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Archive for the ‘Shikoku’ Category

After visiting the Sky Rest New Muroto in the southern part of Shikoku Jordy and I got back on the road to find an abandoned school in the middle of nowhere about 50 kilometers away. While the most popular way of finding places to explore seems to be (mostly useless) books like Nippon No Haikyo and doing research on the internet the most effective way to do it actually is to rent a car and hit the road. In our case we stumbled across two amazing abandoned places (or haikyo (廃墟), ruins, as they are known in Japan) on our way to the school: an abandoned hotel and an abandoned Pachinko parlor in amazing condition.
After about half an hour on the road I saw a huge sign advertising a hotel – and the sign looked like it wasn’t taken care of for at least a decade. I told Jordy about it and we decided to turn around. Driving up a hill for only a short distance there it was, the shangri-la (yes, lower case spelling…). Very unspectacular from the outside Jordy cracked some jokes about how the place doesn’t live up to its name, but we were disabused soon…
With the front desk gone and the kid’s play area and gift shop almost empty, the shangri-la became interesting when I entered the office behind the front desk. Amongst the mess of documents and office items like ink cartridges scattered all over the floor I found a photo album with wedding pictures. Was the shangri-la maybe more than it appeared from the outside? It was. Right around the corner was a rental counter for towels and other bathing equipment and from there I could already see the indoor water park – huge by Japanese standards, well below average being used to European facilities like that. Nevertheless fascinating, especially since the pool was quite complex with several small water slides and a bridge across to where I assume once a bar was.
The rest of the ground floor was occupied by a kitchen, another bar and a small recreational area outside. The hotel part of the shangri-la was on the second floor. All rooms were empty by the time of my visit, but one of them was labeled “CHAPEL”, so I guess it’s easy to say that the shangri-la was a wedding hotel.
No Japanese hotel is complete without two shared baths (one for men, one for women) and the ones here were quite nice, including a rather spacious sauna considering the size of the shangri-la.
Jordy and I weren’t the first visitors to the shangri-la in the 10 years since it was closed (judging by the ad for a marathon in November of 2000), but to my surprise I’ve never seen it on the internet before. There was a bit of chaos here and there, but almost none of the typical signs of vandalism ruining the more famous… ruins. No arson, hardly any smashed interior, no broken windows – hardly any mold, well-lit, secluded. A truly great place to explore!

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The Sky Rest New Muroto (スカイレストニュー室戸) is a prime example of an abandoned place that suffered severly from too much attention – and by too much attention I mean the book “Nippon No Haikyo” (ニッポンの廃墟), which is pretty useless by now since it became victim of its own popularity. Unlike most books about abandoned places Nippon No Haikyo includes maps. Some of them are completely useless, but others are almost as detailed as if it was a GoogleMaps link. Why is the book useless? Because most of the described locations are demolished by now due to the attention the book drew to the respective places from August 2007 on – *Koga Family Land* for example was abandoned for more than 20 years until it was demolished in December of 2008, same for Nagoya Toyo Ball, Nihon Cement Mojiko and the Inagawa Trap Shooting. Other places once easily accessible were boarded up (Hototogisu Ryokan) or severely vandalized (like the ghost town *Mukainokura*).
The Sky Rest New Muroto is one of those places that suffered a lot of damage over the past four years. If you are lucky you can find pictures taken before Nippon No Haikyo was published and see a very unique building with lots of intact (rusty and dusty) interior, but since even blogs about food and flowers posted the exact location on maps (something that 95% of urbex blogs would never do!) the Sky Rest became a ravaged shadow of itself. Pretty much all of the interior was ripped out and shredded to pieces – all that’s left is the impressive concrete structure and piles of scrap everywhere. In addition to that the lighting conditions on the day of the shooting were terrible, so especially the early outdoor pictures turned out to be actually pretty horrible – I apologize for that! (I publish them anyways to give you a better impression of the unique architecture; the building looks like a fortress with three canon towers on top. The video coming with this article isn’t outstanding either, but I present it for the same reason, although I never intended to publish it, like all the other videos I took. But some of them, especially the one taken at the *Shime Coal Mine*, turned out to be quite popular…)
Now surrounded by antennas submitting television and communication signals the Sky Rest still towers Cape Muroto and offers a gorgeous view in all directions. Sadly there is barely anything known about the place – old pictures confirm what you can assume from the name, that the Sky Rest once was a restaurant for people enjoying the stunningly beautiful nature of Cape Muroto. In addition to that some pictures show remains of rusty and broken arcade machines, although they must have been very old given the fact that the Sky Rest was closed in 1978…


