Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Half a dozen water slides, several pools and a couple of buildings made the abandoned Tohoku Water Park quite photogenic – and a wonderful exploration overall!

Rainy season started three weeks earlier this year in Japan, so summer already is full swing in parts of the country, making life a living hell, unless you are a real masochist and enjoy hot humid weather. And while your body already screams “Make it stop. Good Lord, make it goddamn stop!” your brain knows very well that it will get worse for at least two more months before it will only slowly be getting better. Four months of hell, that’s Japanese summers in most parts of the country for you – and for the second year in a row there is no way to GTFO and relax with family, friends, and homemade cooking / baking thanks to you know what. One of the few things making this s#!tshow bearable for some people are water parks – of which Japan has surprisingly many. One of the biggest abandoned outdoor water parks is off the beaten tracks in a tiny town in Tohoku, quite a pain to get to from Osucka. Fortunately I had the chance to explore that wonderful location on a trip up north three years ago. At the time the place was only semi-famous and GoogleMaps was rather blurry in that area, so I had to progress carefully, especially since I was flying solo. Exploring without a co-pilot is always more dangerous and more nerve-wrecking, so I probably wasn’t as excited initially as I should have been – first I had to make sure the place was really abandoned and not secured, then I could relax and enjoy the pools and slides; well, not myself, but by taking photos of them.
Built in the late 1970s, the Tohoku Water Park was one of the largest of its kind in Japan – which is a bit mind-boggling, considering the fact that Tohoku isn’t exactly known for its cruel, cruel summers, but instead is mostly covered in snow for half of the year. It was closed in 2010 and is currently owned by the local prefecture, which is kind of bad news, as state owned “abandoned” places tend to be most secured ones. They happily keep the lights (and alarms) on by paying the electricity bill and the police tends to show up more often than average, because, well, they are on the clock anyway, so they can as well have a look around and get some fresh air.
Fortunately there were no alarms (at least I didn’t trigger any…) and I was also spared a run-in with our friends and helpers, so while I was enjoying the exploration more and more I realized that I was quickly running out of time. Two hours was my previously set time limit and I was able to stretch that a little bit by walking back to my mode of transportation a little bit faster. Unfortunately the weather decided to be a bit hazy, causing dazzlingly white skies instead of the clear blue or dramatic cloudy ones I much more prefer. But hey, weather… nothing you can do about it – except for bitching about it in an attempt to make you feel better!

So… The abandoned Tohoku Water Park… A nice one! Large, remote, outdoors, theme parkish – this place ticked plenty of boxes! Another hour so would have been nice, but sometimes you gotta work with what you’ve got. Especially the large twin slide gave the *Hot Spring Water Park* and the *water park at Nara Dreamland* a tough fight for the #3 spot – but I’ve already shot two other abandoned outdoor water parks that I’ve liked even better; and I can’t wait to get them published, too!

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When I first came to Japan in 1998 the country had only 4.1 million foreign visitors. I was in my second year at university, traveled alone and barely ever saw another tourist (despite being there during cherry blossom season!), neither the internet nor cell phones were common, and Japan had a reputation for being kind of “inaccessible” – and expensive. The good old days…

