Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Nara’ Category

The demolition of Nara Dreamland has always been something I’ve been worried about ever since I first visited this wonderful place back in 2009 – and now it has begun…

The abandoned Dreamland, an originally barely touched and most recently quite vandalized deserted amusement park in Japan’s former capital Nara, had been a lost place too good to be true for most of its existence – well, except for security, which most likely was in fact the previous owner and his son, who had their offices in the blue City Hall building right next to the entrance and did occasional rides through the park to catch them some trespassers to hand them over to the police. Nobody seems to know exactly the line of ownership, but before the current owner SK Housing and the last operator, the supermarket chain Daiei, there was at least that father and son duo… and probably somebody else as over the years I saw variously labelled signs trying to scare urban explorers away, including LA Investment (エルエーインベストメント) and KK Dreamland (株式会社ドリームランド) – the latter being rather ridiculous as a kabushiki kaisha is a stock company, and I doubt that Nara Dreamland ever had been one.
But this is about the downfall of the abandoned Nara Dreamland and in my estimation that part began about two years ago, when the park was foreclosed and first put up for public auction – since then “security” sightings went down (guess why…), vandalism skyrocketed (guess why…) and everybody and their cousin went there to take selfies with phones smarter than themselves (though I have to admit that I met some nice people, too, especially recently). About a year ago Osaka based real estate company SK Housing bought the lot for 730 million Yen (I reported) and things went from bad to worse – whole groups of people strayed through the park and neither they themselves nor SK Housing apparently gave a damn about anything; young parents with their barely walking toddlers, teens screaming like little children while playing tag, twens grinding stunt bikes on benches and rails, barely walking senior citizens… In spring and summer of 2016 you could actually literally walk into the park without jumping a rope or a fence, or even passing a sign. Seriously, just watch the first video at the end of this article! And then the dormant SK Housing, claiming that they have no plans with Nara Dreamland upon being asked by Japanese friends of mine in late 2015, woke up!

And so it began…

First SK Housing placed a ton of scaffolding on the parking lot at the main entrance, probably in May 2016… and they protected them with two new solid construction fences. Then barely anything happened for another four months, they didn’t even care to close the open gate. How do I know? Because I was alarmed and curious, so I went to Nara Dreamland more often than ever before. Much more often. At first about once a month from May on, from September 3rd till October 23rd every weekend, except for that one in early October, when I caught up with my old friend and occasional co-explorer Hamish – and it was during those two months that things got interesting! VERY interesting…
During my first couple of visits I realized that the amount of stored scaffolding was changing, yet none of it appeared in the park. (What happened to it? I have no idea, they probably took it to another construction site.) So I used the time to document areas of Nara Dreamland I hadn’t been to before, some of them I haven’t even seen anywhere else on the internet. I climbed water slides, had a closer look at the castle, went inside fake Mount Matterhorn, and even found a whole new building nobody seems to know about.
On September 9th SK Housing started to become really active by putting up office containers and porter potties at the lower end of the parking lot, the large construction fence with the main gate. A week later I saw heavy machinery inside the park, yet it was still possible to walk right in – so I took the already mentioned last chance video. When I came back on September 24th, I realized that prep work had begun in the week of September 19th. The previously mentioned office in the City Hall was cleaned out, so were several other buildings of the fake Main Street USA. And while I was taking photos, I got yelled at and shooed away by an older Japanese dude wearing a pink shirt, who was showing the entrance area to a business woman in her early 30s. So I left as they were most likely there on official business… and got right back in after I watched them leaving – staying till it got dark, shooting a video on the way out. A week later I saw that the removal of the plants along the main road had begun and that the gutting of Main Street USA was almost completed. What really shocked me was the fact that they destroyed the iconic Dreamland entrance sign there, without removing the arch-like building though. It turned out that this was my last relaxed exploration of Nara Dreamland as I spent the next weekend catching up with said old friend.
Upon my return on October 15th I was stopped by a French guy just out of sight of Nara Dreamland – he told me that demolition had begun and that he already talked to security and a construction worker; no way inside! It turned out that demolition indeed had begun on the previous Monday, October 10th, a national holiday. And while the prep work was limited to regular work days (Monday to Friday), a crew with heavy machinery was really active on that Saturday, demolishing the Main Street USA (probably because of the national holiday that week?) – most of the vegetation along the road had been completely removed during my absence, too, so everybody could have a good look from the outside at what was happening… At the same time gates were fortified and holes in the fence were fixed. Even old ones that had been there for years! According to large new signs in Japanese AND English, SK Housing had finally taken full control over Nara Dreamland, threatening to sue every unauthorized person caught on the premises. A Japanese only sign also stated that the construction site would be there till December 2017, which sounded like a reasonable schedule to demolish a large amusement park the size of Nara Dreamland. Boy, was I wrong – in more than one way!
So the next weekend I returned on a Sunday, in hope of finding the demolition site unstaffed. I wasn’t that fortunate. Instead pretty much all of Main Street USA was gone – security on scooters guarding both gates, the one on the upper street and the one at the main entrance. In the background you could hear machines smashing the merry-go-rounds to pieces. Not only did the crew work seven days a week, it turned out that they moved much faster than I anticipated. Much, much faster. In the two weeks since October 23rd the demolition crew not only got rid of the massive metal Screw Coaster, they literally tore through the wooden Aska roller coaster. I was expecting that they would dismantle it, probably scaffolding it first. But no, they just ripped through and tore it apart. (In German we fittingly say “Kleinholz machen”, turning it into small pieces of wood / firewood.) Same with the monorail station – and before you ask: No, I have no idea what happened to the monorail train. Probably “Final destination: junkyard!”. If the crew keeps up that speed, there will be little to nothing left of Nara Dreamland by the end of the year – which means that I either misread the sign at the main gate, or SK Housing will finish construction of whatever they are planning to build on the former site of Nara Dreamland. What that will be? I have no idea. When my buddy Hamish made a call just before SK Housing started prep work (in early September), their answer was that they are not talking to anybody about anything. Not photographers, not urban explorers, not the media – not future plans, not schedules, not people involved; not to anybody, not about anything. (Later I heard stories that even NHK was so desperate that they ran up to people and tried to interview them on the street, when they were just leaving the park; before the demolition phase, when it was still possible to explore Nara Dreamland in late September / early October – the NHK people obviously couldn’t enter themselves for legal reasons…)

