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Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category

If you are a regular reader of Abandoned Kansai, then you know that sometimes it takes me years to write articles about locations I explored – and I apologize for that! Today I’ll try to change it up again and write about my trip to Tohoku before it even ends; “Instant Article”, so to say.

Currently I am sitting on a Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka, and what better way to use those quiet moments than to reflect a little bit on the past five days? (Sleep! But who needs that?) I also realized that I haven’t written yet an article for this week’s update, and since the photos of this trip are basically all I have with me currently… here we go! 🙂

It’s been a while that my old *haikyo* buddy Michael and I went urbexing in *Hokkaido* together, 1.5 years to be specific, and we were talking about going on the road again for quite some time now. Since we are both living busy lifes in Japan, it was a matter of coordinating and allocating days – and the period of choice became the second half of Golden Week, the most miserable travel period in Japan as even the laziest couch potatoe decides to help clogging up trains and highways, if for no other reason than because everybody else is doing it. As for where were to go: Michael suggested Tohoku, to which I hesitantly agreed – since Tohoku is a pain to get to from Kansai, I basically only knew the most famous urbex locations there, and I was aware that there was a lot of driving involved. Michael was, too – one of many reasons to bring his friend Ben on board, another interesting fella from the UK, who was a great addition to our former team of two!

The plan was to visit Kejonuma Leisure Land and the Wagakawa Water Power Plant on the way north, where we wanted to explore the three big Tohoku mines Matsuo, Osarizawa and Taro – plus some minor places along the way. While the Leisure Land was nothing but amazing, the water power plant turned out to be a colossal waste of time; to get inside you have to cross one of two nearby rivers on foot, which can be done rather easily in late summer… but not in spring, when the melting waters of the surrounding mountains rush through. The three mines on the other hand were extremely interesting and quite different from each other. Each one of them deserves at least an own article, maybe even more. Sadly most of the additional side locations were cut for different reasons, except for the Naganeyama Ski Jump, for which my fellow explorers didn’t even want to leave the car, and a locked up school in Fukushima prefecture. What made this trip real special though, was the fact that we were able to visit one of the few remaining open sex museums in Japan, which was quite an interesting experience after exploring two abandoned ones in the *south* and in the *north* of Japan.

Living in Osaka and being spoiled by the incredibly high level of food quality there (Osaka is usually referred to as Japan’s kitchen, while Kansai in general is considered Japan’s birthplace) I was surprised to experience that the Tohoku area doesn’t even come close to that. While I only had less than five bad meals in more than seven years living in Kansai, I don’t think I had a really good one during the whole trip; except maybe lunch near the sex museum, which is in Tochigi prefecture and threrfore not Tohoku anymore. At the Osarizawa Mine, mostly a tourist attraction now, I had a tonkatsu burger (deep fried pork chop burger) with gold leaves… and even that was barely eatable despite the allmighty „even a bad burger is still good food“ rule. Most restaurants on the way though were serious disappointments.

Overall it was an exhausting trip with up to 7 hours of driving per day (altogether Mike and Ben drove 1946 kilometers, most of it on days 1 and 4, when we were getting to and from Tohoku) and less than 6 hours of sleep per night in average; which isn’t that bad, but not enough when doing a dangerous hobby like urban exploration. Although we were very careful, all three of us had more or less minor accidents – luckily we all got away again without any serious damage. (Except the one to the wallet, as everything gets super expensive in Japan during Golden Week…)

Sadly I won’t be able to publish these lines from the Shinkansen, so there will be a gap of at least about an hour between me writing and you reading this article, but I hope you’ll enjoy this quick write-up nevertheless. In the upcoming weeks I’ll publish half a dozen more detailed articles about this road trip – and I am sure some of them will blow your mind! I saw only a handful locations in the past five days, but almost all of them were spectacular must sees. Here’s an alphabetical list, followed by some photos:
Abandoned Japanese Cinema
Kejonuma Leisure Land
Kinugawa Onsen Sex Museum
Kuimaru Elementary School
Matsuo Mine
Naganeyama Ski Jump
Osarizawa Mine
Taro Mine
Wagakawa Water Power Plant