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Bathing is a very important aspect of Japanese culture, deeply rooted in centuries-old traditions. Although most apartments and houses have their own baths nowadays (unlike 30 years ago), public bath houses are still popular even in residential areas of big Japanese cities. Onsen and sentō are gender-separated places of tranquility where people enjoy a relaxing hot bath (usually around 40°C) after a hard day of work or an intense workout. Onsen towns in the middle of nowhere are popular vacation destinations for the Japanese domestic tourism and a must see / do for many foreign visitors.
Waterparks with slides and wave pools on the other hand are not nearly as popular in Japan as they are in the States or Europe. Most of the time they are considered one amongst many attractions of amusement parks (like at Nara Dreamland) – and indoor waterparks are even more rare.
From what I was able to find out the Tokushima Countryside Healthspa (お水荘ヘルスピア), an indoor water park with some hotel rooms, was opened in 1975 (under a different name) to complement a countryside farm, attracting visitors with millions of flowers. It was renovated and expanded in 1994 to be re-opened under its current name – making dance shows and karaoke new selling points. Due to its remote location (35 minutes by bus from the next train station) and the economic crisis the number of guests decreased while the debt piled up to 800 million Yen – and lowering the entry fee from reasonable 1700 Yen per day (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) with special promotions (Ladies Day on Thursdays for 850 Yen and Friends Day on Fridays for 1000 Yen) didn’t help either – at the end they reportedly sold tickets for as low as 100 Yen… So in 2002, after 27 years, the lights went out at Tokushima Countryside Healthspa.
I have to admit: I love indoor waterparks. It’s one of the few leisure activities I really miss living in Japan. Back home in Germany you can find quite a few abandoned public swimming pools, indoor and outdoor, but no abandoned waterparks. So I enjoyed every minute of the two hours I spent there. The hotel part was quite vandalized and rather boring, so I left it rather quickly to go over to the swimming pools and the waterslide. On the way I passed a kitchen and some functional rooms. In two of them quite a few goods and training equipment were lined up, here and there I found price tags scattered all over the place – it seems like the owner tried to sell as much as possible before closing for good. The now empty main pool looked pretty much like a rather local indoor water park in Germany and I loved how red and green leafed plants were growing inside; if there ever was a zombie attack you know where to go to if the Shime Coal Mine is already occupied – if you know what I mean…
The outside waterslide at the bold cliff looked absolutely amazing, the weather just contributing to the atmosphere, so please have a look at the videos, too. Next to the waterslide was a staircase leading down to a pool, now filled with moldy brackish water, two dead greenish doves lying at the pool edge. Again, amazing atmosphere – kinda spooky, but not dangerous at all; neither physically nor in the form of security or other “guests” thanks to the remote location.
Like pretty much all of the previous and upcoming locations of my Haikyo Road Trip To Shikoku the Tokushima Countryside Healthspa was a unique, relaxed and fascinating place to explore. Shikoku, an urbex heaven!




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Okay, after quite a few articles about the Zone Of Alienation it’s about time to go back to Japan. I’ll return by posting the previously announced color set of a location I already described before the “Chernobyl & Pripyat” special: The Tokushima Countryside Clinic. I went there in November of 2010 and wrote a long article about it in December. Please *click here to read what I had to say* and enjoy the same pictures as below – just in black and white. (Next week I’ll continue with another location from my Haikyo Road Trip To Shikokuan abandoned indoor waterpark, which is quite a rarity in Japan!)