It ain’t over till the fat gentleman sings…

Believe me, nobody is more devastated about this demolition news than yours truly! I started exploring Nara Dreamland before I began writing this blog; actually before I even considered writing it. Nara Dreamland is amongst the first dozen locations I’ve ever explored, it had been with me my whole urbex career – it’s in the background of my avatar (in the form of Aska). I’ve been one of the first urban explorers to go there… and I’ve been one of the last ones to go there. But just because the world’s most famous abandoned  (closed? 😉 ) theme park is currently under demolition doesn’t mean that you’ve seen the last of it! As I mentioned previously in this article: I have tons of material for more blog entries. Material you haven’t seen anywhere else before and now for sure won’t see anywhere else… Even this rather long article feels kind of rushed and contains only a fraction of the photos and videos I took in September and October. So there will be more in-depth updates about the last weeks of Nara Dreamland, about the demolition preperations, about the demolition progress… and about whatever is going to happen on the premises in the future. Abandoned Kansai always has been and always will be your #1 source for all things Nara Dreamland!
(Speaking of which – if you use information from this or any other article on Abandoned Kansai for your own work, please have the decency to link back; thanks a lot!)
Last but not least I would like to use the opportunity to draw attention to a location that did get much less than its share when I first wrote about it a few months ago, so if you have another couple of minutes, please have a look at the ultra rare *Shodoshima Peacock Garden* – you won’t regret it!

(For all your *Nara Dreamland* needs please have a look at the *Nara Dreamland Special*. *Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

To the day 10 years ago Nara Dreamland closed forever without a single ride being removed. Since then it has become one of the most (in)famous abandoned amusement parks in the world, attracting both urban explorers and vandals from within Japan as well as overseas. Let’s have another look… 🙂