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Sex sells. Especially in Japan. Well, sex and quirkiness sell in Japan – and the latter one actually a lot more, at least in advertising. But despite having one of the lowest birth rates in the world (220 out of 224 according to the CIA World Factbook), Japan is obsessed with sex. Not at first sight though. At first sight the country is all about temples, shrines, concrete buildings and neon lights. But if you dig deeper and have an eye for details, you’ll understand why Japan is famous all around the globe for bondage, tentacle sex, bukkake, (the not existing) worn underwear vending machines, *love hotels* (that alone is a 50 billion USD business!) and the borderline child pornographic lolicon – not to forget the *quirky sex museums*!
Mostly untouched by puritan Christian morals for centuries (until Japan sucked up to the West during the Meiji Restoration and succumbed to the Allied Forces in 1945) today’s Japan is widely oversexed and underfucked, a prime example being the co-called herbivores; young men with “a non-assertive, indifferent attitude towards desire of flesh” according to freelance writer Maki Fukasawa, who coined the term in 2006. Yet there is this 50 billion dollar love hotel industry… Which makes Japan the North Korea of sex lives – mysterious, full of contradictions and with some serious amount of covered-up pain!

Anyway, let’s focus on the century old traditions for now – one of them being the Hōnen Matsuri (or hounen matsuri, 豊年祭), literally the „prosperous year festival“, celebrating the blessings of a rich harvest and all kinds of prosperity and fertility in general; and for promotional reasons often called penis festival, because… well, sex sells better than harvest and fertility. Who cares that it is actually not the phalli that are worshipped, but the power of the earth to regenerate? Symbolized by penises, because… well, probably nobody would travel for hours to look at a pile of dirt being carried through a small town.
Like the number of sex museums in onsen towns, the number of those fertility festivals is declining, the most famous one being celebrated at the Tagata Shrine in Komaki, a suburb of Nagoya, just a short walk away from Tagata-jinja-mae Station. (There are also similar festivals in Kawasaki on every first Sunday in April (Kanamara Matsuri at the Kanayama Shrine) as well as the slightly less phallic Bonden Matsuri in mid-February in Yokoteand and the Kawatari Bonden Matsuri in mid-May in Tagawa.)
The exact history of the Tagata Shrine and the Honen Matsuri lie in the dark, but it is assumed that shrine is more than 1500, the festival at least 650 years old.

Last year the Honen Matsuri started at around 10 a.m. at the Tagata Shrine with some preparations and celebrations, including the usual array of festival food stands. While chocolate bananas are popular at public festivals all over Japan, you can imagine that they sell especially well at a penis festival – especially at those stands going the extra mile by carving the tip of the banana and adding two marshmallows to the bottom. Sex sells, especially at a phallus festival! And of course 95% of those bananas were used as accessories for photos before being eaten… and so were tons of other penis shaped items for sale, like candy dicks and phalli carved out of wood.
At 1 p.m. celebrations began at the Kumanosha with the blessings of the procession participants as well as the portable shrines (mikoshi, 神輿 or 御輿) and the gigantic wooden penis (280 kg heavy and 2.5 meters long) carved out of a cypress. At 2 p.m. the parade to the Tagata Shrine started there, lead by chanting priests carrying banners and followed by a demon called Tengu; musicians playing traditional gagaku music also join the procession. And if a gigantic wooden penis carried by chanting and dancing men wouldn’t be enough to go nuts, the centerpiece was accompanied by countless helpers handing out free snacks and sake to everybody who wanted a cup… or two! Traditionally clothed women carrying 60 cm long wooden phalluses proved to be extremely popular amongst the watching crowd, altogether thousands of people. All of those women were 36 years old, which is considered an unlucky age that requires spiritual intervention. (The men carrying the giant phallus were all 42 for the same reason.)

