Archive for the ‘Osaka’ Category

Even without the Olympic Games and the crippling tourist masses Japan has turned into a hot mess as the number of new coronavirus infections is exploding and a humid summer is descending on the pretty much fireworks and festival free country after a comparatively mild rainy season. “You’re living on an island – grab a beer and enjoy the beach!” is easier said than done as the coast in central Kansai is pretty nasty. It mostly consists of artificial islands and tons of large industrial areas. To get to somewhat acceptable beaches it takes me between 60 and 90 minutes door to sand (Suma / Omimaiko), the nice beaches at the “Korean Sea of Japan” or Shirahama are more like three hours away – not really suitable as day trips, especially in the days of social distancing and the mixed messages by the Japanese government and private companies about subsidizing a domestic travel campaign while dropping subtle hints regarding avoiding unnecessarily crossing prefecture borders. Yes, it’s one hot humid mess with temperatures up to 34 °C (felt like 37!) and a piercing sun – if you ever wondered about the origins of Japanese mythology, just spend two weeks in August in Kyoto or Osaka and you’ll easily piece it together yourself.

Anyway, heat, humidity, everything’s nasty and I’m not really in the mood for endless hours of research for a well-written profound article, so let me pick up on the Kansai coastline theme and post a few pictures I took nine years ago of an abandoned train line that once went from Osaka’s city center to the harbor. It was, most likely, a freight line built in the late 1950s that split from the tracks of the current Osaka Loop Line near Bentencho Station and went for a total of about 1.5 kilometers to Fukuzaki and the artificial island that is part of it. Since my solo photo walk back in 2011 most of the tracks have been removed, the rest looks more or less overgrown now. As railroad tracks are not very wide the narrow strip of land that has been reclaimed was used for very specific purposes – the Osaka Horie Boys, a baseball club for elementary and middle school kids, use a stretch to stretch and play sports, but most of the ground has been turned into commercial parking lots.

The Osaka Harbor Railroad was nothing more than a nice walk on a sunny autumn afternoon a long time ago, but hopefully some of you enjoyed my little rant or are railroad nerds who appreciate memories of disappearing tracks… And if you appreciate the memories of disappearing trains, *check out my article about this train graveyard*.

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The Tuberculosis Clinic For Children was one of the first abandoned places I’ve ever been to – and the first I failed at as I wasn’t able to get in… *the first time I went there in 2009*. The *second visit three years later* was much more successful. In 2014 the demolition of the Tuberculosis Clinic For Children began – and I went there just in time for a final exploration.

For many years this abandoned hospital in Kaizuka, just a few kilometers away from Osaka’s Kansai Airport, had been a top secret, remote location only a handful of urban explorers knew about – which is kind of surprising, because even during my second visit the buildings had been in a severely vandalized state. Surrounded by a small forest and next to some fields, the closest inhabited house were a few hundred meters away, so local up to no goods didn’t have to worry too much getting caught when causing some noise. Previously accessible without having to climb over gates or even passing “Do not enter!” signs, the hospital had been turned into a fenced-off construction site during my third visit, and I almost didn’t make it inside. Past the fence, between the two buildings connected by a roofed bridge, there were several construction vehicles – and while demolition hadn’t started yet, preparations were in full swing. After years of abandonment, the area surrounding the hospital was completely overgrown, nature actually started to swallow parts of the building. At that point about a quarter of the jungle like exterior had been removed to make it easier for the demolition crew to do their work. Inside not that much had changed. Quite a bit more vandalism, quite a few items missing – but the boxes with the patient files were still there. Knowing that this would be my last time to explore the Tuberculosis Clinic For Children, I took about two hours to take pictures and another walkthrough video.

Now, another two years later, it seems like the Tuberculosis Clinic For Children has been replaced by a riding hall and an affiliated Italian restaurant called “mori no komichi”, which means “small forest path”; a nice nod to the location of this new business. On the one hand it’s sad to see this unique place gone, on the other it’s comforting to know that a place where children once suffered has been turned into a place that kids can and will enjoy.

