautiful mirrors on the ceiling, heavy upholstered armchairs, marble floors, painted walls and ceilings in a style I associate with in early modern France / England – but I’m not an art historian, so if somebody knows more about the style of the paintings and the interior, please feel free to leave a comment.
Unfortunately this gigantic abandoned luxury hotel was not the first, but the last location of the day, so we quickly ran out of time – resulting in a highlights tour of the large complex. Next stop: 9th floor. Why? Nobody would tell me. A combination I was not happy about, because of course the elevators didn’t work anymore and pretty much every floor had high ceilings, so the 9th floor here was more like the 12th or 13th floor at a regular hotel. The hidden and not very well-lit staircase got back to the public area with red carpet and more wallpaintings, but also large piles of cable insulations (yep, the place was mostly stripped and therefore vandalized) and pigeon poo – disgusting!
But then the climb all of a sudden was worthwhile. A small staircase lead up half a floor to the left and into the most spectacular shared bath I have ever seen anywhere. Sure, kitschy as an 1980s rom-com, but absolutely fascinating – red and gold interior, painted walls, marble, large, colorful tiles… and in the actual bath a series of large sculptures, Roman / Greek style, reminding me of a quadriga or something like that. So much to see, so much to take photos of… so little time.
And upon closer look everything was fake. The place looked a bit like the standard photo of Trump’s apartment in New York (hence the name Trump Hotel for this location – the moron had nothing to do with the place as far as I know… and it’s really unlikely that he did, of course!), but the gold of course was poorly painted on, not beaten gold; the painting on the other hand weren’t painted, but printed photo wallpapers; the columns weren’t massive stone, but poorly carved plastic veneer; and I’m sure all the tiles and marble weren’t imported, but just cheap “in the style of” fakes. At first look everything was spectacular, at closer look a lot was actually quite poor craftsmanship. And a bit rundown, too. After all the hotel was 65 years old at the time of my visit.
Nevertheless this was an exciting place, so we rushed back down again. Since the whole top floor was one big shared bath, there had to be another one… there always was another one from back when we only had two genders… and it was on the 7th floor of the other hotel tower. No connection on that floor, of course, so we had to go ALL the way DOWN and then ALL the way BACK UP again… *sigh*
The second shared bath (they probably switched between use for men and women on a weekly or maybe even daily basis) was a lot less pompous and included more traditional Japanese elements, like an outdoor bath (rotenburo) and an outdoor stone hot tub with a wooden deck in now rather sad condition. It felt a lot more like a high-class onsen than a Spa World type of place – really, really nice, with spectacular views.
I was ready to call it a day when one of my friends dragged me away from the group and down a series of labyrinth-like stairways and hallways. Our final destination: A lower rooftop pool area between the hotel’s two towers – with two waterslides connecting an upper area with a lower area. Since it was already pretty much dark outside and our other friends were waiting for us, we only had time for a few quick shots, but the detour was definitely worth almost getting lost.

Despite spending a good two hours at the abandoned Trump Hotel, it was one of the most rushed, yet exciting explorations I’ve ever done (maybe with the exception of the *Japanese Mental Hospital*). Like the namesake I chose for the location it was big, fake, somewhat rundown, yet strangely exciting and fascinating in a way that you just can’t look away. At the same time I was glad that we found a way out when we almost got lost after reuniting with the rest of our small group after dark. What a nightmare… just to imagine having to spend four or even eight years there!

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Strength lies in calmness – but when the clock’s ticking you have to make quick decisions… and some of them might not be the smartest!

I hate being rushed, in every aspect of life – whether it’s working, eating, or exploring. In times when more and more people become more and more unreliable, addicted to their own vanities locked behind black mirrors, I like to decelerate my life on purpose; not wasting time, but consciously deciding what to spend it on – planning ahead instead of making rushed decisions on short notice, that cost money and reputation at best, at worst even time in addition. I prefer slow food over fast food, a chair over a back seat, rewrites over first drafts, well-laid plans over rushed decisions, quiet time over a constant stream of IM ping sounds. I rather explore two or three locations a day thoroughly than rush through five or six – I live a busy life, still way too fast and busy for my taste… but I’m not on the run!
Back in 2013 I was on my way to Nagoya and I stopped at a rundown onsen town to explore a couple of places, more or less successfully. Despite being rather small, the village featured some large abandoned hotels. Hotels so rundown that I rather enjoyed the surrounding nature than breathing mold half the day. Back in the onsen town to catch a bus back to civilization I had about 15 minutes to kill, so I made the spontaneous decision to speedrun explore one of those rundown pieces of… decay. Walking inside as far as I could in 10 minutes, taking as many photos as possible freehand on high ISO (the sun was already setting…) – filming the three or four minutes on the way back before heading to the bus stop. For comparison: 10 minutes usually get me two decent shots using a tripod when exploring regularly; sometimes even less.

