Archive for the ‘Shipyard’ Category

After a couple of explorations with family and friends during my summer vacation 2011 it was about time to fly solo for the first time in Germany. The place to go: an abandoned shipyard along the river Rhine in a really nice little town called Germersheim, the city of syringa and the nightingale, just south of the way more famous Speyer. Germersheim was first mentioned in written form in 1090, but it was most likely founded more than a 1000 years prior to that. One of many beautiful small towns in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region.

It was kind of by chance that I stumbled across the place since I never saw it on the usual German urbex blogs and homepages – but the more excited I was about it. So enjoy, dear German urban explorers. While you can…

At first I was actually thinking about calling this location Shipyard G# – but that would have prohibited me from writing about the long and and turbulent history of the Shipyard Germersheim. Founded as “Oberrheinische Schiffswerft Spatz & Co GmbH” (Upper-Rhenish Shipyard Spatz & Co., Ltd.) in 1927 the company was renamed to “Germersheimer Schiffswerft” (Shipyard Germersheim) in 1953 after the “Reederei Reichel & Co” (Shipping Company Reichel & Co.) bought into the dockyard – but for whatever reasons the sign on top of the buildings says “Schiffswerft Germersheim”. In 1989 the company had to file for bankrupcy, but a rescue company with the creative name “Neue Germersheimer Schiffswerft” (New Shipyard Germersheim) was founded. Interesting fact: When Germany granted a guarantee to build two ships it was ordered by Brussels in December of 1990 to withdraw it since the whole procedure was repugnant to the Treaty of Rome (the whole thing was rather complicated, but it had something to do with a development aid project for the benefit of Senegal – we’ll kinda get to that topic later on again…). The new company was nevertheless successful for a couple of years, but finally failed in 2002. In 2009 a few scenes of an episode of the most popular German crime TV show “Tatort” (there is an English Wikipedia entry about the series if you wanna look it up… more than 800 episodes since 1970 – eat that, CSI!) called “Tod auf dem Rhein” (Death on the Rhine) was shot at the abandoned (New) Shipyard Germersheim and broadcasted in early 2010. A guy passing by on his bike told me that there are plans to tear everything down to build some mansions (with marinas, I guess), but nothing has happened yet to my knowledge…

The shipyard started by building inland cargo ships and pusher crafts, but later added tugboats, tankers and passenger ships to their portfolio. In the Spatz years the dockyard was also famous for (and a European leader in) repairing and conversions. More international fame was gained with the towboat Zongwe and the coastal motor vessel Lukuga, both built in pieces at the shipyard in Germersheim and assembled on location at Lake Tanganyika. In 1990, after the reboot, the ferry Le Joola (80 meters long, 12.5 meters wide, designed for 536 passengers and and a crew of 44) was built to cruise the coast of Senegal – one of the biggest ships ever to be built on the Upper-Rhine. 2002 turned out to be a horrible year for both the shipyard and the Le Joola. The ferry capsized and sank off the coast of Senegal, more than 1800 people died while 65 were rescued, making it the second largest naval desaster since World War 2.

I actually didn’t know any of that background when exploring the shipyard on a hot and humid late summer day. The gate to the area with access to the Rhine was wide open, so I had a look at the backside first. Later I spotted some anglers and probably some geocachers at the waterfront, too (there is a cache on the premises or at least very close by… lost places geocaches are becoming more and more popular and people go there with their whole families). Back at the main street I saw that the sliding gate at the entrance and the porter’s office were closed – the door to the management office building was secured by an additional chain with a heavy lock. I decided to have a look at the rest of the area from the outside to think about how to enter, so that’s what I did. After visiting the *Kawaminami Shipyard* just a couple of months prior it was interesting to see a dockyard that survived way longer although it was founded earlier. Some of the construction buildings were very old, probably from the founding days – too bad they were pretty much empty. So was the office building – way more modern, but empty. And moldy! I’m sure the hot and humid day didn’t help, but I could actually feel how it became more difficult to breathe inside of the building – that’s why I kinda hurried to get out of there again.

It’s hard to imagine that once 140 people were planning, constructing and welding ships at this quiet, almost tranquil place. All the machines were gone and about half of the former dockyard area was already taken over by another business – one that continues the metal work and painting: a car tuning and repair shop. (At least that’s what it looked like from the distance, I didn’t get really close to avoid drawing any kind of attention.)