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Last week Lost, this week The A-Team – TV weeks on Abandoned Kansai! When I first arrived at the Hototogisu Hotel with my buddy *Enric* in February of 2010 (yes, this is the oldest unpublished location of mine I could find!), I was a tiny bit worried that we would get ambushed by those soldiers of fortune, considering the BA Baracus like fortifications of both access routes, but then I remembered that they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn even if their noses would touch the wood!

Back in 2010 the Hototogisu Hotel was one of the hottest urbex spots in all of Kansai, probably because people visiting faced a couple of challenges. First of all was entering the premises. Being located on “the other side“ of a typical onsen town river you could have either headed to the entrance via at least two bridges, one of them a then already collapsed suspension bridge – or you could have crossed a bridge suitable for cars and go to the back entrance via a parking lot. Sadly both ways were blocked by said fortifications that reminded me of that iconic 80s TV show. Or Mad Max. Or any post-apocalyptic movie ever made. Luckily Enric and I found a weak spot in one of the wood and iron made blockades, so we could face phase two: Entering the building. Unlike a lot of other places in Japan the Hototogisu Hotel’s lowest floor was completely bolted shut from the inside and the outside (as you can see in the pictures they nailed and screwed massive wooden boards from the inside to pretty much all doors and windows). So we had to climb an outside staircase, secured by lots of rusty barbed wire, wooden planks and other nasty constructions to keep unwanted visitors out. Doors were locked and nailed shut, so we had to climb through a narrow opening in the spikey wire fence, risking to fall two or three floors to at least serious injuries.

Sceptical at first I was able to follow the more adventurous Enric to explore one of my first abandoned hotel. Back then I still was a very inexperienced photographer without a tripod and only one lense, facing horrible lighting conditions with some corridors being completely pitch black… so sorry, the next couple of sets will be much more interesting!

I also still was a rather inexperienced explorer, so I didn’t fully realize what a rundown and vandalized place the Hototogisu Hotel was. Pretty much every room was trashed, pretty much every window broken, pretty much every item damaged, including a dozen dirty and partly „dismantled“ TVs. Back then I didn’t know about the *La Rainbow Hotel*, the *Nakagusuku Hotel* or the *Wakayama Beach Hotel*, so Enric and I felt like we hit the jackpot. „Look, there is even stuff left behind in the kitchen!“ Darn, we were easy to entertain! 🙂

But leaving the Hototogisu Hotel turned out to be a final challenge. We made it to the external staircase when we realized that a neighbor or something like that had spotted us and was waiting in front of the parking lot barricade – where we came in. Trying to avoid trouble, Enric and I decided to look for another way to leave. The other barricade was not an option, so we headed upstream… and discovered a second big building we didn’t even know about! Not in the mood for another exploration we took a dozen of quick shots and continued deeper into the premises, only to find out that it was cut off by train tracks! Luckily there was a way down to the river, and the river wasn’t very deep in that area. After figuring out a route from the top we headed down, crossed the river and climbed a quite overgrown and steep slope to the main road. Dirty and exhausted we returned to the train station, always worried that said neighbor was looking for us instead of waiting in front of barricade.

What about that second building you ask? Well, I returned a year later with another friend. But that’s a story for another time…

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Festivalgate was a post real estate bubble amusement park in the city center of Osaka, just down the street of the famous Tennoji Zoo and right next to a transportation hub combining two railway lines at Shin-Imamiya Station with the tramway stop Minamikasumicho and the subway station Dobutsuen-mae (literally “in front of the animal park”) on the city’s main line Midosuji – although “amusement park” doesn’t really nail it, since the park part was missing. Festival Gate was more like an amusement building with all kinds of arcades, shops, a cinema, restaurants and a rollercoaster on eight floors with a total floor space of more than 5700 m². Though located in a densely populated area with perfect connection to public transportation Festivalgate offered parking space for 380 cars and 120 bikes. Nevertheless it failed twice within 10 years…

