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Archive for the ‘Shiga’ Category

The Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope is an abandoned ski resort near the top of Mount Hiei on the border between Kyoto prefecture and Shiga prefecture. Famous for its Enryaku Tempel and the Kokuhoden Museum this holy mountain was once thought to be the home of gods and demons in the Shinto belief system. Interestingly enough the predominantly religion on Mt. Hiei has always been Buddhism. The monk Saicho founded the Enryaku-ji in 788 as the first outpost of the Tiantai / Tendai sect and it remained the Tendai headquarters till this very day, although it was famously destroyed by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 to vanish the rising power of the local warrior monks, killing about 20,000 people (including civilians) in the area. The temple was rebuilt soon after and is one of the main tourist attractions in Shiga prefecture today, accessible via two cable car lines, several beautiful hiking trails and a toll road for cars, motorcycles and busses.

Along the “Kitayama East Course” lies the Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope, probably the most visited haikyo in all of Japan. On an average day during the hiking seasons in spring and autumn you’ll never be alone in the area as people are constantly passing by – about half a dozen hiking trails meet here and a close-by cable car station, serving the longest funicular line in Japan, attracts hundreds of people a day. Most hikers barely notice the abandoned ski lift and ski slope, hardly anybody peeks through the broken windows of the gear rental store or has a look at the undamaged closed restaurant. Why wasting a thought on that ugly stain when the surrounding nature is of such beauty? Because beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and though the ski resort on Mount Hiei was rather small it nevertheless offers a few neat angles now that it is abandoned.

Wanna know some facts about the resort? Okay, this is what I was able to find out: The Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope was opened in 1964 and on November 1st of 2002 the newspaper Kyoto Shimbun reported that the ski resort was closed for good after a hot summer in 2000 and a way too warm winter in 2001 – followed by a year of temporary closing; which explains why both the restaurant and the rental store are still stocked with all kinds of items. In the almost 40 years of operation the already mentioned facilities welcomed customers for both a summer and a winter season. In winter a combination of natural and artificial snow (provided by a snow gun) offered fun for the whole family, in summer grass skiing was the business of choice. A lift transported guest for a distance of 170 meters so they could enjoy the pretty short slope of up to 200 meters with a vertical drop of 38 meters.

Oh, before I forget: The nearby “Garden Musem Hiei”, a flower park, once was an amusement park with a haunted house, a small Ferris wheel and a viewing platform, but I guess it was converted quickly enough to never been considered abandoned.

And that’s it for now from Mount Hiei. For now, because the ski resort was actually my second urbex trip there and my fourth or fifth overall – I really like Mount Hiei! Next time I’ll take you there I’ll either show you an abandoned rest house on a steep slope or a mysterious construction I’ve never seen anywhere else on the internet…