By the time I moved to Japan in 2006 the number of tourists had almost doubled to 7.3 million, but that didn’t really matter to me, especially since they kept going up and down. Being a tourist and being an expat (i.e. being a tax payer with a job!) are two completely different things, two completely different experiences; especially in Japan. It’s like visiting an amusement park and working in an amusement park! And as a new hire at a Japanese company I neither had the time nor the financial resources, so for the first two or three years all I saw of Japan was Kansai in day trips. Now, there is a lot to see and do in this area, so I didn’t feel restricted – I was just living my daily life and my vacation time I spent visiting family and friends back home.
In late 2009 I picked up urban exploration as a hobby and a few months later started this blog, Abandoned Kansai. Kansai, because that was my home, the area I was familiar with, the area I traveled well. Not Abandoned Japan, because I never expected that I would travel much outside of Kansai – I hadn’t for three years, so why start now?
Well, because I wanted to document certain abandoned places in other prefectures, as I realized rather quickly… Two months after the *Mount Atago Cable Car* I did my first exploration in another region (Chubu), three months later I went to another main island (Kyushu) – and eight years later I traveled so much that I covered all nine regions of Japan (Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa) within one calendar year! Though it wasn’t until 2020 that I had visited and explored abandoned places in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures… (Ehime was last ؘ– by something like two years!)
For the first few years those urbex trips were more or less strictly urbex trips. I did them to explore certain abandoned places, *a lot of which don’t exist anymore as described in this article*, with little time for other things to do, except enjoying local food after sunset. And I didn’t think much about it, because I lived in Japan. I could go sightseeing at any time anyway! Meanwhile Abe and his monkey bunch decided that Japan should be a vacation destination (under his reign the number of tourists exploded from 6.2 million to 31.9 million visitors!) and aggressively pushed for overseas tourists by devaluating the Yen, propaganda campaigns and tax exemptions for shoppers from overseas while raising taxes on his own people, including doubling the consumption tax in two steps. Anyway, Japan became more and more popular worldwide, including among urban explorers, some of which came for hardcore trips with half a dozen locations per day, hardly any sleep, and definitely no sightseeing – which changed my attitude towards my own trips within Japan significantly around 2015/2016, because I felt so sorry for those poor souls who came all this way and experienced little more than moldy buildings similar to others in the rest of the world. Unfortunately for me around that time Japan had already passed the 20 million mass market mark, 5 times as many tourists as I was used to in 1998. Nearby places like Kyoto and Nara had already become unbearable as I found out on occasion when friends and family visited me in my new home country, but even in places like Otaru I heard more Chinese than Japanese in the streets as tourists from China went from 267k in 1998 to 9.6 million in 2019, the last full year of worldwide tourism before the coronavirus. To me overtourism is one of the ultimate turnoffs in life. And that’s a general thing. When I’m in Otaru I don’t want to hear Chinese everywhere, when I’m at the Great Wall I don’t want to hear Italian everywhere, when I’m at the Coliseum I don’t want to hear German everywhere, when I’m at the Berlin Wall I don’t want to hear Russian everywhere, when I’m at the Red Square I don’t want to hear French everywhere – and when I’m at the Eiffel Tower I don’t want Japanese to be the dominant language. So as much as I tried to implement touristic places into my urbex trips I mainly limited them to rather off the beaten track locations like Hirosaki or Lake Ikeda, because even places like Hakodate, Kanazawa, or Nagasaki had been overrun by the Eurasian hordes. (And it’s not just the amount of people and their constant yapping, it’s also the (misbehaving) type of people that visited Japan in recent years. When the country was still special interest, in the 20th century, people went to Japan for specific reasons; to see or do something, to educate themselves about a certain topic – nowadays it seems to be a cool Instagram location for dumb phonies with selfish sticks that book flights to Japan and then go through the Top 5 lists on Instagram, Tripadvisor, or some “True soul of Japan!!!” blogger to find out what they can actually brag about on social media with. The amount of signs EVERYWHERE about “How to use a toilet!” / “How to not misbehave!” in four languages has become ridiculous and should be embarrassing to every person visiting Japan. Unfortunately most tourists don’t seem to be bothered by those signs as they are too self-absorbed and busy taking selfies, but as somebody who lives here I feel bad that locals need to state the obvious so often as visitors have become a serious nuisance.)

When the coronavirus spread across the world in late 2019 / early 2020 Japan was one of the last countries to close its borders, desperately clinging to its Frankenstein’s monster tourism industry and the Tokyo Olympics. Despite that, the country was hit much less hard than most others due to cultural coincidences – Japanese people are not exactly affectionate in public / outside of the family, and wearing masks is a long-standing flu season tradition, so what prevented spreading the coronavirus (avoiding close contact and wearing masks) was common practice in Japan anyway. If kisses on the cheeks and drinking red wine would have prevented the disease, France would have done much better and Japan would have been screwed… Anyway, Japan did comparatively well (though it is currently hitting record high numbers!), so the overall terribly phlegmatic Japanese government imposed only few restrictions, most of them in form of “recommendations”. Since recommendations usually are considered orders due to preemptive obedience, I spent most of the summer 2020 working from home, a liberating and deeply frustrating experience at the same time as I didn’t meet any friends for months and left my hamster cage maybe three times a week for grocery shopping to avoid the second wave, that’s it; work, eat, sleep, repeat. The same for a few weeks around New Year’s Day – while Japanese people were visiting their families (recommendations are only followed unless people really don’t want to…) I sat alone at home and skyped with mine to get past the third wave.