I guess the planning of Festivalgate started during the bubble (1986-1991), when the Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau got rid of the Tennoji Streetcar Garage (大阪市電天王寺車庫). The then leveled lot was split into two parts, A and B – A was the location of the now demolished Festivalgate, on lot B the still operative Spa World was built (a spa wonderland with saunas, waterslides, a gym and themed areas from all around the world). For that the city founded a joint venture with the Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation and the Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking Co. (two of Japan’s biggest companies) to raise 50 billion Yen, back then about 290 million Euro / 350 million US$, nowadays 400 million Euro / 532 million US$ (not adjusted for inflation).

Festivalgate opened together with Spa World on July 18th 1997 with an underwater / Atlantis theme – little did they know that they would drown in debt soon…

The opening hours were rather long – 10:00 to 20:00 for stores, 10:00 to 22:00 for amusement facilities, 10:00 to 23:00 for eateries. To give Festivalgate a financial identity you were able to buy discount tickets at vending machines; for 1000 Yen you received a 1100 Yen card, for 3000 Yen you got a 3400 Yen card and for 5000 Yen you were able to enjoy 5800 Yen worth of fun. This was what the floor plan looked liked:
B1 – Underground walkway to Shin-Imamiya Station and Dobutsuen-mae Station.
1F – Miracle Gate: Entrance and main floor.
2F – Plaza Festa: Eateries and shopping.
3F – Festival Pier: Eateries and shopping with a West Coast theme.
4F – Oriental Festa: Eateries and shopping with a Marco Polo theme.
5F – Festa Mosque: Eateries and shopping with a Bazaar theme.
6F – Festa Lab: Arcade game zone (Sega World) with a Jules Verne theme.
7F – Cine Festival: Cinema complex with 4 screens for up to 600 guests total.
8F – View Festa: Restaurant area with a stunning view.

Since Festival was considered an amusement park (no entrance fee though!), of course there were pay as you go attractions scattered all over the floors 2 to 6 – for example 2F had the Mermaid Carousel, 3F had the entrance the parachute tower “Tower of Teos”, 4F had a cat petting zoo and a Chinese Ghost house, 5F had a kid’s land, an airgun museum and the entrance for the iconic rollercoaster and 6F was full of arcade machines run by Sega.

At the beginning Festivalgate was a huge success – in the first year (1997/98) 8.31 million visitors had a look, but in the following year the Asian Financial Crisis hit Japan and numbers dropped significantly. Four years later, which is one year after Universal Studios Japan opened in the south of Osaka, Festivalgate had only 3 million visitors – none of which paid an entrance fee… Shops and restaurants started to drop out and the downwards spiral could not be stopped – in January of 2004 the banks withdrew from the project, driving the Festival Gate Corporation into bankruptcy and leaving the city of Osaka with 20 billion Yen of debt. Orix, a financial service provider most famous for owning and sponsoring the baseball team Orix Buffaloes, stepped up in 2005, but dropped out when it became clear that Festivalgate was a bottomless pit. In January of 2007 the city of Osaka concluded that Festivalgate would cost 200 million Yen per year for maintenance and decided to get over with this unfortunate and highly unprofitable project – the remaining businesses were given notice and Festivalgate closed officially July 31st of the same year. After some back and forth with potential Korean investors the Japanese entertainment giant Maruhan (bets, pachinko parlors) bought Festivalgate in a third auction on January 30th 2009 with a winning bid of 1.4 billion Yen, announcing reconstruction plans soon after. The demolition of Festivalgate began in 2010 and it turned out to be a surprisingly time-consuming process given that Japanese wrecking crews usually are faster than a bunch of piranhas dealing with a chicken…
When I first went to Festivalgate on November 3rd 2010 there was little to nothing to explore, although it seems like the building was still accessible from 2007 till 2009, despite all shops and restaurants being closed. Demolition had already begun, but at least the underground passage and the entrance area on 1F was still accessible with signs announcing that this would change December 17th. Active Japanese construction sites usually are fortified – solid high fences all around, guards in front of every exit, sometimes with small lightsabers to stop pedestrians when vehicles are getting in or out. The Festivalgate deconstruction site was no exception. All potential entrances (including windows) were locked solidly, security was patrolling (probably to keep homeless people away since Festivalgate was in an area that has a rather bad reputation… by Japanese standards), fences were even higher than usual – 3.5 to 4 meters, not the normal 2.5 meters high ones. But not high enough to block the view from the elevated Osaka Loop Line! So I took a couple of photos… and again when I was visiting a friend for a Christmas party later that year. And again whenever I passed by – which wasn’t that often, but still enough to give you a general idea how things progressed. To my surprise it took more than two years to get rid of the ill-fortuned Festivalgate. Good for me (and you) as this article was only possible thanks to that… BTW: Sorry for the quality of the photos – they are not artistic at all, shot from crowded, moving trains, but I think they nevertheless are interesting.

