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Archive for the ‘Shizuoka’ Category

Gulliver’s Kingdom, based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, has been the most famous deserted theme park in Japan… once upon a time, before *Nara Dreamland* was even abandoned. Closed in 2001 after only four years of business and two years after the financing Niigata Chuo Bank collapsed (which also ran the *Niigata Russian Village*), it was mostly demolished in 2007 – ten years ago and two years before I started exploring. And yet I receive e-mails asking about Gulliver’s Kingdom on a regular basis; where it is / was, if it is still there, whether or not I’ve been there. Time to answer all those questions publicly: Sadly I’ve never been to Gulliver’s Kingdom as it has been demolished two years before I started exploring myself – so it’s not there anymore, but it has been located at the NW foot of Mount Fuji, only 14 kilometers away from Fuji-Q Highland and in sight of the Fujiten Ski Resort.
Another famous abandoned place in sight of Mount Fuji? The Kurodake Drive-In a.k.a. Global Environment and Energy Museum!

An abandoned environment and energy museum in Japan? What a friggin surprise! Man, I would have loved to write a rant about how fake eco Japan is, but I am running out of time and I haven’t written yet a single line about the history and exploration of this strangely wonderful location. Just don’t buy into the eco bullshit, Japan is everything but; with a few exceptions of course. Whether it’s winter illuminations, individually wrapped cookies, electronic waste along countryside roads, sun-blinds to block daylight all year long yet at the same time lights inside on, the insane amount of plastic bags / bottles / containers handed out every day, apartment buildings lit up like Christmas trees – and don’t get me started rambling about the lack of insulation and ACs set to 28°C in winter… (In summer you can’t go below 28°C during the humid 33°C heat that is punishing everybody all day and all night, because we all have to work together and save electricity. But in winter it’s absolutely no problem to go from 0° to 28° because… heating apparently doesn’t require electricity and the warmth comes from the positive energy we created when saving electricity in summer!)
Please don’t buy the fairy tale of eco Japan, just because some garden in Kyoto has put up a crotch so a tree can grow a branch the way it wants instead of pruning it. (I’m not saying Japan is worse than most countries, but if you promote a certain image you better live up to it… or deal with the criticism.)
Construction of the Kurodake Drive-In started in 1965 as part of the Atami Highland project on a mountain ridge above the famous onsen town Atami, in the 1950s by far the most popular spa town in all of Japan with more than 11 million visitors per year – the new attraction featured a gorgeous, unobstructed view at Mount Fuji along the Izu Skyline, some hiking trails, a nearby pond with a boat rental, and the Kurodake Drive-In, which opened as a miso shop, restaurant for up to 300 guests at the same time (up to 1000 cars and 300 high-capacity busses stopped there per day!), and upper terminus of the Atami Highland Ropeway (or Atami Cactus Park Ropeway), connected by said ropeway to Atami and the Atami Cactus Park – with the largest gondolas in the world at the time, for up to 121 people (!). The grand-opening of this 1.3 billion Yen investment was on October 1st 1967. Less than three years later, in summer of 1970, the owner of the miso shop went bankrupt and caused a financial earthquake in the area, which lead to the suspension of the ropeway for about three weeks in June 1970. In July the Atami Highland Ropeway resumed operation, only to be shut down for good in December, barely three years after it was built.
Strangely enough there is not much information about what happened after that. It seems like the ropeway remained idle but intact and somewhat operational until 1983, when it was finally dismantled. The cactus park? I’m not sure… I think it closed for good in 1973. The Kurodake Drive-In definitely survived the longest, but I don’t know in detail what happened exactly after the miso shop went bankrupt. It probably was turned into a general souvenir shop, before somebody shoved the Global Environment and Energy Museum into the crown-shaped building. The last account of somebody being there I found was from April 2002 – strangely enough their photo didn’t feature the museum signage on the roof nor did the (Japanese) article mention it. Since I also read that the State seized the property in 2002 (much like *Nara Dreamland* and the *Arai Mountain And Spa*) I guess it’s safe to assume that the museum was installed after that – but before the building was finally closed and abandoned in November 2008. (Last second addition: Apparently the museum was run by an NPO called “Forever Green”; if I ever revisit the place, I’ll try to find out more, but that’s it for now as time is up…)