The first time I visited Nara Dreamland was back in 2009, when hardly anybody knew about this strange Disneyland clone – and of course *I almost got caught while exploring the ice skate rental / conference / accommodation building*. The next time I went there, in 2010, I actually got caught by “security”, in hindsight probably the then-owner or his son. While other people reportedly were slammed with a fine or even handed over to the police, I was lucky… because when I realized that I was facing the same fate, I was able to run away.
Since then I’ve been to Nara Dreamland at least once a year – sometimes inside, sometimes just at the rather safe entrance with the huge parking lot and the two mystery buildings. Sunshine, rain, even *snow*. Morning, afternoon, night – pretty much every hour of the day, except maybe 9 p.m. till midnight. I went there alone, with friends, with friends of friends, with strangers. At Nara Dreamland I had some of the best urbex times, but also some of the worst urbex times.
Sadly Nara Dreamland turned out to be the place where I was able to witness how vandalism literally and figuratively ruined a once amazing location… and that process is actually still continuing, probably faster than ever. “Boys go to Disneyland, Men go to Dreamland” – with ridiculous, snappy phrases like that some people publish their Nara Dreamland photos. But the sad truth is: tourists and vandals go to Dreamland, men have been there 5, 6, 7 years ago.
When I first arrived at Nara Dreamland, the entrance was completely unharmed, the pay booth locked. Now the sign is smashed, the kiosk broken open and in shambles.
When I first arrived at Nara Dreamland, there were no graffiti anywhere – at least I don’t remember seeing any. Now half of the park is tagged – including one of the parking lot buildings, the entrance to the Main Street USA clone… and of course the castle. Yes, even the castle!
When I first took a video of the monorail in 2011, it showed some early signs of vandalism – now it is completely covered in spray paint, with a sticker on top: FC St. Pauli, 7. Herren. Soccer fans and vandalism? What a shocking combination… Although that badge doesn’t really make any difference considering the insane amount of damage in total, it kind of hit close to my heart as those vandalizing mofos were not only foreigners, they were (most likely) Germans – so let me address them in a way they hopefully will understand, despite having underdeveloped birdbrains: Ich hoffe, dass euer beschissener Drecksverein auf Nimmerwiedersehen in der Versenkung verschwindet!

What else is there to say? To be honest, I feel a bit tired now. Being reminded of how much Nara Dreamland suffered in the past couple of years really makes me sad (and I am not used to curse in German anymore…). NDL was such a wonderful place in 2009/2010, now it’s just a shadow of its old glory. Unfortunately there is no way to keep a place like that a secret. It’s too big, it’s too well-known amongst the Japanese population and theme park fans worldwide. 95% of the photos taken there are very recognizable; because of the wooden rollercoaster Aska, because of the Screw Coaster, because of the general cheap Disney clone atmosphere. Luckily that doesn’t apply for all abandoned places in Japan – so next week I will present you a truly unique location you’ve most likely never seen anywhere else before, even if you are into Japanese urbex as much as I am! Until then I hope you’ll enjoy some more photos I’ve taken at *Nara Dreamland* over the course of almost seven years (if you have an eye for details, you’ll find the same motorbike on several photos; needless to say that I never even touched it…) – most of them unpublished before, the rest to illustrate the soaring amount of vandalism at this once pristine abandoned theme park…

(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

Nara Dreamland and Abandoned Kansai are inseparable… A long time ago I brought you the first pictures (taken in 2009!) and now I publish the latest – none of the photos in the gallery below is older than 24 hours; some have been taken barely half a day ago, literally this morning, May 3rd!

My visits to *Nara Dreamland* have always been troublesome. I’ve been cut short by security twice and afterwards went to great lengths to avoid that damn guard(s). As much as I love the place, my visits there were never relaxed and barely ever a good experience. The same goes for the so-called *Golden Week*, an agglomeration of national holidays in Japan that causes the whole country to travel, which means that hotels, trains and tourist spots are crowded and overpriced as heck – which causes a lot of people to travel abroad, this year including my regular urbex buddies: honeymoon, vernissage, surprise marriage. Facing another disastrous week of binge-watching overrated TV shows or playing the Xth installment of a video game series I lost interest in half a decade ago, I decided to make the best of the situation. What better time of the year to mess with my biorhythm than the time of the year I actually have nothing better to do than to recover from a night and early morning stay at Nara Dreamland?
Last year it took me 10 days between exploring Nara Dreamland and publishing the photos here on Abandoned Kansai… 9.5 to be exact. On a regular weekend I would be able to reduce it to 2.5 days – but thanks to Golden Week I was actually able to lower that delay to half a day; which is as fast as I will ever get since I don’t take pictures with a smartphone… mainly because I don’t have one. 🙂
(Though I am sure you don’t really care how old the photos are. If I learned one thing over the last couple of years, then that Nara Dreamland pictures are always are crowd-pleaser – one I probably should have milked more often, as I still have whole sets of old unpublished NDL photos; not to mention the hundreds of photos of used sets I never published…)