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Exploring the Tsuchikura Mine (a.k.a. the Pawnbroker Mine) caused quite a bit of trouble. Unlike most of my other explorations it is not easily accessible by public transportation and therefore a challenge in general. As described last time I met with my urbex buddies Andrew and Damon to drive to the Tsuchikura Mine in the Shiga mountainside. After we were distracted by the *K-1 Pachinko Parlor* we finally made our way to the east. At Lake Biwa the weather was already rather cold and it snowed a little bit, but the streets were just wet, that’s it. The country road leading to the mountain though was soon covered with the white slippery beauty and each tunnel we went through seemed to add 5 centimeters of snow to the fields and forests we were passing. When we finally reached the old side road to the mine we had to abort our approach: The street was completely covered by snow, at least 50 cm were piling up and looking down the way ahead of us it looked like it was getting worse – we had to wait till spring.
4 months later, April. Japan’s cherry blossoms were in full bloom when Damon, Andrew and I decided to try the Tsuchikura Mine again. With the snow (mostly) gone access was as easy as it could be. No fences, no barbed wire, no secret entrances – no wonder the place is one of the haikyo favorites everybody seems to know about.
The Tsuchikura Mine was opened in 1907 (Meiji 40) by a company called Tanaka Mining and produced mainly copper and iron sulfide as well as some gold and silver and small amounts of lead. In 1934 (Showa 9) the Nitchitsu Mining Corporation bought and modernized the mine, but a series of accidents caused by heavy snowfalls in the area (no kidding, huh?) cost quite few lives:
1934: 4
1936: 6
1939: 10
1940: 10
In 1942 most of the mine was moved two kilometers to the south, to the present location, where a sifting plant with a capacity of 100 tons per month was built. In 1957 the sifting plant was expanded to 200 tons per month, but around six years later the plant stopped to be profitable due to cheap ore from overseas when trade liberations kicked in – the unexpectedly low quality of the ore at the new deposit didn’t help either and so the mine closed in 1965.
At its zenith about 1,500 people worked at the Tsuchikura Mine, sadly there is nothing left of the mining town surrounding it. All there is to see today is a couple of concrete constructions on a steep slope and a roofless house towards the top of it – probably the previously mentioned sifting plant, once wainscoted by wooden buildings. (If you are interested in some old photos please *click here* – the text there is in Japanese as this is the first time somebody writes a bit more about the Tsuchikura Mine in English on the internet.)
Exploring the abandoned leftovers of the Tsuchikura Mine was pretty easy thanks to its popularity. The place consisted of several “floors” with concrete fluid reservoirs and brackets for conveyer belts which looked a bit like Stonehenge. Since quite a lot of people seek to get up there nice explorers installed ladders and lots of ropes. People in decent shape and free from giddiness should have no problems to make it up the slope and enjoy a nice view down on the remains and the rather narrow valley. In comparison to the *White Stone Mine* and even the *Iimori Mine* the Tsuchikura Mine was rather boring, but it offered some nice angles and interesting views to take pictures of – and if you are lucky you will meet a photographer and their cosplay models… (Abandoned mines are popular amongst certain niche photographers. You know, production value!)
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Pretty much a year ago, a couple of weeks after we explored the *Love Hotel Gion* and the *Biwako Tower & Igosu 108* together, I met up again with my haikyo buddies Andrew and Damon. Our goal was a mine in the mountains on the border between Shiga and Gifu, but we got distracted pretty quickly.
Andrew was driving along the highway when Damon spotted a big red building that looked abandoned. We turned around only to find out that the place was not only abandoned, but a pachinko parlor. 2 months prior, while on the road with Jordy, I was able to explore an example of this oh so typically Japanese kind of entertainment location in Shikoku called *Big Mountain Pachinko Parlor* – this time we stumbled across the abandoned K-1 Pachinko Parlor.
While entering Big Mountain was a piece of cake it took us a while longer to enter K-1, but after a couple of minutes we found a way in. Against all odds and to our total surprise K-1 was in similar good shape as Big Mountain. Usually abandoned pachinko parlors are boarded up and / or looted and / or vandalized. K-1 showed some signs of all three factors, but none of them to a point where it hurt the atmosphere severely. When I wrote about Big Mountain I wrote quite a bit about pachinko in Japan in general (and its importance for North Korea), so if you are interested in that kind of background information then *please look here*.
While Jordy and I were in quite a hurry and squeezed Big Mountain between the hotel *shangri-la* and the *F# Elementary School* Andrew, Damon and I were able to took our time – this time we were even able to explore the upper floor Jordy and I missed in Tokushima. Coming up the stairs I found something that made me laugh out loud: Next to a page from a Japanese porn magazine lied a gripper – you gotta love the local humor! (Or was it North Korean humor? Who knows…)
The first room we entered upstairs was the main office / surveillance room. Three big monitors once hooked up to security cameras were still in place, and so was the big safe. Business cards, prizes, furniture and other stuff were scattered all over the floor, making the room quite a mess. The kitchen across the hallway on the other side was in pretty immaculate condition and looked like it was just left the other day. I’m not exactly sure when the K-1 Pachinko Parlor was closed, but judging by the calendars and train schedules on the walls it must have been around summer 2003. (Outside on the building was still a big sign from a real estate company trying to sell the thing – if you want me to make contact for you let me know!)
The hallway itself was pretty cluttered, too. We found some pretty big shoes and lots of porn, magazines as well as videos, in one of cabinets. What is it with porn in abandoned buildings? There seems to be a mysterious connection…
Most of the other rooms on the upper floor were actually living rooms / bed rooms. Some of them looked like they were ready to use, others not so much. One of them was stuffed with countless pachinko machines and spare parts. Also worth mentioning was the relaxing area out on the flat roof. There we found a couch, a table and a TV outside. Since it was snowing I’m sure all items were useless at that point, but I could clearly imagine some exhausted pachinko parlor employees far away from home sitting outside after a tough day of work, chilling with a chilled beer, enjoying their off-hours on a nice spring or autumn evening; you know, living the life!
Before we left heading for the mine we explored a small building across the parking lot of the K-1 Pachinko Parlor. In my article about Big Mountain I explained how the pachinko balls people win are exchanged for prizes since gambling is rather strictly regulated in Japan. Those prizes usually are getting off at “pawn shops” near the pachinko parlor – and the building on the parking lot most likely was one of those pawn shops. It was accessible, but completely gutted and therefore totally unspectacular. Nevertheless it was nice to have seen one of those shops, just to make the experience complete…