The parade was supposed to arrive at the Tagata Shrine at 3.30 p.m. in 2013, but with all those happy people it took a little bit longer, so the who schedule was delayed by about 20 minutes. At around 4 p.m. people came together at a central square of the shrine, where the mochi nage was about to begin; a rice cake throwing ceremony, in which the crowd was showered with special mochi. You might know table lychee sized mochi as small soft sweets, but those at the festival had the consistency of clay and looked more like a big dumpling with the diameter of a CD – nevertheless the crowd went crazy over catching one of them. Sadly I have to say that this was mainly the fault of the countless foreigners attending the festival. While most Japanese attendees kept standing in place just trying to catch one of the dangerously heavy sweets thrown by officials from elevated platforms, a lot of the foreigners kept pushing and shoving; some even starting arguments. It was quite embarrassing to watch, to be honest – just because you’re at a penis festival doesn’t mean you have to act like a dick! (Officials actually asked women, children and elderly several times to leave the area to avoid getting hurt by the impact of the rice cakes or the rest of the crowd!) In the end there were rice cakes for maybe one in four people, yet when the ceremony was over, I saw single foreigners with up to seven of them, some of them carrying them in plastic bags… (It was also very apparent that the amount of foreigners attending the festival was a lot higher than the nationwide average of three percent.)

When the mochi nage ended, so did the festival – most people hurried to the nearby train station, others (like myself) had a last minute snack… or got their injuries treated at one of the ambulances. Most people who were actually there for the serious aspect of the festival, not the spectacle, prayed for successful pregnancies and bought good luck charms in the morning, but the shrine continued to offer those services to the remaining guests, while about two dozen helpers stored the gigantic wooden penis in the main shrine…

But why in the world did I write this report now, after spending several weeks on writing about North Korea? Because the Honen Festival is held every year on March 15th, which means that the next one will be in less than two weeks from now – just in case you are in Japan and interested in joining. Going last year I actually had to take a day off to attend as the 15th was a Friday in 2013, but that also means that the Penis Festival will be held on a Saturday in 2014 and on a Sunday in 2015; which won’t hurt the numbers of people joining for sure!

Finally a word of warning – the following photos and videos will show quite a few phalli, but there is absolutely nothing pornographic about them. Traditional? Yes! Commercial? For sure! Artistic? Definitely! But not pornographic… Enjoy!

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Merry XXX-Mas everyone!

The Love Hotel tinna is one of those locations that are giving me a headache. On the one hand I am happy about every exploration, on the other hand… this was barely an exploration and I have hardly enough material for an article. About 20 months ago I was walking along a countryside road on the way to an abandoned place I was looking forward to explore, when I came across the tinna Love Hotel by chance. Not sure how the rest of the day would turn out I passed without a closer look, but considered having one on the way back. If it wouldn’t have been for the ropes blocking off the car entrance I probably wouldn’t have even realized that the place was abandoned or at least closed.

Two hours later I was on my way back to the train station – and since I wasn’t in a hurry I indeed had a closer look. Entering the premises and getting out of sight was quick and easy, the ropes were more or less symbolic. Luckily the sensors at the entrance must have been for triggering lights back in the days, because they surely didn’t cause an alarm to go off.
The back of the love hotel looked a little more abandoned, but just barely. Each room came with a separate garage – you drove in and shut the plastic curtain to get your car some privacy. The room rates (rest / stay) were written at signs next to the doors – which were all locked. That fact makes this article even duller, especially since I don’t know anything about the history of the Love Hotel tinna. I guess it was abandoned just weeks or a few months prior to my visit, but it’s hard to tell for sure. On the other hand: a lot of westerners don’t know much about love hotel, so here you can finally see some exterior shots. For interior shots you might want to have a look at the two articles about love hotels I published in 2011 and 2012. The one about the *Love Hotel Gion* is all about love hotels in general and how big the business is (a whopping 50 billion $-US!), the one about the *Furuichi Love Hotel* is more about dating in Japan and why some Japanese women were once called “Leftover Christmas Cake”…

And that’s it for this week – Merry XXX-Mas!