Visiting the Shipyard Germersheim was a great experience overall. Sunny weather, a pretty much unknown and rather unique location with a long history und barely any hazards – it’s good to know that there are still places to uncover back home in Germany…

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Addendum 2014-08-06: Three years later I *revisited the Shipyard Germersheim* – only to find it completely vandalized… 😦

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2012 didn’t start well for urban exploration in Japan – January has been a sad month for abandoned places in Kyushu. Two of the most famous haikyo in southern Japan were demolished:
The demolition of the *Kawaminami Shipyard* didn’t come as a surprise. It was decided on June 9th 2011 by the Yamashiro City Zoning Committee and executed in mid-January 2012 after all the greens were removed in late 2011. Nevertheless it is a big loss to the urbex community in Japan as it was one of the few locations that aged for decades without being affected much by anything but nature itself.
At the same time (late 2011 / early 2012) an up-and-coming location called *Navelland* was destroyed just 70 kilometers away from the famous deserted shipyard. The former amusement park was turned into a lot to soon become another campus of the Teikyo University. I was lucky enough to visit both places during Golden Week 2011 before they were destroyed and I have fond memories of both visits. You can find out their exact locations on my *map of touristy and demolished ruins in Japan*.
I guess it’s the normal run of things. New abandoned places show up, well-known ones get demolished. Nevertheless it makes me a bit heavy-hearted, especially since I decided a while ago to concentrate on western Japan and leave the east to all the blogs and people who live there. I already missed the famous Sports World in Izu for sure, but even if I change my mind chances are “good” that I might miss *Western Village in Tochigi*, the Russian Village amusement park near Nagano, *Kejonuma Leisure Land* in Tohoku and the Irozaki Jungle Park in Izu. Famous abandoned military installations like the Fuchu Air Base, Camp Drake Army Base or the Tachikawa Air Base. Popular deserted mines like the *Matsuo Ghost Town*, *the Taro Mine*, the Ashio Mine, the Murakashi Mine, *the Osarizawa Mine*, the Seigoshi Mine, the Kamaishi Mine or the *Nichitsu Ghost Town*. Not to forget the quirky remains of the sex industry like the Queen Chateau soapland, the Hotel Royal love hotel, the Fuu# Motel, the Yui Grand Love Hotel, the Akeno Gekijo strip club or the Pearl love hotel – and all the other places like the Royal House, the Small Pox Isolation Ward, the Japan Snake Center, the Okutama Ropeway, the *Heian Wedding Hall*, the many spas and resort hotels of the Yamanaka Lake, the Mount Asama Vulcano Museum, the Okawa Grand Stand or the Gunma Motor Lodge.
I probably forgot some famous spots as the east of Japan has plenty of wonderful abandoned places – but so has the west, and most of them are only described on Japanese urbex blogs until now. So I guess I’ll continue to focus on deserted locations east of Nagano / Nagoya, hoping that I will be able to see as many as possible before they falls victim to jackhammers, wrecking balls and other heavy machinery…

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Darn, me and my timing again… In my previous posting I referred to Gakuranman’s article about the Imari Kawaminami Shipyard – he mentioned a discussion in 2010 about demolishing the place; and I expressed how happy I was it didn’t happen between his visit and mine. Well, it seems like things are moving forward. The Japanese newspaper “Yomiuri” reported on June 24th (almost a week after I published my exploration experience) that the Yamashiro City Zoning Committee decided on June 9th that the Imari Kawaminami Shipyard is a safety hazard and not worth to be preserved as a historical landmark – they will demolish the place, only saving some of the pillars with the safety warnings (as seen on the photos below). And it took them only 50 years to realize that…
I guess the real reason for demolishing the place is the land reclamation project going on behind the seaside part of the shipyard which the dam mentioned in the previous posting is part of. Getting rid of the ruin will create a huge piece of land if both properties are combined – with access to both sea and the main road of the area.
I was quite shocked when I heard about the news today – it’s always a sad thing when abandoned buildings disappear, especially famous and unique ones like this. A place that grew on me a lot after I explored it, especially since there seemed to be a connection to the Katashima Suicide Training School.
Japan is quite weird when it comes to timing. Sometimes things drag forever and maybe the shipyard won’t be destroyed after all, although the committee made the decision to demolish the place. But sometimes things move extremely fast, so maybe the shipyard is already gone by the time I write these lines. Urbex is becoming more and more popular in Kyushu recently – if I hear any news I’ll make sure to keep you updated.
(To make this posting more colorful I chose six previously unpublished photos and uploaded them together with a video I forgot last time…)
Addendum 2012-1-30: The Imari Kawaminami Shipyard was demolished in late 2011 / early 2012. Now you can find its exact location on my *map of touristy and demolished ruins in Japan*.

