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People often ask me how I find all the locations I present here on Abandoned Kansai – and one of the answers is: Being lucky when driving around.

“Hey, over there. Kinda looks abandoned!”
“Shall be have a look?”
“Couldn’t hurt…”
“Oh, there is a handwritten “For Sale” sign at the entrance!”
“Shall have a closer look?”
“Well, there are roads on three sides of it… and the main area is lower than the streets, but we’re already here, so what the heck!”

Five minutes later we were in, constantly under the eyes of cars passing by, which was kind of nerve-wrecking, because you never know who actually sees you… and who might call the police or the number on the previously mentioned For Sale sign. Two foreigners at an abandoned factory? That wouldn’t sit well in any country, and two white guys stick out in Japan anywhere!
Usually I enjoy the luxury of shooting abandoned places with a tripod – for better framing as I don’t do enhancing post-production, for better picture quality as I can afford shooting on low ISO, and just for the overall experience. In generally try to lead a slow lifestyle, rushing things is something I dislike almost as much as pointless waiting. Considering the size of the Gifu Macadam Plant though, this really was a rushed exploration: 45 minutes including the video walkthrough. Luckily it was a very bright day, so I didn’t have to worry about exposure times for the most part, but the lack of a tripod also explains the rather low amount of indoor photos, though there wasn’t that much to see indoor in the first place. Despite the fact that the plant apparently was for sale, most easily accessible wires were already cut and stolen, rendering the plant useless; aside from all the rust and the clogged belts and… Metal thieves are a huge factor when it comes to urbex in Japan as they often do the dirty work of breaking into buildings. (Many years ago I found a newly abandoned hotel in the middle of nowhere, in excellent condition, probably with electricity still running – no way in. Last year I returned and found a jimmied door at the back. Everything was still in good condition, except that somebody stole all the ACs and looked for cable vents. I’ve never seen the hotel on any urbex blog and I still haven’t published my own exploration…)
Unfortunately I don’t know much about the Gifu Macadam Plant, except that it was still in use six years ago – thanks to Google StreetView. But I guess that’s not really a surprise… It belongs / belonged to a small local business with another plant. And this one actually looked pretty rundown. I’m no expert for industrial plants and I know a lot of them look beyond repair and still have a decade or two in them, but this one looked pretty busted. Being on the taller and heavier side I stayed on the ground anyway, but my more acrobatic co-explorer climbed some stairs and gave up after a while – and I’ve never ever seen him giving up. (Once he got two of us into an abandoned hospital after a circus worthy contorting performance…) It was nevertheless a fun exploration, a perfect snack on the way between two established locations – and a nice addition to the beautiful *Takarazuka Macadam Industrial Plant*, which I wrote about more than six years ago…

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A mystery building with countless and no purposes, but quite an unusual design – the Tang Dynasty Envoy Mansion raised more questions than it answered…

Most deserted places are abandoned for the same reasons: Usually they either ran into financial problems… or the owner died and nobody wanted to take over. It’s an unspectacular, but very, very common explanation. But it most likely doesn’t apply to the Tang Dynasty Envoy Mansion – a name so eclectic as the items left behind.
If you don’t know where it is exactly, you can easily miss the Tang Dynasty Envoy Mansion. Located at a remote road, after kilometers of seeing no other buildings, one just doesn’t expect one – especially since this one is separated from the road by a large parking lot, both the entrance to the lot and the building itself partly overgrown. I passed by with my dear friend Hamish and almost missed it… and then we considered skipping it, because it was heavily raining and we didn’t know anything about the location anyway. But to us abandoned buildings are like mountains to climbers – we just have to go because they are there… In the five minutes that followed we didn’t gain an iota of real knowledge, but we became significantly more wet on this damp and overall quite uncomfortable November day. It turned out that the building was C shaped and one of those brutalist constructions – raw concrete, which was still in pretty good condition. Doing research for this article I found some old satellite pictures from the 1970s, where neither the mansion nor the road were visible, so I guess both must have been built in the early 80s or maybe even later, probably another one of those bubble economy projects. “Hey, we have money or can borrow it cheaply! Let’s build a museum / library / whatever in the middle of nowhere!” And so they did. Two floors in one part of the building (consisting of a library with a restaurant on top of it) and a one storey part with a wavy ceiling that was labelled memorial hall… of some monk. Probably a state run institution to honor / study the Tang dynasty envoys to China about 1200 years ago – unfortunately my research about that ended with no results, so I assume that the building wasn’t used with its original purpose for very long and probably ended before the age of the internet. Which is kind of supported by the fact that it was lastly used as a storage for all kinds of things, including banners to advertise a local festival in 2005… and it’s more than likely that this was the last year of the repurposed use, not the first one. Sadly the part of the building with two floors was still tightly locked and inaccessible, but the other part offered a strange “collection” of all kinds of items. Glass showcases, lacquer boxes, banners, an old TV, library cards, a tape recorder, a porn magazine (don’t worry, they are censored in Japan anyway… and I added four black squares for all you faint of heart Americans who love to watch the most disgusting mutilations at prime time, but freak out over a nipple…), and many, many, many more random items – so signs of any library or institute allowing historical or social studies.