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The Abandoned German Villa I explored more than two years ago – a place so mysterious that it doesn’t even have an “official” name in the German urban exploration and geocaching communities. Some explorers call it Villa Zimmermann (“villa carpenter”), others Villa Waldeslust (“villa forestlust”, kind of analog to the word wanderlust…) or Villa Kinderheim (“villa children’s home”) – probably due to the fact nobody seems to know much about the villa’s history, except that it first was a mansion, then a brothel and finally a children’s home. Or at least that’s what one person said and the rest just runs with it, because I’ve never seen any proof or even a timeline to support that claim. The geocachers of course use a fourth name including the village the villa is in – which basically gives away its location even without exact coordinates as that village has like three different streets… Or better: they used, past tense, as the cache is archived now – probably because it attracted too many cachers and therefore too much attention. Luckily I did some research two years ago, and to quote a geocaching visitor from back then: “Today we were the fourth group to log this cache!” The fourth group in one day! Wow… The *Deportation Prison Birkhausen* comes to mind.

Exploring the Abandoned German Villa was an interesting experience as it looked so familiar and strange at the same time. Familiar, because I grew up in Germany with houses like that. Strange, because I picked up urban exploration as a hobby while in Japan – and locations like that of course are hard to find in the Far East.
Surrounded by massive walls and fences it was easy to see that the villa once must have been the mansion of a very rich family – probably built in the 1920s plus / minus a decade. The main gate, protecting a private road of about 150 or 200 meters leading up to the main building, was completely overgrown, so my old high school friend Torsten and I had to find another way in, which was surprisingly easy, despite the lush vegetation. Once on the premises we didn’t have to worry about getting spotted by anybody as pretty much everything there was overgrown.
The first area we explored was a really old garage / storage building – a paradise for spiders and bugs; nothing nasty though, because we are talking about urbex in Germany. Nature loves Germany! Back in the days this building must have been state of the art, with the ground being tiled and the walls being plastered. We continued along the private road for a couple of last meters, ignored the villa to the left and had a look at the barn, clearly modernized just years before the whole thing was abandoned. The lower part, most likely stables for rabbits and probably something like donkeys, looked a lot like the garage we just left, the upper part on the other hand was a rather nice wooden construction with only few signs of decay. In the forest behind the barn we found a small brick-built shack with a couple of old stuff inside – a perfect setup for a stunning nativity play.
Back on the other side Torsten and I first explored an annex of the villa, including a small basement too dark to take photos at without a tripod, but the heating system there revealed that it was installed in 2001 and last serviced in 2003. I was especially fascinated by the three generations of electricity switches right next to each. Sights like that make me love urban exploration so much! On the other hand the place saw quite a bit of vandalism and everything was dirty and full of spider webs. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.
The main building, the Abandoned German Villa, was where we went next. Three floors plus an attic, solid stone, but clearly modernized every once in a while; for example using double-glazed windows. Sadly there was more vandalism than interior, nevertheless it was really interesting to explore the layout of the villa, seeing signs for its use as a private home, a brothel and a boarding house. I am sure when first occupied the villa was just gorgeous, with lots of space for a big family, especially considering how most people lived in the early 20th century. In the basements we found signs of a cheesy bar area, probably installed in the 1960s/70s during the mansion’s brothel days. In the attic and on the upper floor were signs of the last residents – a John Sinclair magazine (popular German pulp fiction with more than 2200 issues since 1973… and still counting!), amateur art, letters written in careless handwriting.
Torsten and I were already on our way out when we discovered another overgrown building the size of a single family home a little bit to the side. It took some effort to get past the blackberry bushes, but like at the dirty annex two hours prior, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour. The interior of the building was mostly empty and quite moldy, but it was all about the details again. For example neither of us dared to go down to the basement, just based on the smell coming up and the mushrooms growing on the stairs. Personally I loved the stickers on the walls and the doors, clearly from the 80s, with subjects like theme parks, clothing and electronics (Eifelpark – Der größte Wild- und Erlebnispark der Eifel / Eifelpark – The biggest wildlife and adventure park in the Eifel). Easy to miss details included the locks on the outside face of the room doors. If the villa and its surrounding buildings were really used as a boarding school, I guess some of the residents were locked in as punishment or security measures. My favorite detail of them all though was the wallpapers in a room on the ground floor. Not because they were mostly gone, but because there were several layers of them… and upon closer look one of those layers were actually newspapers glued to the wall! Old newspapers, in fact. A piece on the ground had written “February 23rd 1929” on it. A small readable article was about an 18-year-old student in Berlin, who was a member of the right-wing organization “Der Stahlhelm” and shot during a brawl with communists – “slyly”, according to the piece, so it probably was a right-wing newspaper.
Despite quite a bit of vandalism the Abandoned German Villa was a wonderful place to explore – little details were everywhere to be found, most of them revealed more about the location’s history. It wasn’t a spectacular exploration like the *Nakagusuku Hotel Ruin*, but the countless details totally made up for it. It took me a while to write about the villa, but it’s still one of my favorite explorations in Germany! (Next time with a tripod though, because even on a sunny day the place is gloomy like hell…)