My main goal for this visit was to duplicate some shots I took back in 2010 to illustrate the insane amount of vandalism Nara Dreamland has suffered from just within a few years – those I saved for a future article, but of course I took a lot more photos; some in areas I have missed during my first few visits.
If you follow the news closely, you might have heard that *Nara Dreamland* has been sold in November of 2015 to SK Housing, a real estate company based in Osaka. The previous owner owed the city of Nara something like 650 million Yen in property tax – and the only way to get the money was to foreclose the former theme park. After a failed public auction a year prior, SK Housing was the only bidder willing to pay the minimum amount of 730 million Yen, pretty much 6 million USD. This looks like a steal considering the property size of 297,000 square meters (3.2 million square feet!) and the fact that it comes with 75 buildings and other structures (that’s less than 20 EUR per sqm!), BUT the deal comes with some serious drawbacks. First of all: None of the buildings / structures are usable anymore – most of them are actually beyond repair. But even if you would level the whole park (which SK Housing has no plans for, according to a friend of mine who contacted them recently!) you’d have to invest several hundred million Yen more and then deal with nightmarish zoning regulations: new buildings are not allowed to be taller than 10 meters (the wooden rollercoaster Aska is 30 meter high!) and have to be used for libraries, museums, schools, sporting grounds, welfare facilities or a zoo – commercial, hotel, residential and retail developments are prohibited. So what is SK Housing going to do with their six million dollar investment? I have no idea…

(For all your Nara Dreamland needs please have a look at the *Nara Dreamland Special*. *Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

I’ve been to some amazing abandoned / closed schools over the years, one or two so spectacular and utterly beautiful they deserve to be preserved as museums – this isn’t one of them. But whenever I post a location in good condition, somebody leaves a comment (usually on *Youtube*, i.e. without reading the article) about how in other countries the building would have been smashed to pieces and how Japanese people are above vandalism – which isn’t true. There are just less urbexers in Japan, explorers tend to be even more secretive about locations (including a strict hierarchy I luckily don’t have anything to do with as an outsider), and with inner city real estate being so expensive, most untouched abandoned places are actually rather remote; good for some (no bored youth around!), bad for others (nobody hears vandals when they destroy places). And of course I rather explore places I expect to look beautiful than stopping at every pile of trash that is rotting at the side of the road – as a result the percentage of interesting places I explore is much higher than the percentage of actually interesting abandoned places in Japan. So before I showcase the next gorgeous school, you have to suffer with me through this one… 🙂

The Japanese School Beyond Repair I found next to a small hamlet (now abandoned) and several kilometers away from the next village, and it is just *another victim* of Japan’s post-WW2 energy policy on the Kii Peninsula. Back then the government decided to staunch several rivers with dams to install large-sized modern water power plants. The construction of the Sakamoto Dam began in 1957, from 1962 on the water level behind it was raised – destroying a remote village’s old school (founded in 1890!), so the new ferro-concrete building was constructed in 1964 as compensation. They even made it a combined elementary and junior high school, but since more and more families moved away, the school had a student body of five. Yes, it was so low, I had to write out the number! Five… in total – the school had more rooms than pupils! I guess it’s no surprise that classes were suspended in 1969, though the school wasn’t officially closed (and therefore maintained) till 1998.

Now nobody lives in the area anymore within a distance of about 20 kilometers, leaving the school defenseless to vandals – and it shows. Pretty much everything that can be broken has been broken. Windows, doors, furniture, a piano; everything! Some idiots even destroyed the parquet flooring in the big room on the upper story. And of course there are graffiti all over the place. Not nice murals you can sometimes find at other abandoned places, just some more or less random scribble. It also didn’t help that a mudslide or two rushed through the ground level of the school, probably after people with not enough parenting, but too much energy ripped apart windows and doors.
The school actually looked quite interesting at first sight from the outside, but the interior was just one big mess with the worst from both worlds, vandalism and natural decay. This probably is what abandoned schools should look like, but personally I prefer the nice looking ones with tons of items left behind – like the *Landslide School* I explored with the same people (Ruth, Chelsey and Ben) on the next day.