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Urban exploration is a dangerous hobby. How dangerous it really is I found out at the Daieikaku, a rather big abandoned ryokan south of Osaka. I was literally and figuratively one step away from my demise…

The Daieigaku was the first location Damon and I went to together back in 2010. Later we continued to explore the *Gion Love Hotel*, the Ferris wheel *Igosu 108*, the *K-1 Pachinko Parlor*, the *Tsuchikura Mine* as well as the *Kasuga Mine A* and *Kasuga Mine B* – but first the Daieikaku, a hotel that turned out to be quite hard to get to.
Back then I had done all my explorations using trains, but the Daieikaku was too far away from the closest station to walk to, so we had to take a bus. Which is a hassle in pretty much every country, especially if your command of the local language is… sub-par. Sometimes it’s close to impossible to figure out schedules and stops. When I wanted to get to a place near a university campus in Hokkaido last year it took the local tourist information at JR Sapporo Station 15 minutes to figure out which bus to take – and I knew the name of the bus stop I wanted to go to! Figuring out which bus to take to the Daieikaku wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the only problem: The Daieikaku was located at a slope on the other side of a river, but the bridge leading to the ryokan was completely overgrown. Even in autumn with weakened flora we weren’t able to get to the other side, especially without being seen by locals and day visitors. So we crossed the river via another bridge, climbed up the slope and got to the back of the Daieikaku at the level of the third floor. Instead of taking some steps down to the ground floor we entered through a smashed in window right where we were. Starting up there was as good as anywhere else we thought…

Big mistake! The first room was one of those tatami party rooms you have in pretty much every hotel in Japan. Thanks to open doors and windows everywhere in the Daieigaku the place was in rather bad condition with leaves all over the place. I went to the side of the building, looking for a staircase. Found it, passed it and opened a door… a restroom. I went inside to have a closer look, but although the floor looked a lot more solid than the one in the tatami room it didn’t feel like it. Halfway into the room I had a very, very bad feeling, so I went back to the hallway, down one floor via the staircase, opened the door to the restroom below the one I just entered and… it was gone! There was no friggin restroom! Only one wall with some urinals hanging mid-air! And the bathroom I was in basically was attached to the rest of the building by its walls. I guess I don’t have to mention that the floors below were gone, too, so if I would have walked further into the restroom two minutes earlier (or probably just would have stayed where I was) there would have been a good chance that I would have crashed through a thin layer of tiles and wood three floors down to my death. After I recovered from that realization I went straight to Damon to warn him about the death trap on the third floor. Luckily he didn’t put himself in danger, so we continued our exploration without further incidents, although we continued to take risks every once in a while – especially Damon, who was exploring the hotel like a honey badger. Through tiny broken windows with shards left, up and down rotting wooden stairs, … Which lead us down to the onsen part of the ryokan, a part of the hotel I probably wouldn’t have gotten to if I would have gone there on my own, especially after that little shock right at the beginning. There we saw some major cracks in the ceiling and the wall, which didn’t exactly help to ease my mind – parts of the Daieigaku already collapsed, so being in the middle of the building with unstable floors above and below wasn’t exactly the place I wanted to be in. But the former lobby didn’t look any better. We first saw it from 2F and looked down – staircases gone, walls caved in… The whole building was in worse than dilapidated condition and I guess every single step could have been our last!