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Doing urban exploration it’s hard not step into the trap of chasing only after the famous locations like Gunkanjima or Nara Dreamland – everybody has them (for good reasons), so you kind of gotta have them, too. But it’s important to stay open minded and not just look for the big ones when doing research. Because if you are really dedicated and incredibly lucky every once in a while you will stumble across a hidden gem that will blow your mind unexpectedly. Ladies and gentlemen: The Tokushima Countryside Clinic…
I saw the Tokushima Countryside Clinic (徳島田舎診療所) on a small Japanese travel blog about half a year ago. Although its location is quite remote I was able to pin it down. Jordy knew about the place, too, and was even more eager than myself to see the place (I was actually only moderately excited about it beforehand), so we decided to go there first thing on the second day of our road trip to Shikoku – abandoned hospitals are hard to find, but Japanese countryside clinics are almost unknown. Up till now the secret Doctor’s Shack was the benchmark for that type of haikyo, but over the last couple of years it lost quite a bit of its former attraction as it’s not that secret anymore and suffered a lot from vandalism. With the discovery of the Tokushima Countryside Clinic I’m sure its reputation will go down in no time…
I’ve been to several famous locations in Japan and I enjoyed most of them, but this really unknown find came with almost no expectations and therefore captured my heart in no time. Big but quite unremarkable from the outside I entered the TCC through the only room of the building partly collapsed, the former front desk. While Jordy instinctively went to the pharmacy part to the right (which had a sign that straight-up said “If you want medicine you have to pay cash!”) I had a look around on the first floor and finally settled in the treatment room. Abandoned about 32 years ago (as Jordy found out later talking to some locals) the TCC offered an almost endless amount of items and angles. There was so much to see it didn’t get boring for a second, from syringes and rusty needles over patient files to medical books and instruments – and since the partly boarded-up place had hardly any visitors during the last few decades the atmosphere there was just amazing.
I thought maybe 20 minutes had passed when Jordy suggested after 1.5 hours (!) that we should switch rooms. So I went over to the pharmacy, wondering if it was really a good idea to take pictures in a room filled with all kinds of odors. I was setting up my tripod in the narrow pharmacy, but it took me another 10 minutes or so to realize that there was another tiny room behind it, filled with hundreds of bottles, flasks and cardboard boxes full of more medicine and chemicals. Whenever I thought I’ve seen everything there was more. Like when Jordy asked me half an hour later if I had seen the study room behind the examination room – of course I hadn’t! I shot in that room for more than one and a half hours and didn’t even realize there was another (opened) door… So I made my way over to the study room and took some more pictures of books, test tubes and other stuff.
The rest of the TCC was a mansion-like estate with a beautiful huge living room set in complete darkness (harboring a gorgeous house shrine) and a spacious kitchen including a brick-built oven. The sleeping rooms must have been on the second floor and in another building that was also used as a storage.
Overall the Tokushima Countryside Clinic is a haikyoist’s dream and I have to admit it totally blew my mind – it’s unique, it’s in great condition, it’s virtually unknown and I had almost no expectations when going there. I spent about four hours shooting (due to the difficult but interesting lighting conditions exposure times went as high as 30 seconds) and I guess I could have spent another four if there wouldn’t have been other locations on the schedule for that day. The TCC is without a doubt my favorite location in Japan so far and I guess it’s the perfect opportunity to finally present you my favorite location worldwide – so next week I’ll finally start the long overdue series about Pripyat and Chernobyl
I decided to publish the photo set of this location in black and white to stress its unique atmosphere; finally a simple form of post-production – *please have a look at the color version here*.

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Recently I went on a three day road trip to Awaji Island and Shikoku. Fellow urban explorer Jordy came down to Kobe, we rented a car and off we went. Since Jordy likes to drive and I like to do research we combined our powers to go to some places off the beaten tracks. Pretty much all of the locations will be English speaking firsts, some of them are even barely known to the Japanese haikyo community – including two original finds: A pachinko parlor with all the machines and a hotel called shangri-la. In addition to that we went to an abandoned monument (with a museum right next to it), another hotel, a nursery school, a restaurant with a spectacular view, an abandoned and very countryside elementary school, a spa built on a cliff and, most important of all, an abandoned doctor’s house that makes the previously posted Doctor’s Shack look like… well… a shack.
Please enjoy the preview pictures below – a series of articles about the trip will start ASAP, most likely by the end of this week.

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