(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

A quiet mountain ridge. A rather new looking, but closed hotel. Fog creeping in from every direction – and all of a sudden an unexplained noise…

When I started taking photos at abandoned places six years ago, I went all by myself on sunny weekend days, using public transportation. Then I started to involve friends, recently we rent a car – that required more planning and allowed for less flexibility, yet most of the time we were lucky with the weather.
This wasn’t the case on a weekend in June… and not really a surprise, given that it was the middle of rainy season. And boy did it rain! Sometimes it only drizzled, there were even short breaks without any precipitation, but overall it was a pretty rainy weekend; especially in the mountains. After a few hours of driving, Ruth, Chelsey and I finally reached the mountain ridge we were looking for, welcomed by light drizzle. We parked the car next to a small shrine and headed over to some run-down abandoned buildings so moldy that we left after checking out the lobby. Time started to be of the essence as it was afternoon already, so we headed over to the rather new looking building – a closed hotel according to a Japanese travel blog, inside condition unknown as the guy didn’t dare to enter. At this time the drizzle stopped and fog started to creep up the steep mountain slopes. Surprisingly quickly we found an unlocked door to an untidy office room that looked like somebody stayed there for a while. At this point everybody’s general uneasiness went from “Should we really enter?” to “We probably shouldn’t have entered…”, yet we all tried to play it pretty cool.
On the ground floor of the Silent Hill Hotel (obviously a fake name, I could have called it Abandoned Hotel In The Fog or Eerie Fog Hotel, but it really reminded me of the famous video games series, especially in hindsight) we found the lobby, tatami party rooms, shared baths for men and women, a pretty messy kitchen and several offices / dorm rooms, probably for employees. On the upper floors were the guest rooms, western style with beds. Since the hotel offered little to nothing I hadn’t seen several times before, I rather rushed taking photos, much to the delight of my female companions. When it started to rain again and the fog almost swallowed the hotel, Chelsey and Ruth decided they had enough and returned to the car. I stayed behind on an upper floor since I wanted to take a couple more photos and the video tour – but I heard them leave and saw them outside. About five minutes later I heard a noise coming from the ground floor. Not a window closing in the wind or something. More like the door opening and closing again, definitely something rather heavy snapping shut. I assumed the girls came back, so I continued taking photos, kind of expecting them upstairs any second – but they didn’t show up. When I was done I decided not to wait any longer and get the heck out of this eerie building, so I started the video walkthrough… which turned out to be an unnerving experience, because not only did I go to the known areas I was already uneasy about, stupid me headed over to the back, the dark area, where the kitchen was – a part of the hotel the girls had seen, but not me as I was too busy taking photos; walking through the hotel all alone felt extremely weird, as if something was lurking in the darkness. Leaving an abandoned place with a camera full of good photos is always the best moment of an exploration to me, no matter how easy it was or well it went – but never was I happier than when I left the Silent Hill Hotel!

After returning to Osaka the next evening, Chelsey, Ruth and I had dinner at a local restaurant, recalling the weekend – and we agreed that the Silent Hill Hotel was by far the creepiest place we ever visited. Ruth said that she almost grabbed a crowbar lying on the reception desk shortly after we entered. I mentioned the second noise coming from the ground floor and asked if they returned to the hotel for a while – they said no, but confirmed that they had the same unwell feeling that something or somebody was lurking in the dark. If you don’t understand what I mean, watch the video at the end of the article, especially the second half. I only watched bits and pieces again to make sure that the quality was at least somewhat presentable – that’s all I was able to stomach. Even my solo exploration of an *abandoned mental hospital near Tokyo* wasn’t nearly as nerve-wrecking as this harmless looking hotel in a very scenic area of the Nara mountains… on a sunny day.