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Abandoned ferris wheels usually come with abandoned theme parks. But when I visited *Expoland* in Osaka the ferris wheel was just demolished. And so were the giant wheels in all the other *abandoned amusement parks* I visited – except for the *big wheel in Pripyat* – which was actually pretty small… So usually the ferris wheel is one of the first things to be demolished when an amusement park closes – to be re-built at another park or to be sold for scrap metal. Not in the case of Igosu 108…
You might have seen photos of this abandoned ferris wheel at other blogs and you might ask yourself “Why is Florian calling the ferris wheel ‘Igosu 108’ – it says びわ湖タワー (Biwako Tower) in huge letters right in the middle of the thing and everybody calls it that way when writing about it?!”. Well, my Japanese might not be the best, but just because something is written somewhere doesn’t mean it’s the name of the place. And in this case it isn’t. The name of the ferris wheel is Igosu 108 – the name of the surrounding amusement park, now mostly gone, was Biwako Tower. To be more precise: The name of an observation tower, now gone, was Biwako Tower. This tower was 63.5 meters high and had a rotating observation platform that went up and down to give visitors a spectacular view across Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan. Biwako Tower was built in 1965 and extended to an amusement park in 1967. In addition to the observation platform there was a small ferris wheel, a rollercoaster, a pachinko parlor, water bumper car and several other small rides. But that’s not all! Biwako Tower also included an onsen (hot spring / spa) and a wedding hall – plus the usual array of restaurants, shops and stuff like that. Thanks to free parking and no entrance fee Biwako Tower was hugely successful and attracted up to 50.000 people a day!
In 1992 the last attraction was built – now the last one standing: Igosu 108 (イーゴス108). I can’t say for sure, but I guess the name is a combination of sugoi (すごい, meaning “great”) backward and 108 – the height of the ferris wheel, at the time the largest ferris wheel in the world. It was soon considered a landmark of Shiga prefecture and Lake Biwa, but couldn’t stop the downfall of Biwako Tower. Speaking of which: Since the ferris wheel was higher than the name-giving attraction Biwako Tower was transformer into a bungee jumping platform.
On August 31st of 2001 Biwako Tower finally closed its doors – just half a year after Universal Studios Japan opened in Osaka. Most of Biwako Tower was demolished in late 2003 / early 2004 with the exception of Igosu 108. Some small attractions survived partly (like a fortune teller booth, Fantasy Land and Bumper Boat), but the rest was transformed into big supermarkets and other stores, their parking lot replacing the pachinko parlor. Two sources claim that Igosu 108 still has an owner who announced in 2007 that the ferris wheel will re-open in 2008, but that never happened. According to them an operator puts Igosu 108 into motion once a month to make sure that everything is still working.
Having visited what’s left of Biwako Tower in December of 2010 (together with Damon and Andrew right after leaving the *Love Hotel Gion*) I kinda doubt that claim. While the outer part is easy to access Igosu 108 is protected by a typical Japanese orange site fence. The noisy kind that doesn’t have a door to let people in and out easily. I didn’t have a closer look at the controls of the ferris wheel, but the whole place looked quite rusty and run-down. To reactivate Igosu 108 you would need way more than just a bucket of paint and a “Reopened!” sign…
(If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the*video channel on Youtube*…)