I absolutely loved exploring the Kurodake Drive-In, despite the fact that it was little more than a vandalized restaurant. I loved the scenery upon arrival, I loved the exterior of the building, I loved the lighting in some areas (especially the lamps in the office), I loved the items left behind (like the Lotte Chewing Gum vending machine or the three animal shaped bottles), I loved the interior staircases – I just loved being there. It could have been an empty building, instead in revealed itself little by little, step by step. I instantly connected with the Kurodake Drive-In and the feeling held on till I was yanked out of there by my impatient co-explorers. Other places I explored in the past might have been more interesting objectively, but I never really felt them; like the *Japanese Strip Club*. The Kurodake Drive-In on the other hand I really enjoyed – to me it’s one of the most underrated abandoned places in Japan…

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The Izu Sports World (or officially „Izu Nagaoka Sports World“) was a huge vacation destination (480000㎡ including vast parking lots!) for sporty people in the northern part of the Izu Peninsula – the main attractions were several pools with gigantic water slides, but the resort also featured tennis courts, a gym, and a golf course as well as a hot spring and several restaurants. Opened in July of 1988 it was a prime example for Japan’s gigantomaniac real estate bubble, especially since Izu Sports World went bankrupt less than five years later in February 1993, accumulating almost 10 billion Yen in debt – back then and nowadays more or less 80 million USD. In the early 2000s it became one of the most famous abandoned places in all of Japan and the urbex world was shocked when it was demolished in 2010 – right around the time I planned to visit it.

About three years later I first found out about the Izu Water Park, kind of a smaller version of Izu Sports World on the same peninsula – but unlike in the case of the big cousin, Izu Water Park is a fake name, so it took me another 20 months to find its exact location as the darn thing popped up only twice on Japanese blogs so far (to the best of my knowledge). So almost 5 years after Izu Nagaoka Sports World was gone, I finally went to explore an aquatic theme park on the Izu Peninsula… not the real deal, but as good as it gets these days.
Spring is the most beautiful time of the year in Japan as it combines rising temperatures on sunny days with the awakening flora and fauna that makes explorations in summer and autumn so difficult when in full bloom. Despite Mother Nature still more or less dormant in late February, it took me a while to enter the IWP, because after years of abandonment the surrounding vegetation was thick enough to keep (some) unwanted visitors out. The entrance building, locked at the front, was open from the back, but didn’t have much to offer, except old equipment and some lockers. The main building in the center was only partly accessible – some storage rooms and the toilets, but it also featured a now locked restaurant / kiosk to supply guests with food and drinks. The water park itself was tiny in comparison to Izu Sports World, covering maybe 2000 square meters (no vast parking lot, no accommodations!), but it still consisted of two levels: three sets of two water slides ending in a lower pool plus an oval pool on the upper level, about one quarter with very shallow water for toddlers, the rest probably deeper. How deep? I have no idea as the “water” was pretty much a green mess.
So, why did the Izu Water Park go bankrupt? Probably because the Japanese outdoor water fun seasons are generally extremely short, despite the long, hot, humid summers that follow already warm springs. The temperatures in my hometown are about 5°C lower than those in Osaka, yet the local public bath back home is open from May till September, making the best of the situation by using solar power to heat the water when it’s too cold outside for the sun to do the job without support. In Japan on the other hand, at least on the main islands, you go swimming in July and August. Already 30 degrees for weeks in June? Nobody will open the water park. Still 35 degrees in September? Empty beaches, even at locally famous party spots like Suma Beach near Kobe – buzzing for two months like a Mediterranean island or a spring break location. Why is the season so short? Because it is that way. Shoga-friggin-nai – deal with it! 🙂

Exploring the Izu Water Park was a great experience, though I have to admit that is was smaller and less… impressive… than I hoped it would be; sometimes size matters, especially in the case of water parks! Thinking of it, even the one that it is part of *Nara Dreamland* might be bigger – but it’s also photographed to death, while the Izu Water Park is virtually unknown. I had only seen a dozen photos beforehand, so my image of the park was quite different from reality. As a result this was urban exploration at its core. Finding the place, finding a way in and out, finding good angles for photos, finding ways into the buildings without damaging anything… all while avoiding being seen by people from the outside; an almost constant stream of cars and some pedestrians made this quite a challenge. It was a very rewarding exploration on many different levels though, one I wanted to tell you about for several months now, but I thought I should wait for a proper occasion – the beginning of outdoor bathing season tomorrow, July 1st!