Looking back at the exploration of the Daieikaku I have to say that we were terribly naïve and really lucky. The term “Daieikaku” means big glorious building and it is often used for restaurants serving a charcoal grilled meat dish called yakiniku – and while the ryokan Daieikaku was indeed a big building it was everything but glorious. It was a deathtrap and by far the most dangerous location I have ever explored. It also was rather unspectacular overall, that’s probably the reason why I never wrote about it, almost forgot about. Back then I just did a pre-selection of my photos, deleting only the worst, so I had to go through almost 150 of them to make a final selection for this article – and it actually makes me wanna go back there. Three years ago I shot without a tripod and the Daieikaku was pretty dark in some places, though it was a bright and sunny autumn day. Furthermore several earthquakes hit Kansai since then, including the Tohoku Earthquake that caused the Fukushima Incident and a recent one that struck Awaji Island. Plus Mother Nature had 30 months to do additional damage… Well, we’ll see – if time allows I’ll stop by there again to give you an update on what happened to the Daieikaku. For now I hope you’ll enjoy the photos I took during my visit. I’m sure you are eager to see what the collapsed bathroom looked like… 🙂

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„There is no vandalism in Japan!” is one of the most untrue urbex clichés – and whoever still thinks that I will prove wrong with this posting, especially when compared to the previous one. When I visited the *Tuberculosis Hospital For Children* for the first time three years ago it was hardly abandoned and barely touched. No signs of vandalism, no signs of protection. 8 days ago on the other hand…
When my haikyo buddy *Michael Gakuran* came to Kansai to explore my old urbex nemesis *Nara Dreamland* I was devastated I couldn’t join him since I made other plans for that day weeks ago. But I was free the next day, so we met up and I showed him my most closely guarded secret location, the abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium for children I visited and never talked about. Ever. To anybody.
Walking up a gentle slope I didn’t expect a lot of change. Sure, by now two Japanese explorers posted inside shots of the haikyo hospital, so there must be a way in now… But that’s it, right? WRONG!

Approaching the tuberculosis clinic the once locked gate was wide open… and 100 meters down the road we found a brand-new barricade. Well, it was brand-new at one point, now it was grotesquely bended and nevertheless almost flat on the ground. It actually looked like a truck ran over it. Again and again. Not one of those Japanese mini trucks! A massive, manly American one! Most windows of the building were boarded up – or smashed after somebody ripped off the solid wooden panels. A half-open box of plastic syringes was scattered in front of a side entrance and glass was basically everywhere. If I wouldn’t have known better I would have said that this location was abandoned forever and a day.
With all the doors broken up and half the windows smashed in, the Tuberculosis Hospital For Children was exposed to the weather for a couple of years – and it showed. A lot of rooms were moldy, in some the wallpapers were falling off already. To make things worse the hordes of vandals (or a single very serious one!) emptied several fire extinguishers in several key rooms (like the radiology and the laboratory), making it hard to breathe after a short while. And of course some areas were swarmed by gnats, but that’s kind of a given for abandoned places in Japan during autumn…
Although the concrete building featured quite a few glass fronts, a couple of areas were still boarded up and therefore dark; darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night. I didn’t expect that and left spare batteries for my flashlight at home, which didn’t influence the photo shooting, but the second video I took for your viewing pleasure.