Addendum 2013-11-28: Igosu 108 was dismantled in autumn of 2013…



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Love hotels always fascinated me. From the first time I heard about them and even more so after the first time I visited one. So of course an abandoned love hotel was always quite high on my “Places I want to go to” list, but while Kanto is swamped with that type of haikyo there seem to be barely any in Kansai. It took me more than a year to find the love hotel Gion, and technically I guess it’s more like a love motel…
Since I guess not everybody reading this blog is familiar with that kind of “popular Japanese subculture”. So, what is a love hotel? First of all – the love hotel industry is not a subculture at all, it’s one of the biggest money makers in Japan! A love hotel (also known as fashion hotel, amusement hotel, boutique hotel, couples hotel, romance hotel or leisure hotel) is a hotel where you can get rooms not only for a whole night, but also by the hour. They originated in the Edo period in Edo (nowadays Tokyo) and Kyoto, the then-capital – appearing to be tea rooms or normal inns, used by both prostitutes and normal couples. When prostitution was abolished in 1958 love hotels (then known as “bring-along inns”) started to boom – litte known fact: Even Nintendo ran a love hotel in 1963, just about 10 years before they started entering and revolutionizing the video games industry. The modern term “love hotel” derives from the “Hotel Love”, which was built in 1968 and attracted customers with a rotating sign. While some love hotels are basically more or less normal hotels without windows (if you see a hotel without windows in Japan you can be sure it’s a love hotel…) and an extremely discrete front desk other love hotels have very creative theme rooms for almost every taste – from princess bedrooms to BDSM stuff, from train compartments to whatever cliché fantasy you can imagine. The furnishing and equipment of those rooms vary heavily on the price – in addition to the standard stuff you have in a normal hotel room (TV, free tea, hairdryer, …) you usually get a games console, a karaoke machine and some condoms; some hotels have vending machines with sex toys in the hallway or the lobby. If you are willing to pay more there are basically no limits – insanely huge HDTVs, jacuzzis, massage chairs, private balconies on the top floor to enjoy the night sky and in some cases even a private swimming pool. While “rests” are about 2000 to 4000 Yen an hour “stays” cost about 8000 to 16000 Yen per room per night (usually from 10 or 11 p.m. on for 10 or 12 hours, depending on the hotel) – super luxurious rooms can cost up to 60.000 Yen per night in cities like Kyoto or Tokyo. (1000 Yen = 9 Euros / 13 US-$)
Nowadays the turnover of the love hotel industry in Japan is a whopping 4 trillion Yen per year, equivalent to about 36,000,000,000 Euros or 52,000,000,000 US-$ as of September 2011 – generated by 500 million visits to 37,000 love hotels all over the country. Love hotels are considered a whacky underground thing by many foreigners, while in fact they are part of daily life, turning over double of what the anime industry does.
Why are love hotels so successful in Japan? Because Japanese walls are thin and a lot of even not so young Japanese people are still living with their parents; the so-called parasite singles (パラサイトシングル, parasaito shinguru) enjoy the carefree and comfortable life of living at home up till their early 30s when even the late bloomers are getting married. If they want to have some passionate hours with their girlfriends, boyfriends or club acquaintances they go to a love hotel (and so do most adulterers…). It’s clean, it’s anonymous (most lovel hotel visitors don’t see any staff person!) and it’s affordable, especially if you have a job and still live with your parents. And the novelty factor of the rooms is a big plus, too!
So one day in November I met up with Damon and Andrew at a small train station somewhere in Shiga – all three of us were eager to finally explore an abandoned love hotel; especially Damon, who seems to find secret porn stashes at pretty much every location he goes to. Sadly the haikyo Love Hotel Gion didn’t have any of the (fake) glamour and sexiness you experience at a fashion hotel that’s still in business. It wasn’t even a real hotel, more like a motel – 8 row bungalows with rather deep open garages in front of them to prohibit people from getting an easy look at the license plates of the parked cars. The lot in front was quite big, so I guess another row bungalow or two were already demolished. And the one still standing was in pretty bad shape overall. Some of the “rooms” I didn’t fully explore, because the floors and roofs were falling apart, but one or two were barely touched. The downside of that was that it was pitch-black in there – luckily I brought my tripod. The layout of the bungalow sections was pretty much the same for all of them. A little lobby at the entrance, a windowless bath including a tiled tub to the left and then a bedroom straight ahead. Most of the bedrooms were covered by landscape wallpapers while the rest of the rooms had crimson wallpapers. Very, very 70s porn! (Or how an innocent young man like myself imagines something filthy like that!) Sadly most of the rooms were empty except for fixtures and solid bed frames. In one of the mini apartments we found a jukebox in questionable condition, but the most interesting detail was the wall mosaic in one of the bathrooms – it depicted two nude women in front of a horse, of one of them you could see the pubic area. Shaved, with just a little bit of hair left; except for the final stone – that one was red…
(If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)