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I visited the *Japanese Sex Museum* for the first time in March of 2012 – it was not only a very unique exploration, it was also a very long one, me spending about 4 hours in the pitch-black exhibition rooms.
About 2 months later *I went to Kyushu and failed miserably* when I was unable to find a hotel room due to Japan’s wanderlust during Golden Week. I can be quite persistent, so I went back down south a week or two later to explore the northern Kyushu locations I was eager to visit for quite a while. This time everything went according to plan, so my tour ended in Yamaguchi prefecture with half a day to spare. So I jumped on a train and went back to the Japanese Sex Museum.
A ton of people watched the walking tour video I shot there, but while the feedback was generally positive, some viewers thought that it was way too short, being only 6 minutes long. Open for constructive criticism my idea was to go back to the museum, shoot a longer video and maybe take some additional photos. In and out in an hour, two tops – I had been there just recently, how much could have changed in less than 2 months? Well… I left after four hours to catch my last train back to Osaka!

Interestingly enough not a lot changed. The place looked almost the same, except for one minor difference – somebody opened two doors, emergency exits, allowing not only some foliage to enter, but also a few rays of light. Not much, but enough to use natural light with the help of a tripod and long exposure times for almost every single photo. During my first visit I had to illuminate about 80% of the photos manually and individually with a flashlight since it was completely dark in most of the rooms. On my second visit the process was almost as time-consuming as before, but the photos looked completely different, even when I took pictures of the same objects. And so one hour turned into two turned into three turned into four…

This is actually more or less a photo and video update since I already wrote about the sex museum’s history in my previous article – and since nothing happened while I revisited the place, here is the new material for your viewing pleasure without further ado. Enjoy!

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Addendum 2014-07-11: According to a friend of mine the museum has been demolished a while ago – R.I.P.!

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When Conan was asked “What is best in life?” he answered “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” – I’m pretty sure if the Mongol general would have asked him “What is worst in life?” Conan would have answered “To marry a Japanese woman, see her taking your paycheck, and to hear the lamentation about setting the AC to a ‘freezing’ 28° C in the middle of summer.”

Please forgive this provocative generalization of an introduction, but whenever I stumble across an abandoned love hotel I can’t help but be reminded of how different Japan is in so many ways to my home country Germany. Especially in the relationship department. What I wrote so far and will write in the lines to come is not an analysis of the Japanese society or even just its love life – I’m just describing what I see and hear as an expat living in Japan, which is quite different from the things one sees and hears as a tourist visiting Japan. After six years in Japan I tend to compare this country to a big amusement park – it’s shiny, it’s tidy, it’s expensive and everybody seems to be nice. But visiting an amusement park and working in an amusement park are two completely different things…