February: Matsumoto, Nagano, Obuse, Gero, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kanazawa
In early 2020 things went “back to normal” in Japan with as few as 698 new cases per day nationwide (Kanto and Kansai being responsible for the vast majority of cases and some prefectures going down to 0 active cases and no new infections for weeks!), so I decided to jump on the opportunity and visit some places that had been unbearably crowed in the last five to eight years – especially since some of my regular co-explorers had become increasingly busy with fur and other babies. My first main destination on February 12th, after nights in Matsumoto and Nagano (where I had been years prior on the way to the abandoned *Asama Volcano Museum*), were the famous onsen snow macaques in the Jigokudani Monkey Park; a place so touristy and swamped that my buddy Hamish discouraged me from going there many, many years ago. Upon my arrival towards noon I shared the park with hardly more than a dozen people, and that number barely doubled during my hour long stay there – now that turned out even much better than I had hoped for in my wildest dreams! 🙂 So for the next weekend I made even bolder plans, for a place usually so overrun by busloads of foreign and domestic tourists that you could have offered me serious money to go there and I would have declined without hesitating – Shirakawa-go in winter! And to make it the ultimate challenge I added Takayama the day before and Kanazawa the day after, with a quick stop in Gero on the way to Takayama. What can I say? Gero was lovely, Takayama absolutely gorgeous, Kanazawa virtually empty (I was able to take photos in the old samurai district without people ruining them!), and Shirakawa-go… Shirakawa-go was still busy, but bearable. Already borderline too busy for my taste, but knowing that there usually were five or ten times as many people made me enjoy my visit much more than expected. (The car parking lots were rather busy, the bus parking spots basically empty – the lack of mass tourism saved my day!)

March 2021: Hokkaido, Yamaguchi, Kamakura / Hakone
March started with another touristy trip to Hokkaido. If you are a regular of Abandoned Kansai and paid attention reading my article about the *Toya-Usu Geopark* you already know that I had been up north in early November – too early for the drift ice of the Okhotsk Sea, so I went back just four months and a coronavirus wave later. Despite the unusually warm weather in Abashiri (10°C!) I was able to experience the drift ice by pure luck before moving on to Kitami and the peppermint museum, Onneyu Onsen and the fox farm, as well as the mostly closed Sounkyo Onsen and its ice festival (-9°C and strong wind!). Also worth mentioning was my stop in Asahikawa and its cross country ski track right behind the main train station in the city center. Gotta love Japan! Two weeks later I took advantage of the early cherry blossom season and went south – Iwakuni, Tsuwano, Hagi, and Akiyoshido / Akiyoshidai. All four places rather off the beaten tracks, but even more so in the spring of 2021. On both of those trips I didn’t see a single non-Asian person after my first stop (New Chitose Airport and Iwakuni respectively), which gave me serious flashbacks to 1998 – not only did I enjoy both of those trips tremendously, I felt young again! 🙂
Next a trip to Kanto (Kamakura, Odawara, Hakone) with a quick stop in Omihachiman on the way back – as expected full of ups and downs, both literally and figuratively… and with significantly more people than on the trips before. Overall worth the time and effort, but especially Hakone seemed terribly overrated to me (the Museum Of Photography is a joke, but the pizza at 808 Monsmare made up for that disappointment).

April: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Tsumago / Magome
Which brings us to April and one more cliché destination for Instagram victims: the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route with the Tateyama Snow Wall and the Kurobe Dam. The latter is impressive, but in the end just a dam with little to see and do in spring, whereas the snow wall is only accessible / existing in spring as that part is closed in winter. Summer and autumn promises tons of nature, a boat cruise on Lake Kurobe, and heaps of hiking trails, but when you do the route in spring you basically only get the snow wall and lots of waiting in line without proper social distancing / climbing stairs. Really disappointing! Fortunately I was able to visit two gorgeous post towns called Tsumago and Magome on my way back to Osucka, which was absolutely lovely – I’d call them hidden gems, but Magome was already surprisingly busy, I can only imagine how insanely crowded the town has been and probably will be again soon.