Exploring an abandoned place I always try to relate to the place I visit – which wasn’t exactly easy at a tuberculosis clinic for children, especially since I just read an article about the Goiania accident in the Brazilian city of Goiânia. (In 1987 two metal thieves stole a cylinder from an abandoned hospital. They punctured it and scooped out some grams of a glowing substance before selling everything to a nearby scrapyard. There the cylinder was opened and people loved the fascinating material they’ve never seen before and spread it all over town by taking some home. To make a long story short – the substance was cesium chloride, a highly radioactive inorganic compound. To this very day the accident is considered one of the most catastrophic nuclear disasters; 4 people dies, more than 110.000 were examined for radioactive contamination.) So here I was, strolling through an abandoned hospital, fascinated by the countless medical equipment that was left behind…
The Tuberculosis Hospital For Children turned out to be a treasure chest of objects big and small. While some rooms were (almost) completely empty, like the swimming pool and the cafeteria, others were stuffed with analysers, boxes of laboratory glassware and even private items like photos and drawings. Without a doubt one of the highlights was right next to the pool, a small room full of boxes containing envelopes filled with X-rays, MRIs and CTs – all of them taken at a hospital in Osaka, which kind of leads to the conclusion that Tuberculosis Hospital For Children was just an extension of a much larger clinic probably still existing… (More about the hospital haikyo’s history in a future posting, this is all about the exploration!)
Pretty much all of the images came with handwritten doctor’s notes, some of them bilingual (Japanese and English). *Michael* seemed to be quite fascinated by the found, so I left for the other building and only took a few quick shots right before we left. It’s a strange feeling going through other people’s medical files, picking up radiographs of potentially terminally ill people and holding them against the sun to take a photo – most of the MRIs seemed to be of adults, but especially the roentgenograms of kids were… eerie.
The massive concrete construction housing the hospital was connected by a bridge with a rather narrow lightweight building (remember the *previous article*?). Typical Japanese architecture of the 1940s / 50s with walls you could punch through. The floor was kind of yielding, but the huge hornets (or maybe suzumebachi?) flying through the smashed windows made my hurry anyway. As expected the lightweight building turned out to be rather unspectacular. One part was in catastrophic condition, so I didn’t even try to enter it. The rest was a couple of bathrooms, lots of empty rooms and some storage rooms – most likely the school part of the hospital in the 40s before it got its own building down the road. But like I said, that’s a story for another time…

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Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky is without a doubt the most famous abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium in world (directly followed by the Beelitz-Heilstätten in Berlin), but a rather small Kansai clinic abandoned 20 years ago is slowly rising to fame – the Japanese Tuberculosis Hospital For Children in Osaka. (Of course the official name was euphemistic and translated to something like “Osaka City Resort House For Children”…)

I first visited the Japanese Tuberculosis Hospital For Children almost three years ago – the third abandoned place I’ve ever been to and the first I took video of. So please excuse the quality of both the stills as well as the film material. Back then I had no clue what I was doing… Hell, I barely knew the term haikyo! (Japanese for “ruin” and used as a synonym for urban exploration.)

It was an exciting time, my second day of urban exploration. Back then I spent countless hours doing research on locations and somehow I stumbled across this clinic nobody seemed to know about. It took almost two years after my visit till it appeared on a Japanese blog and almost three before it appeared on another one – and I guess that’s it, from now on it’s only a matter of time until the once secret place becomes public knowledge…

When I walked up to the clinic I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even know how to enter the premises and if I was at the right location. I found a hole in the fence guarding an overgrown area, so I slipped through – the first time I ever slipped through a fence to get to an abandoned building. Sadly the terrain was so overgrown that I had to retreat and find another way in. So I followed several roads and small paths, slipped past a closed gate with my heart beating like crazy and then it finally appeared through the bushes, the Japanese Tuberculosis Hospital For Children.

I approached the building carefully since I read somewhere that it was still used on weekends for emergency drills. And indeed I heard some sounds from the first floor. Not voices, but machinery; probably some kind of generator. I calmed down a little bit and explored the area. All doors were locked and the shades of all windows I could get close to were down. Some doors had glass elements and looking through them I could see that the interior was spare, but in good condition. No signs of vandalism whatsoever – which kind of confirmed the claim that the building complex was only part-time abandoned. So I took a couple of photos and short videos before I got the heck out of there, keeping the location to myself , trying to prevent it from being damaged…

Recently I revisited the Japanese Tuberculosis Hospital For Children *haikyo* – what I found when I returned I will write about in the near future. If you would like to have a sneak peak please *like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook*, where I will post a short preview later this week. I’m sure it’ll send a shiver down your spine!