Last time I visited an abandoned love Hotel (*Love Hotel Gion*) I wrote about the love hotel industry in Japan in general – this time I will rant a little bit about relationships in Japan. Back home in Germany, when you talk about your girlfriend or wife, you are usually in the range of being honest to being more positive than it actually is; unless you have a beer with your best buddy, then it might turn into a bitchfest. Not so in Japan! The vast majority of people married to a Japanese woman, no matter if they are foreigners or Japanese, bitch openly about their significant others to everybody – constantly! For every happily married couple I can name two or three where the guy calls his wife “The Dictator” or at least doesn’t feel that it is a waste of time to feed his new-born kid after being pressured into having children… It’s depressing sometimes. (Maybe I should add that I never did any of the above and find Japanese women rather sweet and caring… but I was never married to one.)
While pretty much every woman’s biological clock starts to tick at a certain age that certain age is definitely lower in Japan. The big 3-0 seems to be the current number where cute, open-minded girls turn into little monsters obsessed with marriage – if you meet a woman past 35 you better look for rings right away and get prepared to father a child or two. But that actually is progress in comparison to a derogatory term popular for decades in Japan: Leftover Christmas Cake. Leftover Christmas Cake was a not so flattering way to call an unmarried Japanese woman over the age 25. In Japan Christmas is kind of an additional Valentine’s Day you spend with your significant other eating a beautiful, but extremely overpriced cake – and Leftover Christmas Cake is something nobody wants… Since the ticking deadline is now 30 instead of 25 the term isn’t as popular anymore and you can always see the surprise or even shock on a Japanese person’s face when you mention it.

But even if you get married before the age of 30 it seems like people just follow set behaviors, no matter if they make sense or not; like hardly anybody goes swimming in the ocean after September 1st because according to Japanese definition it’s autumn now – it doesn’t matter that it’s still 32° C outside, you don’t go swimming in autumn since it’s a summer thing to do. And it’s the same with married Japanese women. They quit their jobs, they dress differently, they behave differently. Again: Not all of them, but a lot. A couple of years ago a Japanese friend of mine, a cute girl in her mid 20s, wrote me something along these lines: “I know it’s a horrible thing to say, but I don’t want to work anymore. Maybe I should get married…” – I’m not making this up! In Japan the women have control over the money. No matter how much the husband makes or how high he is on the career ladder: The woman gets the paycheck and the husband gets some pocket money. And if he needs more he has to ask his wife – if he’s lucky enough to have access to a bank account he better remembers when and why he used the ATM, because it’s highly likely that he will have the justify the use of that card. One of the reasons guys married to Japanese women tend to bitch about their wives…

Wives that they sometimes barely know. While arranged marriages are not common in Japan it is not exactly unusual that parents introduce their daughters to suitable candidates – especially when their daughters have passed the devilish age of 30. Traditionally men and women are not platonic friends with each other – and if a couple isn’t working at the same company it’s not really rare that they see each other only once or twice a week, because they are both super busy at work; especially the guys. And that’s another big difference to what I’m used to – unless you are having a long distance relationship you see (and get to know) your significant other on 5, 6, 7 days a week where I come from; way more often than in Japan. With the result that a lot of men (including foreigners) are marrying Japanese women they don’t know nearly as much about as if they would have been in a relationship with a woman in a western country for the same amount of time. On the other hand that fact makes it easier to stay at work till 9, 10 or 11 p.m. every night… Who wants to go home to a wife and kids they barely know…?
For a lot of Japanese men it almost seems to be a hassle to have a relationship after all – the so-called Herbivore Men (草食(系)男子, sōshoku(-kei) danshi) are described as having an “indifferent attitude towards desire of flesh”. Whenever you think you’ve heard it all…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many, many, many happy (happy!) marriages in Japan, but when I listen to co-workers and friends hardly anybody seems to be really happy in their marriage – and a lot of them cheat on their wives.