May: Oga, Akita, Tsuruoka, Niigata, Aizu-Wakamatsu, Ouchi
Golden Week was my final opportunity to travel before most of Japan will turn into a hot and humid hellhole for about four months, so I went to Tohoku for the first time in three years, mainly for those locations: The Namahage Museum in Oga, Dewa Sanzan and the five-storey pagoda of Mount Haguro as well as Aizu-Wakamatsu for the Sazaedo (a 225 year old wooden temple with a double-helix staircase) and the Ouchi post town – and my really high expectations were fulfilled and partly surpassed. All of those places were absolutely gorgeous, especially the pagoda and the temple; both of which I had to myself for a couple of minutes between small groups of people supporting domestic tourism like I did. To get to Ouchi I took a tourist train to Yunokami Onsen that featured animations in dark tunnels and made special stops at Ashinomaki Onsen Station (as it “employs” cats as the station master and the rail manager…) as well as at scenic spots along the route. I was the only passenger that day, so the train driver consulted with the conductor that I had taken all the photos I needed before continuing, while the train’s shop lady (on special trains exclusive merchandising is often sold) was visibly amused by the situation; of course there were limits to that, bit apparently we had two or three minutes of wiggle room and weirdly enough they let me take advantage of that!

Final thoughts
Attached you’ll find a rather large gallery… the largest in Abandoned Kansai history. All photos are freehand snapshots as I didn’t bring my tripod or much time to any of those late winter / early spring trips, on some of which I struggled with the weather and lighting (wind, rain, snow, rather extreme temperatures, (lack of) clouds, darkness). Despite having done a lot less urbex than usual this year, this was definitely my most active and probably my favorite spring I’ve spent in Japan. Overtourism has become a problem for many countries and maybe this health crisis will initiate some change – domestic tourists should be more appreciated instead of alienated… and quality instead of quantity be attracted!
I don’t think anybody who experienced 31.9 million tourists to Japan in 2019 really wants to live through 60 million tourists in 2030… Not even the many of my friends who actually work(ed) in the tourism industry!

Oh, and if you are interested in specific locations or trips let me know – I might expand some of those quick sneak peaks into full articles. But first I will publish a spectacular abandoned place next week, one of my all-time favorites. Easily Top 10! 🙂

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What do Star Wars and Nicolas Cage have in common? Not much, really – just that his latest movie, Prisoners of the Ghostland, was shot at a location that in winter looks like the snowy battleground of Hoth!

Usually I don’t do revisits. They bore me, they bore you, they don’t do well here on Abandoned Kansai. But there are exploration days when I’m not in charge of the location selection, which sometimes is a good thing (as I get taken to places I didn’t even know existed) and sometimes is a bad thing as I’m stuck at places I don’t like or already have documented extensively. In early 2018 I was on the road with a large group of people (the largest ever, almost a dozen explorers in two large cars) and it was really chaotic as nobody wanted to take the lead (or listen to the only gaijin they apparently considered pretty much dead weight), so there were endless time-consuming consensus discussions, but not much exploring – and of course in the afternoon we ended up at the almost touristy *Sumitomo Osaka Cement Factory, which I had explored about 4 years earlier on a late summer morning*. Seriously annoyed by the inability of the group to make decisions I teeth-gnashingly got out of the warm car and into the mid-winter cold. (While there is no winter in central Osaka, you can definitely get to some snowy areas in day trip range. Not real winter like in Hokkaido, but at least it’s worth putting on a jacket…)
The different time of the day and especially the different season with the completely different weather made this one of the few revisits actually worth my (and your!) time. The outdoor part wasn’t that much fun since the area was completely covered in snow. Not deeply, but enough to make walking around a bit iffy as you never knew what you would step on / in next – and it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photos that I realized that the area had a very strong Star Wars vibe; like after the battle on the ice planet Hoth. A completely different atmosphere than in early September… and an almost completely overgrown building was all of a sudden accessible again. In summer vines and other plants covered pretty much all of the ground floor windows and especially the doors, so the it was only upon my second visit that I could enter the building – which wasn’t spectacular by any standards, but a nice addition to the exploration and the photo set, despite the rapidly fading light.
The winter / Hoth story would have been enough to justify another article, but fortunately I waited a little bit longer and so it happened that Nicolas fucking Cage, hero in two of the best action movies of all time, shot his currently latest movie at this exact same location in late 2019. Of course I found that out after the fact or otherwise I would have tried to sneak a peek. But hey, it’s still the same location I’ve explored twice extensively. Interestingly enough a young Japanese woman called Riko Shibata somehow got access to the venue or at least the film crew – Cage met her in Shiga when she was 24 and he was 55, about one and a half years later they got married in early March of 2021; her first, his fifth marriage. Oh, and the movie is called Prisoners of the Ghostland, directed by Sion Sono and probably way too violent for my fragile little mind. So I hope one day I’ll be able to skip through a Blu-Ray or a stream and watch the scenes shot at the *Sumitomo Osaka Cement Factory*.