Even after all this time I still don’t know what to make of the Tang Dynasty Envoy Mansion. It was probably build in the mid to late 1980s and did whatever it was supposed to do for about 10 to 15 years before being used by the local authorities as a storage and finally shut down completely. Surely not an abandoned place one would travel far for, but it was definitely interesting to have a closer look, even though in the end we left puzzled and hoped that the next location would be more mainstream urbex… like the *Hachijo Royal Hotel*.

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Rundown, rotten, and vandalized – but still equipped with a unique pneumatic tube system. Even the worst abandoned places can offer some unusual things…

A few years ago, after I finally explored some abandoned love hotels (which I considered rather rare at the time), I started to publish articles about this weird industry and relationships in Japan in the week of Christmas Eve to wish you all Merry XXX-Mas. Since then I explored way more abandoned fashion hotels than there are Christmas Eves per year – so they started to pile up. Since I would like to keep this lovely tradition, I will continue to write about an abandoned love hotel as the second to last article of the year (saving the good ones for the occasion), but also write about other abandoned love hotels every once in a while… like about the Tube Mail Love Hotel. (Now that I think of it – I might have done that in the past anyway…)
At first sight the Tube Mail Love Hotel made an excellent impression. Located at a rural road outside of a small city, the building showed only few signs of vandalism. Abandoned love hotels are amongst my least favorite abandoned places as those in good condition are rather rare, but this exploration started quite positive, so I became hopeful for about five to ten minutes – that’s how long it took to get inside without being seen by the beekeeper (?) across the street and to reach the second floor. Sadly the story about birds and bees doesn’t have much of a happy end, unless you like dilapidated locations. And I know that a lot of you do like visible signs of decay, even signs of vandalism – like my co-explorer on that day. I on the other hand prefer clean, tidy, untouched places… maybe with some vines growing, but no mold, no brittle floors, no smashed interior. Unfortunately the Tube Mail Love Hotel was one of those latter places.
While the ground floor with the garages was still in decent condition, the two upper floors were just nasty. Every room was vandalized, there was mold and dirt everywhere – it was just one of those places nobody in their right mind would want to spend their spare time at; especially on a hot spring day. But we spent a significant amount of time, money and effort to get there… and a shitty abandoned place is better than none, so I took some pictures and a video, but I can’t say it was much fun. Especially since it was still before noon and we had a list of alternatives. I took my time on the second as I had a feeling that my co-explorer had quite a different opinion about the place, but after an hour I was done and moved on to the third and last floor – a quick walkthrough confirmed what I already expected: more of the same vandalized, dull rooms, barely fancier than regular hotel rooms. At least the *Fashion Hotel Love* had some kinky interior. This one? Didn’t. I don’t think I even took a single photo on the third floor, but behind the love hotel were a couple of bungalows… rundown shacks, most of them with garages – in other words: more rooms to check out. Surprisingly enough they were more interesting and less vandalized than the main building that was virtually destroyed by metal thieves, airsoft players, frustrated youth and other douche nozzles. And by interesting I mean interesting as in “This tastes interesting!”, because the shacks were even tackier and less tasteful than the rest of the Tube Mail Love Hotel – the glorious highlight was a wallpaper depicting a bar populated by dogs. If that’s not a boner killer I don’t know what is…