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Today I had a look at some rather old videos shot at locations I already wrote articles about. None of them were intended to be published, so the camera work might be a bit rushed occasionally, but I decided to upload them anyways as I think there might be some interest in them out there in the world wide web. While some of my videos only get a couple of dozen views quite a few of them were watched by thousands of people – *this one* will actually reach 30.000 views soon. Please enjoy!
*Nara Dreamland – Aska Rollercoaster*

*Koga Family Land*

*Jumbo Club Awaji Island*

*Ohmi Lodge*

*Young People’s Plaza & Museum*

*Takada Ranch Ruin*

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I felt a bit like John Rambo at the beginning of First Blood when I was walking through the mountainous countryside of Shiga prefecture, kilometers away from the next train station or bus stop. But only in that way that I was completely out of place, expecting some xenophobic misanthropic cop to pick me up and drive me to the city limits (where another xenophobic misanthropic cop would pick me up to bring me to the other end of the city limits, where… this repeats until I would have been back to Osaka) – luckily the only police car I saw ignored me…

This April day started with an uncomfortable decision: Being halfway through a cold with general weariness and a serious cough I felt a little bit under the weather, I had no plans for weekend and my haikyo buddy was busy – on the other hand I just spent 5 days in an artifically lit office and this was the last sunny day before another period of rain. The choice was between staying at home and watching a sunny day passing by or going for a haikyo all by myself (which I enjoy less and less since I’m more and more aware of the dangers involved) or going on a hike – which I did the weekend before.
I decided to do a hybrid of the last two options. A while ago I marked a spot on my very personal haikyo map that I labeled “Taga Mine”. The problem with that was, that the name given by the (online) map creators was completely different and that there was another Taga Mine that is still active till this very day (and usually only active mines are marked on online maps like GoogleMaps and Mapfan anyways). So in the end I was hoping for a nice hike to find out if the marked spot is the active or the abandoned Taga Mine; or if there was anything at all. The only hint I had about the abandoned Taga Mine was a Japanese video on Youtube, which could have been mislabelled – so my trip was a long shot.