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You like abandoned places, gorgeous views, and hikes on beginner level? Then Hokkaido’s Toya-Usu Geopark is perfect for you! Experience a post-apocalyptic scenario in walking distance of a relaxing spa town…

Less than two hours south of Sapporo and its New Chitose Airport is the often overlooked Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark, an era with about 110000 years of activity. Back then an eruption caused a large depression to form, which filled with water over time and created what is now known as Lake Toya. Near its southern shore is Mount Usu, a rather active volcano that erupted at least nine times in the last 350 years, four times since 1910. The 1910 eruption is of importance as it created the foundation of Toyako Onsen, a rather new spa town in comparison to classics like Dogo, Hakone, or Arima. The 1977-78 eruption lead to quite a bit of destruction *as described in my 2013 article about the twisted and now abandoned Sankei Hospital*. But that didn’t keep people from building and living in the area – and some paid a price for that when Mount Usu erupted again in 2000, causing roads to twist and landslides to flood whole buildings. While the Sankei Hospital was just a single building with not much tourism prowess, the good people of Toyako turned lemons into lemonade. They cleaned up the area, constructed some landslide catching dams for safety and built some hiking trails through the destroyed area and past some craters.
The Kompirayama Walking Trail leads from the Toyako Visitor Center past the destroyed bath house and a severely damaged apartment building up the mountain past the Tama-chan crater and the Yu-kun crater as well as an abandoned factory to a sparsely populated area now predominantly catering to tourists – a little hotel, some shops, a bus stop, and a public toilet. It’s also one end of the Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail, which leads past the Nishiyamakakofuchi Park and its destroyed and sometimes flooded road up the mountain to several observation decks and then down again next to several destroyed buildings (one of them incorrectly labelled “Collapsed Kindergarten”) to the actual collapsed kindergarten. From there you can either walk to another bus stop, back to the bus stop between the trails or all the way back to Toyoko Onsen. It’s not a difficult hike by any means (hence probably the name walking trail), but there are some steep and slippery passages, especially after some precipitation – which is probably the main reason why at least the Kompirayama trail is closed from mid-November to mid-April; not sure about Nishiyama trail, which has much fewer muddy parts, but is secured by lockable gates.
I had the pleasure to walk along both trails in early November 2020, towards the end of autumn leaves season and just days before the Kompirayama trail was closed for the winter. At about 10°C the weather was comfortable, but rain on the days before made some part indeed dangerously slippery. It also didn’t help that the weather was constantly changing every 20 to 30 minutes: sunny, overcast, rainy, light snowstorm and back again, sometimes skipping one condition. (*Much like when I was exploring the nearby Chinese themed park Tenkaen eight years prior!*) So… yes, all the photos in the gallery below are from the same day and were taken with the same camera and settings, though they look quite different. It were the abandoned buildings at the foot of the Kompirayama trail that motivated to do those hikes, but there was so much more to it – especially the views at Lake Toya from the Yu-kun crater, the post-apocalyptic scenery of the destroyed and flooded road between the trails and the view at Uchiura Bay from the observation decks of the Nishiyama trail. Having done this on a mostly overcast day in late autumn during a pandemic just added to the post-apocalyptic atmosphere as I was mostly by myself with no other hikers around – I saw two or three other groups with less than a dozen people in total. Wonderful, just wonderful!