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I’m terribly sorry that it took me a while to publish this article, but I finally finished to write the sequel to the blog entry about Osaka Expoland I announced quite a long time ago.
On my way back from my second trip to Sekigaraha Menard Land I thought it would be a good idea to pay Expoland (エキスポランド) another visit. It had been a couple of months since I explored it for the first time and I just wanted to have a short look again – to find out what happened to the Caribbean Resort and the other remaining buildings. Like with my first trip there I expected it to be a quick stop, maybe even without taking pictures. But again I was wrong…
I rode the Monorail from Minami Ibaraki to Banpaku-Kinen-Koen and pressed my camera against the window to get some elevated shots of the park. Since I accidentally changed the settings of my camera right before I reached Sekigahara Menard Land the pictures turned out to be very blurry and while I was wondering about that I realized that there were people in the park! In a park that was closed down for good more than two years earlier and that was being demolished during my first visit in December of 2009 – what an intriguing surprise! (I’m sorry for the picture quality of this posting again – it wasn’t my day…)
This time the main gate to the park was wide open. On top there was a sign that informed all people passing by about the newly installed Farm Expo. So what they did was cutting off about 20% of the park with typical Japanese site fences, revamped the existing buildings in the area into shops, painted and reopened the restaurant and heaped up some soil to use as a planting area. One of the former water rides was converted into a stable for pigs and halfway between that stable and the organic food stands were a couple of chickens in a cage for children to pet. The former clown house was converted into a farmer’s market, selling all kinds of herbs and produce.
The first time I went to Osaka Expoland the sky was overcast (later it started to rain) and the place was empty except for a few construction workers and a guard – quite a depressing sight. During my second visit the whole area was flooded by warm light and crowded by happy families enjoying a nice spring day. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different and I was kind of glad that they actually made good use of this really nice location as I thought they would tear down the whole place to build more apartment buildings and a shopping mall. It’s the first time I’ve seen a formerly abandoned place being reconverted and at least in this case it was a really good decision – although it means that I’ll have to go back there one day to find out what the future holds for Osaka Expoland.
Oh, and in case you are wondering what happened to the Caribbean Resort: It wasn’t demolished, but fenced off and therefore not accessible during my second visit in April.
(You can find out where Expoland was by clicking here.)