Long story short: Despite the kind of propitiating last minutes I really didn’t enjoy exploring the Tube Mail Love Hotel – and neither the wallpaper nor the tube system nor the Nintendo hanafuda cards (that’s how Nintendo started in the 19th century and got rich initially – fun fact: in the 1960s Nintendo actually owned love hotels!) changed anything about it. In the end we spent a whopping two hours at this waste of space, plus the time we took for this detour… Time that was missing at the end of the day – at an untouched onsen I found, where we probably were the first explorers ever to enter! So I really hope that you liked this place and this article! Urbex is all about one man’s trash being another one’s treasure – and if you like all of this, then it was time well spent after all, even in my book. They can’t be all win-win locations, like the *Hachijo Royal Hotel* or *Nara Dreamland*

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The Seagaia Ocean Dome in Miyazaki, closed in 2007 and demolished ten years later, managed to build a reputation as the world’s biggest abandoned indoor waterpark, though I’ve never seen any indoor photos as probably nobody ever explored it, because it was part of an active coastal golf resort and therefore just closed, not really abandoned. While outdoor waterparks are a dime a dozen in Japan (as standalones and part of theme parks or hotels) and abandoned ones therefore are not that unusual (everybody knows the one of *Nara Dreamland* fame), finding another closed / abandoned indoor water park was not that easy. I’ve been to some nice baths at hotels and onsen, but none of them would qualify as indoor waterparks in my humble opinion… until that one trip to the northern half of Japan, where I finally found the abandoned standalone Indoor Water Park…

Like so many other abandoned places in Japan, the Indoor Water Park was located deep in the countryside with only sporadic public transportation access – and even then it was about a half an hour walk to get to the gigantic metal and glass structure. (Unless the Indoor Water Park offered a shuttle service, which I seriously doubt… Maybe the now slightly rundown luxurious hotel (still charging 28k to 60k Yen (that’s 200 USD and more!) per person and night!) next door did…) But I guess that didn’t matter much back then… because it was the 80s!
Japan in the late 80s was one big party for pretty much everybody involved in finance and real estate – brokers, architects, bankers… even local politicians; they all went crazy and first made billions and then lost billions. The Indoor Water Park was a typical brainchild of that time. In 1987 the local government of a pretty successful onsen / skiing town funded a joint venture with private investors to create this indoor entertainment behemoth consisting of an upper indoor water park, a lower indoor water park and an outdoor water park. The first stage of development was finished with a large opening party in December of 1989, costing about 2.5 billion Yen, about 17.5 million USD at the time. To get returning visitor, the Indoor Water Park expanded aggressively, investing another 1.6 billion Yen (more than 1.2 million USD almost 30 years ago) in new construction by the business year 1991/92 – and that didn’t even include running / maintaining the facilities, advertising and all the other costs connected to a business like that. Heating alone most have cost a fortune and so the joint venture was spending money hand over fist. Of course the projected 300.000 rich visitors per year never showed up (the next bigger city has a population of a little more than 150k people!), especially since the crash of the bubble in the already mentioned business year 91/92 ran Japan into a recession the country never really recovered from. By 1996 the joint venture accumulated about 10 billion Yen in debt (almost 100 million USD back then!) and the whole area was panicking – and to stop the madness they closed down the indoor water park after just seven years.
Problem solved? Far from it! To get finances under control, the local government made a deal and promised to pay back 300 million Yen per year, about 2 million USD. No big deal for a big city or a $ billionaire… But the onsen town’s yearly tax income was about 700 million Yen per year at the time – and that started a vicious circle: The underfunded city wasn’t able to make necessary investments / repairs which hurt the onsen / skiing business, which resulted in even lower tax income…
Now the Indoor Water Park sits there like a set from a post-apocalyptic movie. A good portion of the glass roof panels are already broken, maintenance must be a nightmare. Yes, maintenance, because photos of the Indoor Water Park tend to be rare and old – and during my exploration there were signs of recent maintenance, unfortunately limiting my exploration. The upper indoor water park was basically completely inaccessible at the time of my visit – all doors were locked, broken ones were boarded up and screwed solid with blocks of wood. The only building I managed to get into was the starting area of the two water slides (160 and 200 meters long) that connected the upper part with the lower part and cost 200 Yen to ride… back in the early 90s. And not directly, but via the lower indoor water park. (The outdoor water park was inaccessible, too, unfortunately.) A pretty nice staircase, partly covered by animal feces, connected both areas – here too: recent maintenance work, you could still smell the wood. (Thinking of it, right next to the water park I saw a handyman doing a bit of woodwork, so some of the blockades might have been installed very, very recently…) So the lower part was the main area of this exploration and even though it made up for maybe 1/5 of the whole park it was still amazing! The water was covered by algae of the most intense green I’ve ever seen and even the rainy weather with its dull light couldn’t prevent the colorful trees outside from shining through the large window and making for an amazing background. Luckily the weather cleared up a little bit by the end of my exploration, so I was able to add some outdoor shots, too.