The result you can see below: A bunch of crappy photos and a rushed video. I probably would have spent those 15 minutes better by visiting an omiyage shop or enjoying a cold beverage while waiting for the bus. In addition to that the exploration was dangerous – because I rushed it, because I was alone. Overall a stupid idea. One I never repeated, because: Strength lies in calmness.

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This place must be cursed! First the spa hotel went bust, then my exploration failed…

With almost 10 years of exploration experience under my belt I’ve become pretty good at sniffing up original finds – these days I’m more and more often following even less beaten paths to places that are extremely hard to find, which usually comes at a higher risk, as unknown locations are much tougher and riskier to explore than now almost touristy places like *Western Village* or *Kejonuma Leisure Land*. This spring I had the chance to had a closer look at an abandoned health resort hotel I found during winter – unfortunately it wasn’t as close as I hoped for. 😦
The Failed Health Resort is so remote that it’s not on StreetView and only blurry on satellite view of GoogleMaps, but I was very excited to get there as the hotel had a very vast outdoor pool area. Unfortunately the exploration turned into a series of disappointments quickly. First we realized that the hotel still had power and one or two break-ins (or break-in attempts) had been boarded up again – so alarms were rather like and the building itself therefore more or less off limits. But hey, the pool area, right? Right! It was easily accessible without jumping any fences or something like that, unfortunately an old Japanese dude showed up after like five minutes. And there it was super interesting to observe my co-explorers that day – some super experiences, some relative noobs. I knew only half of them, the experienced ones, the others were friends of friends… Anyway, my Japanese is limited so I ignored the guy completely and kept taking photos. My friends at first didn’t even realize somebody came and then they acted like deer in headlights. And when the guy didn’t approach us, my friends and the noobs just left quietly – leaving me behind! I could almost see the WTF or ??? hovering above my head! Especially since my approach is always to approach new arrivals when I’m exploring with friends who speak Japanese or think they speak Japanese well-enough to have any kind of conversation. Worst case scenario: We explain our intentions and are asked to leave – hiding or preemptive obedience (= leaving quietly) is usually only an option when the situation is dire and a conversation would be pointless. So I rushed after my fellow explorers with a dozen rushed shots on my camera and that was it.

The Failed Health Resort was one of the most disappointing explorations in my “career”, for more than only one reason. But hey, you can’t win them all. Even without getting inside the building I’m sure this could have been an awesome exploration with a great photo series, but I was cut short, so we all have to live with the result…

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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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It’s amazing how fast things can go to hell in a handbasket in Japan – sometimes even twice or three times…
From the looks of it, the Seto Onsen Hotel dates back to the 1960s and has been abandoned for at least 15 or 20 years. But looks can be deceiving. For example: While I don’t know when the hotel was closed, it was definitely not abandoned for 15 years or more as I’ve seen pictures from about 2011, just six years before my visit, when it was standing there in decent condition, ready to be demolished, no shrub or tree anywhere near to be seen – pictures from the inside confirmed the good condition with plenty of items left behind, including some coin-operated children’s rides. When I explored the hotel with my buddies Dan and Kyoko, it was a fight just walking along the overgrown road leading up to the hotel, which was also almost swallowed by the surrounding green hell. Unfortunately the place wasn’t exactly a looker, except for one of the staircases and the amazing view from the roof. The rest was rundown and partly prepped for demolition, but it looked like they stopped halfway through the process – and whatever they left behind has been stolen or vandalized since then. I’m sure though in the 70s it was quite a neat place, despite its plattenbau kind of construction.
Since the Seto Onsen Hotel wasn’t famous or special in any way, there is basically nothing known about it – it’s just one of those rundown, vandalized dime a dozen abandoned hotels you can find all over Japan; not even the onsen part was interesting at all. I guess the only reason why we or anybody else goes there, it’s because the place is right next to the *Mindfuck Hotel*, which in many ways was the opposite of this one…