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The Imari Kawaminami Shipyard, also known as the Kawaminami Uranosaki Industrial Shipyard or the shorter version Kawaminami Shipyard, is one of the best documented urban exploration spots (haikyo / 廃虚) in Japan. Pretty much all blogs about the topic cover the shipyard, Japanese as well as those written by foreigners living or visiting Japan, and it’s marked on countless maps. It’s a perfect location for beginners since it’s right next to a major road, parking spots are available close-by and a train station is just a couple of 100 meters away. There are no (real) fences, no security, no nosy neighbours. And the place is buzzing! During my 4 hour stay I met about half a dozen people, both Japanese and a foreigner. A relaxed start into my 4 day trip to Kyushu…
A trip that started at 4.50 a.m. when my alarm clock reminded me that I can rest when I’m dead. I took one of the first Shinkansen high speed trains from Osaka to Hakata / Fukuoka and from there it was another 3 hour train ride to the station mentioned earlier. I finally arrived at the Kawaminami Shipyard at around noon with one of those weird Japanese spring skies that white out most photos as soon as even parts of the sky are visible. After I entered the shipyard I dropped my luggage right at the entrance to have a look around – and I was rather disappointed. The main building is not much more than a concrete skeleton as seen many, many times on all kinds of homepages and blogs. I had a quick look around, taped a walking tour of the building and after I took some pictures for a couple of minutes in the main hall I saw two guys back at the entrance. It’s always a weird feeling when other people show up at abandoned places as you never know if they are fellow explorers, security or some random society outsiders. (The latter kind is rather rare in Japan – I’ve never met druggies, only one homeless guy once.) The guys turned out to be Ben, an English teacher from Otsu in Shiga (close to my current home), and his Japanese friend from Kanto. Extremely nice guys and a welcomed chance acquaintanceship.
After a while we left the overgrown building to explore the even more overgrown outside part of the shipyard. We followed a narrow trail and after about 3 minutes we reached seaside part of the shipyard which surprisingly many photographers miss. This area I actually enjoyed a lot more. The tide was low, we were free to roam the area and were able to shoot from angles usually covered by water. The sky had almost cleared up by that time and in combination with the nice breeze it created a very relaxed atmosphere.
When we were done shooting that part we made our way onto the dam in front of the shipyard, significantly newer than the abandoned complex. We were down halfway when a guy on a bike came closer. Since there was some construction going on close-by I was worried that the guy might be security, but he turned out to be a senior citizen who enjoys fishing. A chatty senior citizen who was more than happy to give us a little bit of insight on the shipyard. According to him the building we were exploring earlier and that is always referred to as the Kawaminami Shipyard actually wasn’t a shipyard, but a factory for spare parts and the administration building of the company. He claimed that the actual shipyard was further up north, but demolished quite a while ago – which is probably only part of the truth given the shape of the building now abandoned. Since the location is completely gutted and there are some articles available in English my interest in the historical background is actually surprisingly low – but according to the Japanese Wikipedia it was opened in 1936 (to support Japan’s efforts in their wars that started earlier in the 30s) and closed due to bankruptcy in 1955. One of the more curious items built there were the manned “suicide torpedoes” called kaiten (回天), probably to be delivered to the rather nearby Katashima Suicide Training School, a place I visited during my first trip to Kyushu in March of 2010.
Anyway, after the fisherman continued his way Ben and I went to another haikyo east of the shipyard (I’ll describe that one in the next posting) before we finished our circumnavigation of the endangered beauty.
The Kawaminami Shipyard is actually way more impressive from the outside than from the inside and I guess in winter even more so than in late spring. Nevertheless it was a perfect first location on my second trip to Kyushu – one that set the tone for the days to come…
Addendum 2012-1-30: The Imari Kawaminami Shipyard was demolished in late 2011 / early 2012. Now you can find its exact location on my *map of touristy and demolished ruins in Japan*.

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About 15 months ago I went on my first multi-day urban exploration trip: 3 days to Kyushu with my buddy Enric. A trip with lots of up and downs, visiting some amazing locations – Gunkanjima, the Katashima Suicide Training School and the winding tower of the Shime Coal Mine, now known to some people as the Anti-Zombie Fortress. But March was kinda cold, last year as well as this year. So when Golden Week came up (late April / early May) and my company forced me to take two of my paid vacation days to install a new AC I took the lemon and made lemonade – it was time to go back to Kyushu!
Since Enric left Japan and returned to Spain a couple of months ago, I went on my own this time. Remembering the best burger I’ve ever had I set up my base in Sasebo after a long day of exploring an abandoned shipyard and the abandoned leftovers of the dock of a mine close to it. The next day I explored one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to: an almost abandoned island, once the home of several thousand people – and as exciting as that day was as disappointing was the next one when I walked through drizzle for hours without an umbrella to look for remains of a mine and its workers’ housing-estate; but they were gone forever – as research after my return confirmed… Luckily the weather turned around on my last day, so I was able to visit an abandoned amusement park on my way back home. Thank heavens for sunscreen, because without it the harsh Kyushu sun would have burned me crisp within half an hour…
Exploring all day I spent my three evenings in Sasebo at Base Street to enjoy some burgers. While the regular sized ones are good I’ll definitely recommend the so-called “Special Size” – this 15 centimeters in diameter monster is a classic Sasebo style burger that will fill you up with pure deliciousness; if you ever wanna spend 1100 Yen (yep, that’s 9.50 Euros or 13.60 Dollars!) on a single burger without even considering regretting it then this is the place to go! I just hope I’ll find more abandoned places close to Sasebo so I can have a good reason to go back there once more…
(Oh, and greetings to the tourist office in the Sasebo! It sells a variety of souvenirs, but not the awesome huge plush hamburgers that fill half of their display window. To get one of those you have to ride a bus for about half an hour to get to a small store at a shopping mall in the middle of nowhere. And since I had to wait 45 minutes for the next bus they lost a customer who would have happily paid 200 Yen more to avoid the hassle of a 2.5 hour long round trip to get a cute present for his even cuter niece. A no-win situation… and pretty much the worst sales strategy ever!)

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