If you like Japan, abandoned buildings and easy hikes, this is a dream come true. And if you should ever plan on doing those hikes, stay a night or two in Toyako Onsen. It’s a really lovely area ignored by most tourists on their way to Hakodate, which is a real shame, because there is easily enough to see and do to keep you busy for two or three relaxed days – much longer even if relaxation is what you are looking for! (*BTW: If you are looking for more risk free urbex places for tourists, have a look at my special by clicking here!*)

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Interior shots and a completely new area (the outdoor swimming pool!) – this revisit almost felt like a completely new exploration!

Yes, I admit: I don’t like revisits, usually I don’t do them. When I explore a location I do it either until I’m satisfied or until I run out of time; the latter happens, but usually after I’m satisfied, because if I can guestimate that I won’t be able to explore a place properly, I usually don’t start. Another reason is: revisit articles usually don’t do well, except for maybe *Nara Dreamland* BEFORE it was demolished. Other than those revisit articles performed exceptionally poor in the past.
This case is a bit different though. First of all, *the original article about the Silent Hill School* did rather well. Both the location and the write-up were quite atmospheric, so I look back on that fondly in many ways. And then there is the fact at my revisit I had access to areas not accessible during my first exploration.
Unfortunately I still didn’t find a way into the school. It was still tightly locked and even had “24h SECURITY CAMERAS” signs in some windows. Whether or not that claim was true I didn’t test, but I’ve never broken into a place anyway. But probably the same person responsible for the signs also opened up some of the curtains, so I was able to get some interior shots, which in my book is almost as good. Sure, no artistic angles, but at least y’all now know what the Silent Hill School looks like inside.
As for the outdoor pool – it was fully accessible this time and I could move around freely, only limited by some shrubs. Why now and not last time? Because last time I went there in autumn, the time of the year when Japan is the bushiest. The staircase to the pool and the area leading up to it was just so overgrown that it would have required some serious gardening before access would have been possible. In late winter on the other hand everything laid bare and ready to access.
Revisiting the Silent Hill School didn’t feel like a revisit, but more like a continuation. Sure, the shrubby vegetation changed, but the surrounding trees were the same, the school was basically the same… and most important of all: the weather was exactly the same; even the time of day was! So unlike previous re-explorations this one was actually great fun, despite the fact that I didn’t have my tripod with me; but shooting freehand made everything more flexible and dynamic – and I really hope that you like the new photo set! *If you have forgotten about the abandoned Silent Hill School or need just a quick reminder of what happened the first time, just click here on this sentence!*

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An abandoned Roadside Restaurant might not sound like the most exciting location, but sometimes it offers a good opportunity for a little rant… 🙂

I’ve been in a bit of an exploration slump since 2019 – quality I’m still very pleased with, but quantity has been suffered due to empty promises, wives, kids, and / or pets; (un?)fortunately none of them were mine, which makes the whole thing even more disappointing. And as y’all can imagine, Covid-19 didn’t exactly help. Though it did offer new opportunities, to be frank. In recent years Japan has become much more popular among tourists from overseas – to a point where overtourism had become a problem. Personally I stopped going to places neighboring places like Kyoto or Himeji for leisure around 2014 or 2015, but even at sightseeing spots off the beaten Shinkansen tracks it happened more and more often that I’ve heard more Chinese or Spanish at tourist spots than Japanese – which is a real atmosphere killer to me. (And yes, my reaction would be same hearing predominantly Russian at the Coliseum, Italian at the Louvre, French at the remains of the Berlin Wall or German at the Red Square.) Since Japanese people traditionally lived a life of social distancing (Do you know the Japanese term for ghosting? It’s “regular communication”…) and are used to wearing masks, their country was hit by Covid-19 much less than most other countries, so the imposed restrictions were much less… restrictive. Especially travel restrictions within the country. During infection peaks it was recommended not to travel, and I followed all those recommendations, but when it was allowed, I used the opportunity – and saw Matsue Castle with nobody else around, the snow monkeys with maybe 20 other people, and on a six day trip to Hokkaido I didn’t see another Caucasian except for at New Chitose Airport. So instead of lamenting about having fewer people to urbex with I used my new won spare time to visit some places I considered lost forever to the Eurasian hordes (don’t let that get to your heads, people from Eastasia, Oceania, or the Disputed Territories – all animals are equal…). Now, when I travel not for urbex I prefer to travel light – no tripod, sometimes even just one instead of two lenses. I also obviously don’t plan around abandoned places, but look for interesting museums, local food, unusual experiences, and beautiful scenery. But at this point it seems like I don’t have to look for abandoned places anymore, they tend to find me – whether I’m prepared or not. And if I’m not prepared, I either have to ignore the place or make the best of it…