(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

The Partly Submerged Water Power Plant is one of the most famous abandoned places in Nara, probably in all of Japan. And everybody seems to approach it the same way: drive to the middle of nowhere, rent a boat for a ridiculous amount of money (something like 8000 Yen!) a few hundred meters down the Kitayama River, take photos from the water, leave – a few brave ones actually enter the building, but even those guys all get the same shots; boring! So Ben, Chelsey, Ruth and I approached the unusual setup from a different angle… the land side.
Getting to the Partly Submerged Water Power Plant by land isn’t an easy task and requires some planning – and since I hadn’t seen anybody done it before us, we didn’t know what to expect or if we would be able to get there after all. The road leading to the plant is blocked by barriers and warning signs from both directions, impossible to pass by anything bigger than a bike. On foot you should also discard the option from the west as you will run into a landslide or two sooner or later on this unmaintained, unpaved, basically abandoned road. If you approach from the east, the road is basically a mediocre, flat hiking trail. A nice walk if you wear decent shoes. If not, they may fall apart. Like Chelsey’s. As soon as we picked up the rental car in the morning and even before we had driven one meter, the sole of her shoes started to come off. But instead of making us drive through the Osakan suburbs for hours to pick up another pair at home or a store that would open hours later, Chelsey just smiled and said “I need some duct tape!” – tough chick, the kind you really want to have on an urbex trip like that. (Since the nearby 24/7 kombini didn’t have any, the shoes were later fixed with free package tape at a supermarket in the countryside… and then started to fall apart on the way to the plant. So why did I tell this story? Because it was hilariously funny to everybody involved, a key moment of this exploration, and as a huge sign of respect to Che-Che who raised even more in everybody’s appreciation.)
We were walking along that more or less trustworthy dirt road for about 20 minutes when all of a sudden I felt eerily cold, as if a dozen ghosts rushed through my body; or at least how I image twelve rushing ghosts would feel if they would exist. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, and I obviously don’t believe they exist, so there must have been another exploration. I looked up and saw a tunnel ending mid-air about 20 centimeters above my head – then I looked into the other direction… and there it was behind me, down in the water, the Partly Submerged Water Power Plant. We decided to explore the tunnel first and I had a very bad feeling about it, the place just didn’t feel right. After a while we reached a sharp drop with a sketchy looking ladder somebody left behind. Up there was a concrete reservoir construction very reminiscent of the *Kyoto Dam* I explored years before this adventure. Since I stupidly left my tripod in the car (not expecting tunnel systems to shoot in…) I wasn’t able to take any pictures there, so I left with Chelsey while Ben and Ruth pushed forward; basically confirming the Kyoto Dam thing from above, while I continued on to the dirt road to see the rest of the construction, obviously severely damaged, but nobody would ever need those concrete pipes again. Not since the 1960s, when the Nanairo Dam was constructed, slowly damming the river behind it from 1965 on, flooding several valleys and everything below a certain level, including this older water power plant, apparently built between 1929 and 1931.
A couple of minutes later our group was reunited, so we headed down to the power plant to have a closer look. There we even found two boats we could have used for the short ride of maybe 20 or 30 meters, but none of us felt lucky… or like stealing a boat. The sun was already setting and the light was quite difficult from that position, so after a couple of minutes we headed to the dirt road again and back to the car. Personally I never thought this location was very interesting, but approaching it by land and finding the massive concrete leftovers at the slope above the plant gave it a new spin – and as a group experience it was just incredible fun. There are many factors that make or break an exploration… and company is definitely one of them!

(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

We were driving down the mountain on a road consistently getting worse for about ten minutes when all of a sudden the navi wanted to send us in the opposite direction. Relying on the previously researched route we decided to continue… and five minutes later we reached our destination, a tiny hamlet in a valley of the Nara mountains, about 30 minutes away from the next town. It was a small wooden school that lured us there, but a neighborhood shrine turned out to be the secret highlight of this dying town.

Upon arrival we saw an old lady in front of her house opposite the school, so we exchanged friendly greetings and headed over to the orange bridge, leading across a gorgeous stream into a cypress hurst. There it was, the wooden neighborhood shrine, in perfect harmony with its surrounding – such a spiritual atmosphere, exactly what you expect to see when you hear “wooden shrine in a cypress grove in rural Nara prefecture”.
A few minutes later we headed over to the school – smaller than expected, but nevertheless quite charming. To the left we found two small class rooms for maybe half a dozen students each, to the right was a rather large room for a regular size class, probably also used as an auditorium and gym. In one of the smaller rooms we found a large soroban (a Japanese abacus), while the bigger room was filled with wooden boards, which had been there for at least a year since I’ve seen them on a Japanese blog before. The black piano in the corner instantly caught my eyes, but with keyboard instruments in pretty much every abandoned Japanese school, the nearby ceiling fixtures looked much more interesting to me. In addition to electricity plugs and a lamp, there was a rather simple compass rose and a mounting for large maps.
The rest of the school was a lot less interesting – a mostly empty room in the back, probably once some kind of a teacher’s lounge / storage room, plus some urinals / restrooms outside. Luckily my fellow travelers Chelsey and Ruth didn’t mind, so while I wrapped up shooting the school, they sat outside and made friends with the village dog; in *the DPRK* it probably would have been named “beige”…
Spectacular abandoned Japanese schools like the *Landslide School* or the *Stolen Anatomic Model School* feature buildings with several floors, tons of left behind items, and spectacular views – the Nara Countryside School on the other hand impressed us with its remote yet sublime location and an overall relaxed atmosphere. Osaka more often than not turns into Osucka, so just being in such a serene surrounding was a reward by itself… and a perfect start into a road trip weekend with occasional urban exploration.

(*Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »