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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Finally an abandoned bowling alley – or so I thought…

“We just passed what looked like an abandoned bowling alley. Do you want me to turn around and have a look?” Slightly confused about what was going I woke up from a nap, my favorite thing to do in a car when nobody is talking to me. After more than a decade in Japan I can sleep anywhere – and by that I mean ANYWHERE! (Except long distance flights. I’m gone in 60 seconds when on the way to Okinawa or Hokkaido, but Europe? Only Marvel movies can put me to sleep, and even that doesn’t last long…) Never even missed my station while on the train. Even better: One time we drove to the middle of nowhere to explore a school I hadn’t been to before. Since there was nothing around, I had to program a phone number (Japanese navigation systems don’t use coordinates…) about a kilometer further down the road. After a while I fell asleep – when I woke up again I looked left and said “There’s the school we want to explore!”, still two or three minutes away from the programmed destination and completely out of nowhere – much to the surprise of my co-explorers
“Why not?”, I mumbled, “Let’s have a look!” My buddy Hamish turned around and sure enough, there it was – a longish, abandoned looking hall with a large bowling pin pinned on its roof; the universal sign for bowling alleys in Japan. Usually I’m not a big fan of spontaneous explorations, because I literally know nothing at all about the location, which means that everything could go wrong… and I always have enough place to explore, so no need to take unnecessary risks, but… accessible abandoned bowling alleys are rather rare, so we had a closer look.
Fortunately this deserted looking building turned out to be accessible – not easily and only at one spot that required some climbing, but all that mattered was that it was accessible. Unfortunately what looked like an abandoned bowling alley and probably once was at least a closed bowling also turned out to be not a bowling alley anymore. In hindsight we could have / should have known given the retrofitted shutter gate on the side of the building, but on the way in neither Hamish nor I paid attention to details like that; and they wouldn’t have stopped us anyway. The former entrance area with the toilets and the office was pretty much cluttered with all kinds of items, from a piano to bath room elements to a scale with built-in label printer. The main area, the former bowling lanes, was now occupied by a forklift and a variety of brand-new looking kitchen equipment still on pallets. A fact that made me feel very uneasy, especially since Hamish considered the location too uninteresting to keep me company for more like a few minutes. And to be honest, I wasn’t very eager to get caught over some dark photos of a cluttered warehouse either, so I took a few quick shots and got the hell out of Dodge. Still not sure whether or not the facility was really 100% abandoned…

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Strength lies in calmness – but when the clock’s ticking you have to make quick decisions… and some of them might not be the smartest!

I hate being rushed, in every aspect of life – whether it’s working, eating, or exploring. In times when more and more people become more and more unreliable, addicted to their own vanities locked behind black mirrors, I like to decelerate my life on purpose; not wasting time, but consciously deciding what to spend it on – planning ahead instead of making rushed decisions on short notice, that cost money and reputation at best, at worst even time in addition. I prefer slow food over fast food, a chair over a back seat, rewrites over first drafts, well-laid plans over rushed decisions, quiet time over a constant stream of IM ping sounds. I rather explore two or three locations a day thoroughly than rush through five or six – I live a busy life, still way too fast and busy for my taste… but I’m not on the run!
Back in 2013 I was on my way to Nagoya and I stopped at a rundown onsen town to explore a couple of places, more or less successfully. Despite being rather small, the village featured some large abandoned hotels. Hotels so rundown that I rather enjoyed the surrounding nature than breathing mold half the day. Back in the onsen town to catch a bus back to civilization I had about 15 minutes to kill, so I made the spontaneous decision to speedrun explore one of those rundown pieces of… decay. Walking inside as far as I could in 10 minutes, taking as many photos as possible freehand on high ISO (the sun was already setting…) – filming the three or four minutes on the way back before heading to the bus stop. For comparison: 10 minutes usually get me two decent shots using a tripod when exploring regularly; sometimes even less.

The result you can see below: A bunch of crappy photos and a rushed video. I probably would have spent those 15 minutes better by visiting an omiyage shop or enjoying a cold beverage while waiting for the bus. In addition to that the exploration was dangerous – because I rushed it, because I was alone. Overall a stupid idea. One I never repeated, because: Strength lies in calmness.

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Quarries tend to be the duller, more boring cousins of mines – not this one though! The Abandoned Vehicle Quarry had some really nice surprises waiting in the shadows…

In all honesty, on GoogleMaps the Abandoned Vehicle Quarry was little more than a yellowish spot surrounded by lush green in quite a mountainous part of Japan. I wasn’t even sure if the blurry area really was a quarry or maybe some kind of grove… or a landslide. But I was in the area for other locations, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to check it out. Fortunately the original find did not only turn out to be indeed a quarry, it turned out to be quarry with left behind machinery and vehicles! (Unlike the previously explored *Asuka Quarry*, which was kinda nice, but also kind of boring…)
At first sight the Abandoned Vehicle Quarry wasn’t that spectacular – a slightly dilapidated road leading up a steep mountain to a party overgrown wound carved into a mountain. Then I spotted a large piece of machinery, that once most likely was used to load trucks with whatever kind of stone they were “harvesting” here. Next to it some metal pieces that looked like oversized shotgun shells; at least to a weapons noob like me. Hidden in the shadow was a large abandoned bus, once used to transport all the workers up the mountain – probably from the nearest town to the quarry as there surely wasn’t enough space for a large parking lot. A fascinating piece, especially since it was partly swallowed by a landslide or two, making it nearly impossible to even guess how it got there. Further up the hill the separately roped off quarry itself, as unspectacular as you would expect a place like that to be. On the way down the mountain and back to the car I had a hunch that there was more, so I walked past a few metal drums and followed a disappearing path when I spotted another vehicle affected by said landslide, a mostly buried car. Pressed for time I took a couple of quick shots and finally left – very pleased as I just had explored yet another beautiful original find.

Back home I posted a couple of photos on the *Facebook page of Abandoned Kansai* (lots of time exclusive content, sometimes years before it finds its way to the website!) and they all did surprisingly well – the vertical one of the front of the bus actually became the most successful AK photo on FB so far with almost 250 reactions, also attracting a few dozen new subscribers. (In average posts tend to gather between 50 and maybe 80 reactions…) So while my expectations on exploring the Abandoned Vehicle Quarry were low, my expectations on the performance of this article are actually quite high – and I hope you like the following photo set as much as I enjoyed creating it!

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My busy phase continues, so does the series of articles about small locations and failed explorations. This week: an abandoned weekend home, most likely for rent.

I hate to publish photo sets without giving much context, but there is really next to nothing to say about the abandoned Weekend House. A friend and I found it after exploring another place nearby and we were lucky that it was abandoned, too – the door was closed, but unlocked, so we went in. Small kitchen in the hallway, to the right the main living room with another fridge, a table and several seating options. Definitely the daytime area to spend a good time with family and / or friends. Upstairs a similar setup, but much more empty floor space – probably the main sleeping room; on the ground, Japanese style. The third floor was little more than a crow’s nest, basically one small room, big enough for two people tops, but with a stunning view at the surroundings. And I mean really stunning! I explored this place in early spring, when Japan is rather barren, but the view from up there was nevertheless gorgeous!

And that’s basically it. I don’t know when the Weekend House was built, I don’t know when it was abandoned, I don’t know what exactly it was used for – all I know that it could be saved. One day of cleaning, mostly animal poo, and the place would be ready for a family to move in. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen as Japan has much more living space in the countryside than it needs, so I guess in 10 years the latest this place will be overgrown and beyond repair – like so many others… Unlike the hotel last week, this was actually a fun exploration I really enjoyed – especially the versatile bench in the living room, which reminded me of one my family had when I was a child.

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This place must be cursed! First the spa hotel went bust, then my exploration failed…

With almost 10 years of exploration experience under my belt I’ve become pretty good at sniffing up original finds – these days I’m more and more often following even less beaten paths to places that are extremely hard to find, which usually comes at a higher risk, as unknown locations are much tougher and riskier to explore than now almost touristy places like *Western Village* or *Kejonuma Leisure Land*. This spring I had the chance to had a closer look at an abandoned health resort hotel I found during winter – unfortunately it wasn’t as close as I hoped for. 😦
The Failed Health Resort is so remote that it’s not on StreetView and only blurry on satellite view of GoogleMaps, but I was very excited to get there as the hotel had a very vast outdoor pool area. Unfortunately the exploration turned into a series of disappointments quickly. First we realized that the hotel still had power and one or two break-ins (or break-in attempts) had been boarded up again – so alarms were rather like and the building itself therefore more or less off limits. But hey, the pool area, right? Right! It was easily accessible without jumping any fences or something like that, unfortunately an old Japanese dude showed up after like five minutes. And there it was super interesting to observe my co-explorers that day – some super experiences, some relative noobs. I knew only half of them, the experienced ones, the others were friends of friends… Anyway, my Japanese is limited so I ignored the guy completely and kept taking photos. My friends at first didn’t even realize somebody came and then they acted like deer in headlights. And when the guy didn’t approach us, my friends and the noobs just left quietly – leaving me behind! I could almost see the WTF or ??? hovering above my head! Especially since my approach is always to approach new arrivals when I’m exploring with friends who speak Japanese or think they speak Japanese well-enough to have any kind of conversation. Worst case scenario: We explain our intentions and are asked to leave – hiding or preemptive obedience (= leaving quietly) is usually only an option when the situation is dire and a conversation would be pointless. So I rushed after my fellow explorers with a dozen rushed shots on my camera and that was it.

The Failed Health Resort was one of the most disappointing explorations in my “career”, for more than only one reason. But hey, you can’t win them all. Even without getting inside the building I’m sure this could have been an awesome exploration with a great photo series, but I was cut short, so we all have to live with the result…

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Driving through the mountains in Japan is always a pleasure. Most of the time it’s just a relaxing ride – but sometimes you’ll find something unique, like a Scented Woodchips Factory…

Last week I was too busy to write even a short article for Abandoned Kansai – unfortunately the situation didn’t change much (and probably won’t for the next couple of weeks as spring tends to be the busiest time of the year in Japan for many reasons…), so please bear with me for a couple of smaller locations and shorter articles, like this one, about a barn-sized location I found by chance on the way to another location. In a more urban environment this not too shabby looking building most likely wouldn’t have stood out enough to even stop, but when you find something like that surrounded by abandoned stuff, people like me tend to have a closer look.
Upon entering I had no idea at all what I had found. The were a couple of machines, some “hidden” behind a large blue tarp as well as countless boxes, sacks, and other containers full of… stuff. The main area split up into a hallway leading to the back, a rather large kitchen to the left and another storage / machine room to the right. At first I thought it was kind of a restaurant, the machines maybe for candy cotton and other candy production, but thanks to my fellow explorer I found out that the machine in the main area was a dryer and that most of the containers were filled with woodchips. Through the door in the back was what looked like some kind of smoker and the machine in the sunny room was actually used to portion and bag the scented woodchips – probably to use in baths? Or under cushions? I don’t know, I’m not much of a wellness guy and unfortunately there was no final product left behind, only raw materials. (The newest calendar was from about 10 years ago, which kind of makes sense – other than that I don’t know anything about this company as there was no paperwork left behind nor were there any signs of signage.

The Scented Woodchips Factory was a nice little exploration between two much more spectacular ones; interesting, unique remains you won’t see very often as an urban explorer – if at all. A very welcome change to all the hotels, hospitals, theme parks, and schools that usually dominate the exploration schedules!

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Abandoned schools in Japan are often named after the most spectacular item there – and you really want to see why this one is called Eyeball School!

Located in a rather remote part of the Japanese mountains, the Eyeball School was founded as an elementary school in 1873, though the current building was constructed at a new location and finished in 1957; 30 years later it was closed and rather well preserved for another couple of decades. Still in excellent condition outside during my visit in autumn of 2014, the 2-storey wooden building showed some signs of natural decay inside. Most of the dark wooden hallway floors made strange noises, while some floors in former classrooms showed serious bends – and the roof was leaking obviously, damaging the pianos that were lined up in the hallway of the upper floor.
We (me and three first (and last) time explorer friends) arrived at the school before 4 p.m., but the sun was setting quickly in the autumn mountains… and we hesitated to get inside as some logging was going on behind the school. When we realized that nobody was paying attention to us, I found an unlocked sliding door and went inside – where I was swallowed by darkness. What followed was a 90 race against losing light, not leaving me much time to set up shots or worrying about the results of my doing. And for that I guess the photo set turned out pretty well.
So… overall not much to say about this exploration. In and out easily, lots of things to take pictures of. Back in 2014 the school wasn’t well known and I always wanted to come back for another set with better light, but unfortunately that never happened, so I thought it’s about time to publish it here on Abandoned Kansai.

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