And that finally brings us to the exploration of the Furuichi Love Hotel in Hyogo prefecture – an original find I’ve never seen anywhere else before, including Japanese haikyo blogs! Like the *Love Hotel Gion* the Furuichi Love Hotel was more like a motel. You drove into a garage (this one even had closable doors!) and entered a small apartment from there – on the right side was a Japanese style toilet, on the left side a bathroom, straight ahead the fun room with the king size bed and all the other extras. Like the Love Hotel Gion the Furuichi Love Hotel was in pretty bad shape. Most garages were locked and the dozen rooms were accessible via a two small hallways in abysmal state – some vandals used a pickaxe for some remodeling. They did surprisingly little damage to most of the rooms, so I was able to take photos in three of them. Sadly the light from the hallway wasn’t enough to see anything there, so I had to use my flashlight again to bring some light to those abandoned love caves.

The rest of the area was in a state of destruction, too. Right at the entrance was a small house for the manager of the hotel, the interior covered by some smelly pink powder – most likely somebody emptied a fire extinguisher there. The backyard was turned into a junkyard, but if you are looking for a Japanese style toilet you might find an undamaged one there. Glass shards and pieces of porcelain were all over the place, but what really caught my eyes was a sex toy with a cable remote hanging in one of the trees – Merry XXX-Mas everybody!

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Abandoned Kansai in Hokkaido… Who would have thought that? Up till now I never made it further east than the center of Japan’s main island Honshu. I limited myself to the western half of Japan, because that was the reason I started this blog. Heck, initially I wanted to limit myself to the Kansai region; hence “Abandoned Kansai”, not “Abandoned Japan” or “Abandoned West Japan”. But then the “once in a while” hobby urban exploration turned into a regular thing and only weeks later I went to different regions, then to different islands – and in spring of 2012 I did a *haikyo trip to Okinawa* together with my urbex buddy *Michael Gakuran*. “What’s next?” was the big question, and the answer was found quickly – we already explored Japan’s most western prefecture, so we kind of had to explore Japan’s most eastern prefecture, Hokkaido!

Usually I plan my urbex trips on short notice. One time I brought my urbex equipment to work on Friday to see how I feel during the day, booked a hotel in the afternoon and left for a weekend trip right after work. Flexibility like that is impossible when partnering up for a long distance trip, so Michael and I booked plane tickets weeks ahead – and according to the weather forecast we ended up with a rainy weekend; a long weekend even, to which we added some days. Luckily the forecast was as reliable as always in Japan and so 4 out of my 5 days in Hokkaido were sunny and slightly snowy, only the last one came with 8° Celsius and rain.

Since I arrived almost a day earlier than Michael the original plan for me was to do some sightseeing in Sapporo. To my surprise the weather was sunny to cloudy, no rain at all, so instead of visiting indoor classics like the Sapporo Clock Tower, the Ishiya Chocolate Factory or the Sapporo Beer Museum I opted for a little hike to Mount Teine, once home to some of the sports events at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. One day of good weather? I had to take advantage of that! Then it turned out that the next three days were pretty nice, too – which is a big advantage when doing urban exploration as you spend a lot of time outdoors…
On the last day Michael and I split – while he drove for hours to infiltrate a location he asked me to keep secret for now, I went on to do some really touristy stuff, like visiting the old harbor town of Otaru and taking a glass blowing lesson. My favorite touristic place though was the Sapporo night view from the freshly renovated observation platform on top of Mount Moiwa – stunningly beautiful! It was soooooo cold up there, but the view was absolutely amazing! I went there on the first day before visiting the Sapporo White Illumination and I strongly recommend to pay Mt. Moiwa a visit – I would love to shoot a time-lapse video from up there…
Overall the trip to Hokkaido was a great mix of urbex and tourist stuff. Five days I really enjoyed, probably more than any five consecutive days I spent in Osaka this year… So this is a list of the abandoned places I ended up visiting:
Advantest Research Institute
Bibai Bio Center
Canadian World Park
Hokkaido House Of Hidden Treasures
Horonai Coal Mine Substation
Mt. Teine Ski Lift
National Sanatorium Sapporo
Olympic Ruins Of Sapporo 1972
Sankei Hospital
Sapporo Art Village
Showa-Shinzan Tropical Plant Garden
Tenkaen – Japan’s Lost China Theme Park

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