The Indoor Water Park was supposed to be my urbex highlight of 2017 – unfortunately most of it was inaccessible and I was only able to explore a small part of it. Nevertheless it was an amazing experience as indoor water parks are rare and the accessible part was still in good condition; especially considering that it had been abandoned for more than 20 years! And in hindsight I consider myself lucky to have seen at least this small part, because like I said: Most of the Indoor Water Park was locked tightly… and there were local cars passing by every other minute. By now probably even this part is inaccessible, because as you can see on one of the photos, there is heavy machinery parked inside, definitely city owned, which means two things: The local authorities still have an eye on the Indoor Water Park (the last driver probably just forgot to lock one single door…) – and they own the most expensive garage in the world!

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Abandoned ropeway stations are rather rare, even in Japan, where both aerial lifts and funicular railways are super popular – the Futuristic Ropeway on the other hand is not only deserted, it’s a real beauty!

Build in 1968 high above a river valley, the Futuristic Ropeway was actually part of a theme park on the opposite side of the valley. It basically connected a hotel rich area on the one side of the river with the amusement park on the other side, so people didn’t have to get into their cars or walk up a hill and then do a big detour only to pay parking fees – it was probably faster, cheaper and definitely more exciting to use the ropeway. The downside of that setup was that nobody else used the ropeway as it ended directly in the middle of the park. In late 2000 the theme park closed, and with it the ropeway. One and a half years later, in early 2002, the park was miraculously revived, but the Futuristic Ropeway, now a relict of the past, stayed closed for good.
The first time I went to the Futuristic Ropeway was a couple of years ago. It was the last location of the day and could barely be called an exploration – just a few outside shots until the autofocus refused to play along as it was already too dark; back then I didn’t even bother to look for a way inside.

Earlier this year I came back… again the last location of the day, but with about 1.5 hours of daylight left – which sounds like more time than it actually was as the whole ropeway station is in danger of being swallowed by the surrounding forest. Unlike *Nara Dreamland* in its last days the Futuristic Ropeway wasn’t exactly wheelchair accessible, fortunately I am a tall guy which definitely helped in this rare case.
The main area of the abandoned station was in rather bad condition – mostly empty, a bit moldy, flaking paint and wallpaper falling off. The old control panel in one corner of the main room was definitely the highlight of the lower floor. I’m sure 20 years ago it was very popular with the kids! The outdoor staircase leading to the platform felt a bit dodgy. Slightly brittle concrete blocks resting on a rusty metal contruction – 50 years after construction and without maintenance for more than 15 they didn’t look too trustworthy, but they held even my weight, so I guess Japanese explorers will enjoy them for at least another decade; you are welcome, fellow urbexers! In my experience only about half of the abandoned cable cars and ropeway station still feature vehicles – and the Futuristic Ropeway was one of them. It was actually the round gondola that inspired this location’s fake name. Parked in the left slot is was still hanging in. The door rusted shut and most of the acrylic windows pretty dirty, it was nevertheless quite an impressive sight, especially in the warm light of this spring day sunset. Unfortunately dusk laid itself upon the station quickly, and so it took less than eighty minutes to shoot this wonderfully decayed location. Thanks to a strenuous hike exploring the *Shidaka Ropeway* felt more fulfilling, but exploring the Futuristic Ropeway was a wonderful way overall to end a day full of surprises…

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And now for something COMPLETELY different – an abandoned indoor ice rink!

After more than 700 explorations (not nearly all of them successful, unfortunately…) in the last 8.5 years it is getting increasingly difficult to find abandoned places that are completely new to me – which is neither unexpected nor problematic, because each location is different and most of them offer enough variations in detail to keep me heading out there. The true motivator though is finding yet another location that is unique… and after about a year of in parts amazing “more of the same” explorations I finally spent one and a half hours at a unique place – and not only did I find it myself without any help or advice, I also explored it solo!
Located in the countryside and out of sight of any major roads, getting to the abandoned Ice Arena required quite a bit of an uphill walk on a really bright and hot sunny day. For a while now I don’t like to explore solo anymore for a variety of reasons (mainly safety), but sometimes you gotta roll with the punches, use opportunities and take minor chances. Fortunately the Ice Arena turned out to be an easily accessible solid concrete and steel building in overall good condition, but definitely abandoned (no security, problematic fences or alarms…). After some outdoor shots, one featuring decals of a cartoon dog with a striking resemblance to Muttley, probably used without caring much about a license, I slipped through a side door just open wide enough for me to fit through. Inside the area was surprisingly well-lit, even the staircases to the upper floor didn’t require the use of a flashlight – indoor explorations, especially solo, still make me feel quite uncomfortable, especially upon entering, but this turned out to be a dream location in almost every aspect! Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of items / interior left behind, except for the dozen hockey helmets somebody threw to the center of the rink.

Was the Ice Arena the most spectacular location I’ve explored in the past year? Not even close! But it was the first abandoned indoor ice rink I’ve ever been to and therefore it will forever have a special place in my urbex heart – especially since it was an original find, especially since it was a solo exploration, and especially since it went extremely smoothly; and the photo set overall is one I am very pleased with – not just because it’s unlike any other I’ve taken, but because it’s just a good photo set… one I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

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Never judge a book by its cover or an abandoned building by its exterior – the content might surprise you…

Even after more than eight years of exploring abandoned structures in Japan I am still in the lucky position that I know many more locations than I am able to check out – so I choose which places to explore depending on factors like distance, accessibility, weather, co-explorer(s) and several more. Since I am getting tired of mold and emptied fire extinguishers I tend to prefer rather clean abandoned places… which almost resulted in a big mistake recently, when my old urbex buddy Michael excitedly tried to convince me to check out that really rundown concrete shack halfway up a hill – because of some painted fusuma (you know, those sliding Japanese room dividers). A decade ago I enjoyed hiking much more than I do now… and when it’s uphill, it usually kills my urge to take photos, but Mike was excited like a young dog, so I dragged myself through a bamboo grove and up the hill to a rundown concrete building in miserable condition. Smashed windows, doors and shoji (you know, those sliding Japanese room dividers with the thin rice paper), dirt and rust everywhere, a missing outdoor staircase – a place so unattractive I wouldn’t even stop if I saw it on the roadside… or take my camera out… or take photos even if the camera was mounted on a tripod and ready to shoot. The lower floor was cluttered with all kinds of items, leaving just enough space to move around and get to the staircase – and my first impression of the upper floor wasn’t any better until I stepped into the tatami room and it seemed like a choir of angels started to sing. There it was, the daruma painting! Across the whole wall! Four fusuma in total! What a glorious sight! It was the first urbex photo I’ve taken in nine or ten weeks, so maybe I was a little bit extra excited, but seeing this work of art in the middle of rot and decay was just amazing! And then it got better… On the other side of the fusuma was a tatami room of the same size – and of course that side of the four fusuma was painted, too. With a large dragon! What a sight! I’ve been positively surprised before in rundown hellholes, but this brought it to a whole new level. Sometimes I take hundreds of photos at a single location and none of them are very memorable. And then I stepped into that dump and was rewarded with not one, but two absolutely gorgeous paintings! Needless to say that the rest was still a crappy building I couldn’t get out of quickly enough, so I took some quick shots upstairs, some more downstairs and one more focused one in the room with the three abandoned chandeliers, despite the stench in there. Sometimes I wish there was smell photography to immerse you even more… just imagine you average train station toilet, then you have a good impression, I guess.

So, yeah, long story short: rundown place, two good photos I’ll probably publish again and again for the rest of my life, Florian happy. Small gallery and short video this time, probably next week, too – then we’ll get to bigger locations again, promised!

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