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It seems like abandoned amusement parks are not only my favorite locations, but people reading this blog are obviously fascinated by them, too – so today I’ll present you one that hasn’t shown up on the internet so far; neither Japanese nor English speaking. Expoland in Osaka.
Expoland (エキスポランド) covered an area of about 20 hectares and was opened in 1970 next to the fairground of the “Expo ’70“. Planned as a temporary installment it was extremely popular and thrived to be one of the most popular Japanese amusement parks for more than 30 years – the park actually re-opened on 1972-03-15 since it was closed after the Expo ’70 ended. Expoland made the news big time on May 5th of 2007 when a 19 year old student from Shiga prefecture died in an accident involving the Fujin Raijin II rollercoaster: One of the ride’s vehicles derailed due to a broken axle that wasn’t replaced in 15 years. After a series of safety inspections Expoland opened again but was closed on 2007-12-09 due to the lack of customers – 14 months later, on 2009-02-09, it was announced that the park was closed for good.
Later that year my interest in abandoned places started and when I talked to friends about it a colleague told me what happened at Expoland and that the park was closed down, but not dismantled due to the owner’s lack of money. Sadly the information about the financial trouble was wrong as I found out by chance a few weeks later when I saw a picture on the English homepage of a Japanese newspaper that showed how they were tearing down the huge ferris wheel.
I went to Expoland right away on the next weekend on my way to an illumination event in Kyoto, a cold and kind of rainy day in December, just to scout the place from the outside. Since Expoland was closed down rather recently there was no easy way in. The spiked fence around the whole area was still intact and of course there were no holes or open gates. Quite the opposite: Since the dismantling was still in progress the area was actually kind of busy with a few construction workers walking around even on a Saturday. After I circled the whole park once I saw two guys with a ladder, taking pictures over the fence. I talked to them for a bit, but they made it clear that there was no legal way in. On my way to the monorail station I realized that I was walking across a delivery entrance, so I made my way down there to check it out – and found it open for the construction workers to get in and out. The guard’s office was obviously still in use, but there was nobody there. So I entered Expoland, asking loudly if somebody was there to catch somebody’s attention – but again no reaction.
I made my way through the western and southern parts of the park. A stage and some buildings, including rest rooms, were still standing, but all rides were already dismantled. In the southwestern part I found the only big attraction still left: A waterland called “Caribbean Resort”. From there I went back to the delivery entrance and left the park. It was one of my first explorations, so I was high on adrenaline and torn apart by a decision: Leaving with what I got – or going back in to explore the rest of the park, risking getting caught? Well, I seized the day and went back in. To the main entrance, past a children’s playhouse and a restaurant, the former location of a water ride and up to where all the merry-go-rounds and the big ferris wheel were. I saw some construction workers in the distance, but I don’t think they saw me. I finished a circle counterclockwise to the east and north, past the old locomotive and to the playhouse. When I went back to the delivery entrance with its huge spiked gate my heart stopped for a second: It was almost dark, the gate was closed and the light in the guard’s office was on. I walked towards the gate to open it myself when the guard came out and addressed me in Japanese. To be honest, at that point I thought I was screwed as there was no way to escape. But to my surprise the guy was extremely nice, opened the gate to let me out and wished me a nice evening (at least I think he said something like that… Osaka dialect…).
Going to Expoland is one of my favorite urbex memories so far as it was a wonderful, exciting, positive experience from the beginning till the end. Or what I thought was the end. Because when I went back there a couple of months later to find out what happened to “Caribbean Resort” and the rest of the buildings I was extremely surprised to see what actually happened to Expoland.
But that’s a story for another time…
You can find out where Expoland was by clicking here.
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It’s obvious that I post my urban exploration experiences not in chronological order and this time I will jump back to the very early days: My first indoor haikyo. The One Dragon Hotel is another internet favorite located in the southern part of Osaka. There are not a lot of known facts about the place – nobody seems to know when it was opened up or closed down. But there are the usual rumors of financial problems and the owner committing suicide. A classic you can hear about pretty much every closed hotel in Japan.
Since the One Dragon Hotel is built partly over a lake and the sides are blocked by fences protecting private property the only way to easily enter the place is by sneaking in through the back via a park. And although I went there on a very sunny day the place was pretty scary. The common way is to enter through the basement into a rather dark corridor, only lit by a few windows to the north. Like I said, this was my first indoor exploration, so every step was a new experience. Since I went alone and had neither an experienced guide nor an equally unexperienced friend at my side horror was lurking behind every corner; at least in my mind. It’s funny to look at the pictures now, remembering how I felt when I took them.
The One Dragon Hotel must have been shut down about 25 years ago and its location so close to a lake left it with lots of rotten components. Furthermore it was mentioned in “the book” (Nippon No Haikyo, one of the few books that include more or less detailed maps), so its location is known to a lot of people, even those who don’t consider haikyo a regular hobby. It’s not surprising that the place attracted a lot of vandals – most floors and ceilings are ripped apart, a few rooms were set on fire and the hallway to the shared bath collapsed. Maybe I was overly cautious back then, but I remember the One Dragon Hotel being in pretty bad shape.
I’m sorry to say that the pictures quality isn’t that good this time – my camera was brand new and I had barely any clue how to use it… so this is a real rookie posting. The next one will be more exciting, I promise!

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