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Archive for the ‘Nagasaki’ Category

You like the aesthetics of abandoned places, but are afraid of the risks involved? Now that *Nara Dreamland is completely demolished*, how about a trip to Kyushu? The former mining island Ikeshima is happy about every visitor and welcomes them with open arms!

When *I first visited Ikeshima* in 2011 I arrived as a sceptic and fell in love with the island over the course of my eight hour long stay. It was a windy, humid, late spring day, but the amazing variety of abandoned places on the island was completely satisfying, yet it kept me yearning for more as I simply ran out of time at the end of the day without having seen most of Ikeshima. Nevertheless it took me five years to come back! Ikeshima is a bit off the beaten tracks, and there was always a new place that seemed to me more interesting… until the spring of 2016! (If you are interested in the fascinating history of this mining island that once was the home to up to 20000 people, I strongly recommend reading the *original three part series* I wrote six years ago. This is just a mere update / add-on for people who want to know how the island has changed over the years.)
Ever since the mine on Ikeshima closed and everybody but 300 people left the island, Ikeshima wanted to be a tourist attraction. Right at the harbour visitors can find the first tourist map, as sign that has seen better days. But with only one restaurant and no accommodation, Ikeshima wasn’t exactly a tourist magnet and only attracted a handful of fishermen and one or two photographer per weekend. That as changed quite a bit. First of all – you can stay over night on Ikeshima now! The former city hall is now a museum / ryokan for up to something like two dozen guests, there is a small supermarket now, and two or three eateries. And though the number of guests per day must have at least quadrupled over the last five years, you still see barely anybody on the Ikeshima, unless you are at the harbour or near the ryokan. Another thing that changed in comparison to five years prior is the amount of barbed wire. Even in 2011 large parts of the island were off limits, but that area grew quite a bit over the last half decade. Remember how I was invited by those two workers to see the entrance of the mine? Well, that building is off limits now – the back secured by a large gate, the front by a barbed wire gate. Since I had great memories of that building and wanted to have another look at it, I was like “Screw it!” and about to make it past the barbed wired gate, when I saw a couple of people in the distance – luckily I was able to retreat before I was seen – as it turned out that you can book guided tours on the island, but you have to give a few days notice. Most apartment buildings are off limit now, too, with extra layers of barbed wire. For good reasons. Especially the large apartment blocks on a slope that once were accessible from above and below are deathtraps now. And by that I not only mean the rusty bridges with holes in them which connect several block with each other… even standing in front of the buildings in the strong spring wind gave me a bad feeling, as if an AC or part of the roof could break loose and kill somebody below just minding their own business.

Despite the new limitations I tremendously enjoyed my sunny early spring day on Ikeshima. The atmosphere on the island is just fantastic, and the tons of books and old photos in the (free of charge) museum are super interesting. Since it still takes quite a bit of effort to get to Ikeshima, it will probably never become a popular tourist destination – which is fine by me as I still haven’t seen about half of the island. Maybe I should go back there… and stay over night. I’m sure it would be quite an experience…
And if you still haven’t read the old articles, *I recommend having a look now* – tons of information, photos, and videos are waiting for you!

(Since the inhabitants of Ikeshima consider their island a tourist attraction I added it to the *Map Of Demolished Places And Tourist Spots* and created *a new map just for Ikeshima*. If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)

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The Saikaibashi Corazon Hotel Monorail is one of those surprise locations you stumble upon every once in a while. *A year ago during Golden Week* I was on my way to the *Saikaibashi Public Aquarium* and went down some steps minding my own business when all of a sudden I saw something overgrown through the bushes. At first I thought it was the entrance of the aquarium, but getting closer it was pretty clear that this was some abandoned transportation device. A red cabin with very dirty greenish windows. So my second idea (which lasted for the rest of the trip) was that this monorail granted access to the aquarium and therefore was somehow connected to it.

Well, I was wrong, in more than one way. First of all the Saikaibashi Corazon Hotel Monorail technically isn’t really a monorail, at least not in the modern way – it’s more like a slope car (スロープカー/ surōpukā), kind of a sub-category of modern monorails. At least the Japanese term is a brand name of Kaho Manufacturing, so it might not be the proper word to use either, but I guess we’ll go with it from now on.

Since I didn’t know what a slope car was I better give an explanation in case you don’t either. A slope car is a small automated monorail that provides accessibility for handicapped or elderly people, usually transporting them between entrance gates / parking lots / buildings by avoiding stairs at steep slopes. In 1966 Yoneyama Industry invented a fright-only monorail system to be used in mikan orchards (mikan are very delicious seedless and easy-peeling tangerines). A system to transport construction workers and lumberjacks was developed later, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when the system became popular for the general public when Kaho Manufacturing entered the market with great success in Japan and Korea, installing 80 slope cars of their Slope Car brand alone.

I don’t know when the Saikaibashi Corazon Hotel Monorail opened or closed, but I guess it was after 1990. In 1996 it was still operating as I found a report in Japanese written by a guest of the hotel. He was using the slope car at the Corazon Hotel not to reach the Saikaibashi Aquarium, which was already abandoned at the time, but to get to the waterfront below the hotel. From there guests of the Corazon Hotel were able to board a boat once or twice a day to get to the nearby and then quite popular Huis Ten Bosch amusement park, a Netherlands themed park; Nagasaki and the Netherland have a close common history of more than 400 years, sadly the theme park never lived up to that history and is in danger of becoming an abandoned place for about 10 years now – half its existence. I guess at one point in time after 1996 the boat connected to Huis Ten Bosch was cancelled and with that there was no use for the slope car (capacity: 12 people) since the aquarium was already close a long time ago…

(If you don’t want to miss the latest article you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)

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If you are a regular reader of this blog you might remember my *rant about Golden Week* a while ago. To refresh your memory: I went to Kyushu for some urban exploration – my plan was to stay for four days, but I had to return to Kansai the same day, because I couldn’t find a hotel room; partly because I’m Caucasian, probably because my Japanese skills are limited.

Between the devastating news from the Sasebo Tourist Information Center (their staff was great though!) and me returning home I visited the abandoned Saikaibashi Public Aquarium, a location that gained quite a bit of popularity on Japanese *haikyo* blogs recently.

Sadly only a couple of urban exploration blogs, Western as well as Japanese, really care about the history of the places they present – a fact that sometimes makes it tough for yours truly to give you proper facts about the places I showcase on Abandoned Kansai. I’ve seen a really old photo of the aquarium taken in summer of 1965, so it’s pretty safe to say that it was in business already back then. The oldest photos of the abandoned aquarium dated as far back as 1996 – and on those photos the place already looked like nobody took care of it for a decade or two. The small floating platform in front of the aquarium did not have the wood and barbed wire installation yet, and the handrail on the waterfront was still there, but the concrete holding it up was already severely damaged.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a public aquarium still in business, but passing by the ones on *Mount Yashima* and the Kaiyukan in Osaka (which is one of the biggest aquariums in the world) I was under the impression that those installations are pretty big. The Saikaibashi Public Aquarium wasn’t big at all. Probably 6 or 7 meters by 35 meters, 2 floors (steps, no elevator). There was one huge tank combining both floors and several smaller ones on each floor. None of them were filled with water, hardly any had intact windows. The amount of vandalism was severe – no graffiti, but most of the smashable items were destroyed. The building being exposed to the elements didn’t help either – even on the upper level the massive concrete floor felt kind of unsteady due to the damages done in the past decades. And outside it was more than clearly visible how fragile concrete can be: the bridge leading to the aquarium collapsed at two different segments and I really hope nobody was walking there when it happened. Which is rather likely since I’ve seen photos of the intact bridge that weren’t that old – maybe 1.5 or 2 years. The chance that a fellow explorer took an involuntary bath is rather high…

What really surprised me, not to say shock me, was a fact I found out about only after I visited the Saikaibashi Public Aquarium. As small as the aquarium was, it seems like the main attraction of the place was a dolphin show! The now broken bridge, fitted with metal grids, limited an area known as the “Dolphin’s Cove” (イルカの池), show time was at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 as well as at 16:00 on normal weekdays and at 10:30, 12:00, 13:30, 15:00 and at 16:30 on weekends, public holidays and during the six week long school summer break that to the best of my knowledge usually starts in July when the weather becomes too hot and humid to spend time in a building without AC, which applies for most Japanese schools.

Though small and vandalized, the one hour I had to explore and document the Saikaibashi Public Aquarium felt a bit short. How often do you have the chance to visit an abandoned aquarium? But at that point I was still hoping to get a hotel room in Fukuoka, so I had to leave prematurely and hurry to save my third Kyushu trip…

(If you don’t want to miss the latest article you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)

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2012 didn’t start well for urban exploration in Japan – January has been a sad month for abandoned places in Kyushu. Two of the most famous haikyo in southern Japan were demolished:
The demolition of the *Kawaminami Shipyard* didn’t come as a surprise. It was decided on June 9th 2011 by the Yamashiro City Zoning Committee and executed in mid-January 2012 after all the greens were removed in late 2011. Nevertheless it is a big loss to the urbex community in Japan as it was one of the few locations that aged for decades without being affected much by anything but nature itself.
At the same time (late 2011 / early 2012) an up-and-coming location called *Navelland* was destroyed just 70 kilometers away from the famous deserted shipyard. The former amusement park was turned into a lot to soon become another campus of the Teikyo University. I was lucky enough to visit both places during Golden Week 2011 before they were destroyed and I have fond memories of both visits. You can find out their exact locations on my *map of touristy and demolished ruins in Japan*.
I guess it’s the normal run of things. New abandoned places show up, well-known ones get demolished. Nevertheless it makes me a bit heavy-hearted, especially since I decided a while ago to concentrate on western Japan and leave the east to all the blogs and people who live there. I already missed the famous Sports World in Izu for sure, but even if I change my mind chances are “good” that I might miss *Western Village in Tochigi*, the Russian Village amusement park near Nagano, *Kejonuma Leisure Land* in Tohoku and the Irozaki Jungle Park in Izu. Famous abandoned military installations like the Fuchu Air Base, Camp Drake Army Base or the Tachikawa Air Base. Popular deserted mines like the *Matsuo Ghost Town*, *the Taro Mine*, the Ashio Mine, the Murakashi Mine, *the Osarizawa Mine*, the Seigoshi Mine, the Kamaishi Mine or the *Nichitsu Ghost Town*. Not to forget the quirky remains of the sex industry like the Queen Chateau soapland, the Hotel Royal love hotel, the Fuu# Motel, the Yui Grand Love Hotel, the Akeno Gekijo strip club or the Pearl love hotel – and all the other places like the Royal House, the Small Pox Isolation Ward, the Japan Snake Center, the Okutama Ropeway, the *Heian Wedding Hall*, the many spas and resort hotels of the Yamanaka Lake, the Mount Asama Vulcano Museum, the Okawa Grand Stand or the Gunma Motor Lodge.
I probably forgot some famous spots as the east of Japan has plenty of wonderful abandoned places – but so has the west, and most of them are only described on Japanese urbex blogs until now. So I guess I’ll continue to focus on deserted locations east of Nagano / Nagoya, hoping that I will be able to see as many as possible before they falls victim to jackhammers, wrecking balls and other heavy machinery…


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Haikyo HDR photos or not… that was a big questions two years ago.
From the start I wanted to keep Abandoned Kansai simple. A blog instead of a homepage, photos directly out of the camera instead of massive post production – resize to 1024*680, URL in the lower right corner. That’s it. No cropping, not filters, no nothing. I actually shoot in JPG, for almost two years not even in the highest resolution. All the photos published on Abandoned Kansai are done that way. After some positive comments I started to take a few photos in NEF, just in case; maybe 2 or 3%, not one of them I ever opened. When I got a tripod, I started to use the bracket function of my D90 at maybe every fifth location – again just in case. After a while I played around with a freeware HDR program, just for fun. While I like the aesthetics of tone-mapped HDR photos I still consider them mostly a gimmick. Nevertheless I decided to publish some of my experiments – below are two samples, *for more haikyo HDR photos please click here*.
(Updates will be announced on *Twitter* and *Facebook*, not on the main page.)

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Sometimes I wish urban exploration was as simple as googling “awesome abandoned location nearby”, hopping on the train for ten minutes, taking two dozen nice photos and then spending the rest of the day at the beach sipping icecold beverages. Sadly it’s not. It’s never that simple and sometimes things go completely wrong.
Like me visiting the Sakito Mine in northern Kyushu. I was a bit nervous about the place right from the beginning since it’s in the highly unreliable “Nippon No Haikyo” book (by now at least half of the places in the damn thing must be gone…) and GoogleMaps, my trustworthy friend to confirm locations with high resolution satellite images, delivered rather blurry results until a couple of weeks ago. I found some homepages about the place on the internet, but most of the photos were rather old, like 2003-ish. The Sakito Mine was actually the location I skipped on *my first trip to Kyushu* to give *Gunkanjima* another try, so it was kind of a given thing I had to include it to my itinerary; the mine being rather close to Sasebo didn’t hurt either…
After my long and exhausting trip to *Ikeshima* I was eager to finally see the remains of the Sakito Mine, but things went from bad to worse by the hour. When I started my trip on a nice Thursday morning the weather forecast promised four days of hot and scorching Japanese sun, but Friday was already overcast. When I woke up early again the next morning the situation didn’t change, but I wasn’t worried a lot. Ikeshima was way too exciting to be worried again so soon!
I got to the ferry terminal on time only to find out that the boat to the island the Sakito Mine was on would leave with a delay of ten minutes. Usually that doesn’t really matter, but of course it made me miss my bus to the mine, so I had the choice of either waiting 80 minutes for the next bus or walking the eight kilometers. I kind of remembered the bus route, so I decided to walk – still not worried about the overcast weather. Big mistake. About halfways down the road, not a single person (or shop) in sight, it started to drizzle. Not very strongly, but in combination with the high humidity and a rather cold breeze not exactly comfortable. After a while it stopped and when I was finally dry it started again. Not real rain (which would have made me look for shelter), but drizzle. So I continued to walk along the coast, following the road up and down – getting wet and drying.
After about two hours I finally reached the area where I expected to find the leftovers of the Sakito Mine. I saw some of the remnants in the distance, overgrown and clearly blocked by (active) private property – so I looked for other remains, especially the apartment buildings I saw on Japanese photos and maps. When I found a chimney I remembered seeing on photos my spirits were finally lifted again. I saw more overgrown, out of reach concrete stuff (I wasn’t even able to identify it…), and then some apartment buildings appeared, reminding me of the ones I saw the day before on Ikeshima. I got closer and realized that they were once part of the mine, but that they have been fully renovated a couple of years ago – nevertheless they were almost completely abandoned, but still in good shape. Maybe one out of ten apartments still housed residents and the nearby playground wasn’t in good shape either – it wasn’t overgrown yet, but it didn’t look like a lot of children played there recently.
I knew that I was in the right area, and I also knew that most of the mine had been demolished right after it was shut down – but I was looking for some apartment buildings close to a huge park and restaurant. North of it actually, just down the road. When I reached the park the drizzle became rain and the light breeze became wind – it was raining almost horizontally. I fould shelter under some kind of resting stop, but I felt miserable: wet, tired, frustrated, unsure if there even were some remains left. The rain turned into drizzle again and I continued to follow the road. I found the fork to the north and of course it started to rain strongly again. This time I found shelter under a tree and after ten minutes I continued to follow the road down the mountain, only to find out that the blurry shadows on GoogleMaps were… blurry shadows – they surely weren’t the apartment buildings I was hoping for. Okay, wrong crossing… I followed the road to a different direction and to a street blocked by a massive metal blockade. That must have been it! I broke through the thick bushes next to it and followed the road for some dozen meters – only to find a flat area, big enough for some apartment blocks, but completely flattened; a wonderland for weeds. So I got back to the side road, saw another “Don’t trespass” sign and went down a rather steep road to a bay – again no signs of apartment buildings, although there should have been some of them visible according to the layout map I saw of the mine. I returned to the main road and followed it a bit more, not willing to give up. When I spotted the tip of another chimney I disappeared through the bushes again, this time to the south. I was able to take photos of some overgrown chimneys, but I couldn’t get closer as I didn’t trust the ground there – and the photos didn’t turn out well in front of the greyish sky. By now the weather was a draining mix of rain and… non-rain, leaving me contantly wet to some degree. Back to the main street I saw another possible location to the north, so I added some more scratches to my arms – again without getting the chance to take some photos.
At this point I gave up. I was tired, I was wet, I was dirty – and I’m sure I smelled pretty badly. At least the street I was walking along had some bus stops, so I didn’t have to walk all the way back to the harbor – but the next bus was coming in 30 minutes and the rain was getting worse again. I decided to go back to the shelter near the park down the road when a car passed me by, turned around and then again behind me. A few seconds later it stopped right next to me and an elderly couple asked me (in English!) where I wanted to go and if I needed a lift. Not that it happens very often, but usually I decline offers like that – not out of fear (it’s Japan…), but because I don’t wanna be a hassle for anybody. This time I gladly accepted. I was too tired and too disencouraged to worry about being a hassle. I just wanted to get out of the rain.
Being a foreigner in Japan you surprisingly often come across xenophobic people. Not at the typical tourist spots, but at shopping malls, off the beaten track roads and way too often in subway trains when they think you don’t understand Japanese at all. But the senior citizen couple I met in Kyushu were by far the nicest people I ever met in Japan, topping even the guy who helped Jordy and me at the *F# Elementary School* a couple of months earlier. They were from Beppu, but on vacation for Golden Week. Super nice people, and it was lovely to see them interact – they were exactly how you imagine kind older Japanese people to be; including the man talking (he did business internationally and therefore was used to speak English a bit) while his wife clearly understood more of what I said and translated for him what I said. They drove me all the way back to the harbor, a fact I’m still amazed about. I wasn’t trying to hitchhike and I must have looked miserably after walking in drizzle and rain without an umbrella for hours – but they turned around to offer me a ride, a male foreigner of all people. Not a lot of people would do that in Japan. Or anywhere else in the world. I doubt the two will ever read this article, but just in case: Thank you very much again, you lifted my spirits a lot and made my day a lot less miserable!
Back in Sasebo I was ready to go home one day earlier, but the staff at the little inn I stayed told me that the weather would be fine the next day. No more rain, so I stuck with my original plan. I took a shower and went to Base Street for a third time – and finally I got my “Special Size” burger, 15 cm in diameter, the best burger I ever had. Still as good as it was 14 months earlier and the perfect ending of a day full of ups and downs… (Well, lots of downs, but two insanely huge ups!)

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The best way of getting in contact with the locals on Ikeshima seems to be leaving camera equipment on the side of a street. It worked in front of the apartment complex and it worked again about an hour later just down the road next to the school. I left my belongings behind to take a video of the apartment buildings next to the abandoned baseball field. When I came back I saw a guy in his mid-30s and of course I said “Hi!”. His English was actually pretty good, so we started talking about the school and he told me that it still has 9 students – and as many teachers (although this number might include other staff like secretaries). I asked him if he was born on Ikeshima, but he wasn’t. A Kyushu native he studied in Nagasaki and then was sent to Ikeshima by his company – and he didn’t seem to be very happy about it.
For all of you not familiar with big Japanese corporations: In Japan you usually don’t apply for a specific position within a company after graduation (from senior high school or college), you apply at a company in general and then the company decides what to do with you. Commonly this includes intense training from several months to several years, depending on the company you got into. Of course your classes at university kind of give that education a direction, but it’s not unusual that somebody with a degree in mathematics or French literature ends up in marketing or HR – getting into a university in Japan tends to be a lot tougher than actually graduating, so companies tend to start from scratch after 3 years of drinking, sports and art clubs. And just because you are fluent in a second (or third!) language doesn’t mean the company makes proper use of that. (But if you are female and good looking chances are great you won’t have to clean ashtrays for two years – instead you most likely will become some supremo’s secretary.) The same applies for your place of work. Just because your company has its HQ in Tokyo doesn’t mean you won’t end up in a subsidiary somewhere remote. Like on an island off the coast of Nagasaki prefecture…
After the guy told me that he worked for a recycling company on Ikeshima we split since he had to get back to work – and I was eager to continue my exploration.
I was actually starting to run out of time, so I went back to the apartment building area I shot in the morning, this time more to the east. Some of the buildings had new plumbing outside and people were actually living there. At this point everybody I saw gave me a short nod, which I interpreted as a sign of “Yeah, you are welcome here.” – it felt really good. At an abandoned house the window next to the entrance door was broken, so I took a few pictures of the bike, cleaning tools and mailboxes that were still there. When I got back to the main street, route 216, I actually found a house that was open for visitors (I guess… it was unlocked, clean and had a sign in Japanese outside saying something about a room on the 4th floor). All the doors were locked and the staircase kinda smelled funny, but on the 4th floor I was indeed able to look inside an apartment that was arranged like a museum room.
Outside again I followed route 216 to finish my circumnavigation of Ikeshima. I passed by the noisy Ikeshima Urban Mine Co., Ltd. and several apartment buildings before reaching the old loading plant. On the southern side of the harbor entrance was a scrapyard where a single worker was moving rusty stuff around. In continued following route 216, taking some pictures here and there, before I reached the apartments at the harbor again, where my explorations started about seven and a half hours earlier, making my visit to Ikeshima one of the longest photo shoots I ever did. But it wasn’t over yet…
Figuring out the ferry / boat schedule when planning the trip wasn’t exactly easy since all the information was in Japanese and not really clear. I got some help from friends who are Japanese natives and confirmed the schedule with the hotel staff in Sasebo – everybody told me the boat (it actually was a boat, not a ferry, also in the morning – sorry for that!) would leave at 4.09 p.m., so when my ride entered the harbor at around 3.55 p.m. I continued to take some photos and videos. But something felt wrong watching the activities on the boat, so I decided to hurry to the terminal – and of course the boat left right when I arrived, shortly after 4 p.m.; thank you very much, guys! The people arriving on Ikeshima of course saw what happened and told me that there was another boat leaving for Sasebo today, but they couldn’t tell me when. So I waited and thought about the day – my rocky start and how I didn’t even enter any of the huge industrial ruins at the harbor. 10 minutes passed, 20 minutes… Then some senior citizens arrived at the terminal and I felt a bit of relief – I wasn’t the only one wanting to leave Ikeshima. At around 4.35 p.m. the boat to Sasebo arrived. As I took a seat while the ship left the harbor I had a last look at the huge characters in the sand of the breakwater and I couldn’t have agreed more: „絆 池しま 大スキ“ – „Kizuna Ikeshima daisuki“ – „I / We like Ikeshima a lot“
(Since the inhabitants of Ikeshima consider their island a tourist attraction I added it to the *Map Of Demolished Places And Tourist Spots* and created *a new map just for Ikeshima*. If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)




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