A few minutes after I left the country road to walk up the mountain I found the T crossing where I should walk to the right. Sadly it turned out to be a dead end with heavy machinery. So I gave up hope finding the abandoned Taga Mine and continued to the left, expecting either to find an active mine or nothing at all, switching into hiking mode. After a while I found another T crossing and I continued to the right. I kept walking and I reached an unimposing forest road to the right again. I don’t know why, but I left the paved road and followed it for a while, dragging my coughing self up that mountain – you can’t imagine the joy I felt when I reached an open rusty gate in front of a stone pit!
The excitement calmed down quickly when all I found was a rusty shack and a concrete room at one side of the slope – was this really the Taga Mine or just something else? Getting closer I saw that there was a machine in the ground that was obviously used to crush the rocks from the stone pit. At that moment I heard some twigs cracking. Would there be security at a remote and long abandoned place like that? I coughed a bit louder than usual, but I got no response. Maybe a fellow haikyoist? Well, I minded my own business taking pictures and after I was finished I heard the cracking twigs again, so I went towards the direction where I assumed the sound was coming from – that’s when I found the main remains of the mine with a huge conveyor belt and several other buildings, built very closely to the steep slope. I heard some noises as if somebody was walking across corrugated iron and when I got closer and looked down I saw lots of it lying on the ground in front of the mine – by nobody was there.
Not really feeling well thanks to the mix of fatigue and adrenaline rush I slid down the mountain a little bit to reach the main part of the mine. The ground was covered with metal, concrete and tons of leaves from many, many autumns. It was hard to tell if the next step would be solid earth or something else. I got closer to the buildings and then something happened that really, really scared me: I heard two animals fighting on the ground behind me, must have been pretty close to where I stood, maybe 100 meters away. At that point I looked at the ground and realized that there was wild boar feces everywhere all across the mine. I’m not a wildlife expert, but I know what a boar sounds like – and I know that you don’t want to run into one in spring, especially when exploring a seriously rotten mine at a steep slope all by yourself.
I continued my explorations, but I could feel how both my fatigue and the adrenaline rush got stronger by the minute, trying to make my way through the concrete and metal structure while taking pictures, expecting a wild angry animal at any second. To be honest, at that point I didn’t enjoy the haikyo at all and I only realized when I was looking at the pictures from the safety of my home how great of a location the Taga Mine was (and still is until it collapses – which I guess will be relatively soon…). That’s when I also found out that it took me a whopping 2 hours to take pictures, although the place wasn’t that big and I felt like I was hurrying; man, was I in a hurry…

Looking back at the adventure I consider it one of the dumbest and at the same time most exciting things I’ve ever done. Yes, I worked hard all week, I wanted to take some haikyo pictures (for the first time in three weeks) and I wanted to be in nature enjoying this beautiful spring day – but being sick and exploring a hillside rotten mine in the middle of nowhere on your own is pretty much the urban exploration definition of stupidity. If you are ever happy enough to find the abandoned Taga Mine and not the active one make sure that the weather conditions are perfect, that your gear is top notch and that you have at least one person at your side. As much as I like my pictures of the Taga Mine… this is the first place I’ve been to that I consider a deathtrap and I highly recommend to stay away from it if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. I definitely learned my lesson from that trip!

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After I finished shooting at the Koga Family Land I walked back along the street that surrounded the Koga Country Club at the eastern side. I knew from a Japanese map I found on the internet that there must have been another haikyo nearby, some kind of club / guest / employee house. Unfortunately the person who marked the map missed the spot, so I had to look around for quite a while – but in the end I was rewarded with a haikyo I only saw a small picture of beforehand since it is widely ignored by the usual crowd visiting Family Land.
Although I spent almost an hour taking pictures and videos at the place I’m still not 100% sure what the building was used for exactly. Right at the (open) entrance were dozens of shoes lockers and a vending machine. From there I went to a private bed room (maybe the quarter of a caretaker?), a staircase to the second floor, another small antechamber with doors to five (hotel style) rooms, a washing / rest room – and to the left I found a dining room and a kitchen. Going up the stairs there was a pretty big open space, some kind of lounge for the people staying there, now completely empty. To the left was a hallway with about 10 rooms, to the right two more rooms (one of them locked) and another washing / rest room. From the lounge you could go outside on a terrace – now filled with lots and lots of furniture.
Overall it was an average haikyo, I guess. But I nevertheless liked it since the building wasn’t vandalized at all and in decent condition – and since it’s very close to the mostly demolished Family Land the combo is definitely worth a visit. I just still wonder why there was an open package of instant noodles next to a porn video in one room…
(Addendum 2012-02-06: I just added the video walking tour – I never intended to publish it, so please don’t get your expectations too high. This was one of the first videos I ever took…)