In the case of the Roadside Restaurant I tried to make the best of it. It was a rainy day, I didn’t have my tripod with me, and to be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for a solo exploration. But the place was a bit out of sight and easy to access, so I played the cards that I was dealt and went inside. Congratulations, another abandoned restaurant – well, not all abandoned places in Japan can look like *Nara Dreamland* or the *Hachijo Royal Hotel*, otherwise even Japan wouldn’t have several millions of them. Most abandoned places in Japan actually look like this one here and not like the average one on Abandoned Kansai! After all I’m doing my best to find “beautiful” / interesting abandoned places and take pictures to make them look “attractive”, but sometime the amount of abandoned places in Japan surprises even me – not counting the dilapidated buildings that are still in use!
Anyway, there’s not much to say about the Roadside Restaurant. It was there, I went inside, I took some pictures freehand at crazy high ISO, prepared them for this blog and wrote this rant.
So here we are… Another Tuesday… Confronted with mediocrity… Hoping for something better next week… Just like in real life! But please keep showing your support… or one week there might not be a next week…

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Another year, another holiday season, another beautiful abandoned love hotel – this time probably my favorite one, the Japanese Castle Love Hotel. Merry XXX-mas!

2020 has been a spectacularly bad year for many of us… and the urbex scene was no exception. The dangers of the ever changing coronavirus situation kept a lot of people from exploring, while demolition crews did a surprisingly good job clinging to their jobs, resulting in the disappearance of quite a few famous locations. The Japanese Castle Love Hotel (JCLH) fortunately didn’t end up as a pile of rubble, but I wasn’t able to explore any abandoned love hotel for the first time in years, so for the 2020 edition of the Merry XXX-mas tradition I chose my favorite abandoned love hotel of all time, explored in 2018.
As I mentioned before, love hotels can often be found in clusters either in the center of big cities (Umeda / Namba in Osaka, for example) for easy access on foot or in the outskirts / between smaller cities for easy access by car. The Japanese Castle Love Hotel (guess why I named it that way…) was part of the latter category and more of a motel than a hotel. The surrounding love hotels, about half a dozen of them, had been abandoned years prior – one or two of them will make it to Abandoned Kansai sooner or later, the rest was already so rundown, moldy and vandalized that I didn’t even bothered taking photos. When I first went to that area years ago the JCLH was actually still active, so when I passed through again because of another location in 2018 I was surprised to see it abandoned. Well, pleasantly surprised, because it turned out to be accessible for most part, yet basically unvandalized at the same time, which is a really rare combination. There were animal droppings here and there, but no graffiti or signs of destruction. Quite the opposite, one or two rooms were actually bigger and nicer than my own friggin’ apartment!

Visible from afar and eye-catching thanks to its spectacular castle design, the JCLH, an original find at the time, was an exciting and at times spectacular exploration. Most rooms were in pristine condition and all of them had a quite Japanese design – tatami floors, beautiful wood carvings, traditional art elements. I don’t know anything about the hotel’s history (except that it must have been closed in 2016 or 2017), but I assume that it was opened in the 1970s – it didn’t make a super old impression, but it definitely wasn’t a modern, flashy place; no jacuzzi or even pools, no beds shaped like rockets, cars or sports venues, no ceiling mirrors or elaborate lighting system (like at last year’s *Minigolf Love Hotel*, which I actually explored a day after this one…). Just a clean classy location with large rooms oozing understatement.

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