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Another hotel high on a mountain overlooking the Seto Inland Sea… and guess what – it was abandoned! 🙂

Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year to travel in Japan, especially after the cherry blossom season is over and the roads and rails are back to “terribly crowded” instead of “completely congested”. It’s also the perfect season for some urbex, because wildlife is still starting to get into gear – spiders and snakes are still small, overgrown buildings are still accessible and not in the death grip of vines.
It was on a spring weekend trip a few years ago that I explored the Seto Sea Hotel a little bit outside of a rather touristy town. Too far to walk from the closest station I took a bus to spare myself a two hour walk and just hiked the last two kilometers or so up a mountain. Considering my efforts to get to the hotel I wasn’t surprised to see two mid-sized buses parked in front of the building; license plates still on, but slightly vandalized. The back entrance and with it an alternative escape route was quickly found, so I made my way to the main entrance and… entered.
The Seto Sea Hotel turned out to be one of those boring hotel ruins I tend to complain about every once in a while – the views were spectacular, even on this overcast, humid day, but the rest of the place was just meh. Slightly vandalized, slightly moldy, slightly dirty, slightly boring. My favorite item left behind was a snack vending machine that offered takoyaki, fried onigiri, French fries, hotdogs, yakisoba and okonomiyaki – those machines are quite hard to find in general, and I’ve never seen one at a hotel, abandoned or hot.

Exploring the Seto Sea Hotel was such an average experience that I almost forgot about – it’s been close to six years since I went there and I only rediscovered it yesterday when I was looking for an abandoned hotel to write about. The last couple of days and weeks have been quite busy here, so I needed a location with not so many photos (as I didn’t have time to go through hundreds of them) and a generally unknown background story – because I didn’t have time to research dozens of sources. And in those regards the Seto Sea Hotel fully delivered – there wasn’t that much to see, and the only thing I know about it is that it closed in 2003. It was just another abandoned hotel in Japan, one of hundreds, nothing like the *Wakayama Ryokan* or the *Hachijo Royal Hotel*!

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Old meets new and fails – only to be revived and remodeled years later. The unusual revival of the Wakayama Ryokan…

It’s pretty much impossible to predict which abandoned places become popular and which are hardly ever explored by the urbex community – similar to which places are vandalized regularly and which are spared.
When the Wakayama Ryokan showed up with the exact address on a big Japanese urbex site about six years ago I was convinced that it would be the next urbex hot spot in Kansai. Consisting of a modern hotel style building and a wooden traditional part full of nooks and crannies, the Wakayama Ryokan was the best of both worlds – and in almost pristine condition with hardly any signs of vandalism. Located on a slope overlooking a local harbor, the ryokan offered stunning views – and probably amazing seafood when it was still open.
When I explored the Wakayama Ryokan more than five and a half years ago, I did it solo and didn’t pay attention to not film / take pictures of things that could be clues – probably because I never expected the amount of lurkers his blog attracts by now. But even back then I knew that I didn’t want to be the foreigner who spills the beans to an non-Japanese speaking audience, so I wrote about other places first… until I kind of forgot about it. Despite the fact that I enjoyed the exploration and was eager to share some of the photos – especially the wooden parts in the east and the norths were gorgeous, despite or maybe because first signs of decay. The modern part was still in good condition overall. Some signs of metal thieves and an emptied fire-extinguisher here an there, but overall in good condition. Some rooms were actually filled with packed boxes full of… stuff; most of it table ware and other typical ryokan items. But yet another reason why I didn’t want to drag too much attention to this wonderful location.
Fast forward to five years later, the spring of 2017. I was passing by the Wakayama Ryokan on the way to another location when I realized that the front featured several new wooden signs, announcing an “Art Station” to be opened in the summer of this year. Well, it’s autumn now, so I assume that this international art museum, bar, café, theater, inn, kiosk, music room, … is open to the public now – though given my experiences with Japanese schedules, I wouldn’t be surprised if postponed till spring 2018 or gave up completely.

Back in 2012 the Wakayama Ryokan was one of my first accommodations in really good condition – and I explored it solo, which is always equally nerve-wrecking and exciting experience, so this place holds a special place in my heart forever. Especially the traditional wooden part was as Japanese as it gets, which is why I published as many photos as possible, though I am sure it would look even more impressive edited down to 30 or even 20 picture – but I know that a lot of you out there like those “Japanese images”, so I hope you’ll enjoy the gallery overall.

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