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Koga Family Land (thanks to weird transcription of the original Japanese also known as Kouga Family Rand) in Shiga has the reputation of being one of the most impressive and most documented abandoned places in Japan. Well, I guess it’s more correct to say it had that reputation, because of after more than 20 years of quiet decay this once so strangely beautiful place was torn down and ripped apart towards the end of 2008 – there are claims that the owners were worried about the dangers to people visiting the place, but I think they were more worried about the golfers having to deal with people walking on their private property along a street passing by several holes. Yes, the golfers. Koga Family Land is located in the southern part of a country club, surrounded by mountains from all other sides – the only way to get there (without sliding down some hill as described later…) is by passing through the same entrance the pink polo shirts wearing men in their best years are using. No problem while the park was open, big problem now.

So after I hiked along a country road for a few kilometers I reached the country club and walked along the street surrounding the golf course to get to Koga Family Land – or what I hoped was left of it. After about five minutes a friendly young man in a golf kart asked me to leave: Private property. Although my knowledge of Japanese is little of course I understood what he wanted. And even pretending not to, claiming in English that I’m just a hiker that lost his way, didn’t help. He insisted on me leaving. So I went back to the country road and followed it for a few kilometers in hope I could find some kind of back entrance to the KFL – without success. On my way back I heard some golfers and saw a steep slope and a little river separating me from the country club. Well, if you don’t let me in using the front, I have to use the side.

So after a fun but slightly dangerous slide down and finding a ford through the river (okay, it was a small river…) I was finally back on the property of the country club. After hiding from the golfers for quite a while I was like “Screw it!” and walked right across the golf courses – since I lost orientation and only assumed where the remains of the park could be I had to take measures into my own hands. The result was quite a few disturbed faces clearly displaying one question: “Who the f* is that f*ing foreigner and what the f* is he doing here?!” To my surprise no security people showed up and it seemed like the golfers were way too scared of me to approach me. After about 15 minutes I disappeared along an asphalted way to the south – I finally found some signs of the park. Or at least I thought so.

It took me another half an hour to find actual remains of Koga Family Land as the rumors on the internet proved to be right: It was almost completely destroyed. At first I only found some moorings and small piles of garbage (one with the seat of a merry-go-round) – and a confusing maze of ways. No signs, no buildings, no rides. Just nature taking back an area that once was an amusement park. Luckily two of the park’s buildings were not made of the light materials usually used in Japan – they were made of concrete and I guess therefore too expensive to be torn down. And who would come to see two buildings when you know that there was a whole park once? Well… I would!

Sadly enough exploring those two buildings was not nearly as exciting as finding them.
The first one I saw (and entered) was a souvenir shop, the price lists still on the wall. Filled with all kinds of signs from the golf course and the former theme park it was in pretty bad shape – especially the cafe part of it, where the wallpapers were molding and falling off the walls.
The second building seemed to be a restaurant once with quite a big dining room / photo exhibition hall on the first floor and a pretty stuffed second floor – including a kitchen, all kind of furniture, rotting blankets and pictures painted by kids.
What I love about abandoned places is finding elements of daily life, so I was very happy to take pictures of an empty soda bottle. It’s the little things that make certain visits worth!

After leaving the second building I strolled around in the area with high hopes to find more remains of park, but I was diappointed. So I went back to street surrounding the country club I was hiking along for five minutes some hours ago. This time no guy in a golf cart showed up to give me a ride to the main street. Which turned out to be very good for me as I stumbled across another abandoned building on my way out – belonging to the country club and way more interesting than the KFL buildings. But that, dear reader, is a story for another time

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