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The Higashi-Izu Isolation Hospital (official name) a.k.a. Smallpox Isolation Ward (made up name) is a real urbex classic in Japan. It has been featured in many books and countless articles, but its days might be numbered – after more than 30 years of decay the mostly wooden complex is on the verge of complete collapse…

There is a lot of wrong information out there about this Japanese Isolation Hospital. First of all – it was neither a ward, nor was it exclusively for smallpox patients. Like the official name implies, it was a standalone hospital for several diseases that needed patients to be isolated. And though the hospital looks really, really old, it began operation in 1958 / 1959, reportedly first as a regular clinic and from 1959 on as an isolation hospital.
Why somebody came up with the name Smallpox Isolation Ward is beyond me, because in the 1950s smallpox was already more or less under control. During World War II the infamous Japanese biological warfare *Unit 731*, feared for their experiments on living humans (including vivisections), researched production of biological weapons based on the smallpox virus, but discarded the idea due to the wide-scale ability of a vaccine – and if a vaccine was available during war times, it surely was 20 years later. While I am sure a few smallpox cases were hospitalized at the Higashi-Izu Isolation Hospital, most of the inpatients actually suffered from tuberculosis, which was a much bigger problem, especially in Japan. (If you missed it, check out my exploration of the *Tuberculosis Hospital For Children*, closed in 1992.)
The isolation hospital basically is the brainchild of two towns on the Izu Peninsula just south of Mount Fuji, Higashi-Izu and Inatori. In the late 1950s they were about to merge and both interested in an isolation hospital (which seems a bit odd to me, but that’s how the story goes), so they decided to put together the money they’ll save from the merger and just go for it. It opened for public in 1958 and turned into an experimental isolation hospital the following year.
The hospital complex consisted of several buildings, separating just infected patients from those showing symptoms or worse… Yes, people died there, a fact that didn’t add to the fun of exploring the really desolate buildings. To enter the hospital, you had to pass through a disinfection area and change all the clothes you were wearing, though nothing of that was apparent during my exploration – the decay of the complex had already been progressed too far and I only saw the lower two of three levels. (Not floors, levels – single storey buildings on a slope.) The town-run hospital was treating patients with operations and medication until 1978, when an earthquake hit the nearby Izu Oshima Island and caused massive damages on the Izu peninsula, too – most likely including the *Red Bridge*. It seems like the hospital technically received some funds till 1982, but effectively stopped operation in 1979 as the earthquake destroyed the road along the coast and caused a nearby tunnel to collapse. With that, access to the hospital was rather difficult as the powers that be decided to dig a new tunnel and build a new road instead of repairing the old existing ones. Additional damage was cause reportedly in 1984, when a typhoon cause a mudslide, but after more than 30 years there weren’t any signs of that visible anymore.

Upon arrival in the area, my buddy Julien and I checked out the now overgrown earthquake damaged road and tunnel. Not much to see, an abandoned tunnel with a “skylight” and tons of dirt. We found a parking spot along the super busy new main road and walked a few hundred meters back towards the new tunnel. Quite a risky endeavor, because in Japan pedestrians and cars are not meant to co-exist outside of towns. Even in the countryside most roads connecting settlements with each other are wide enough for a car, but don’t have much green or even a separate lane for pedestrians and / or bikes. Walking along those roads can be incredibly dangerous! But after a few minutes we reached our destination and walked down a few manmade steps on the slope in surprisingly good condition. I actually didn’t realize upon arrival that the first building was completely clad in bamboo strips, originally not much more than a big office room, probably for non-medical personnel to avoid sending them through the disinfection area.
Exploring the abandoned Higashi-Izu Isolation Hospital was actually quite underwhelming. I’ve seen rundown buildings like that plenty of time and usually ignore them – what made this one different was its history. And some amazing scenes, like rusty metal bedframes covered with straw. Gosh, I really hope that this was staged and that the real patients didn’t have to spend their last days like that. Most of the complex was fading away – the wooden floor was gone, walls were missing, staircases collapsed. It was late in the afternoon on a sunny day, but the fact that the hospital was in a tiny valley opening to the east while the sun was setting in the west didn’t help. It was getting darker quickly and the combination of fading light and known background story made this one quite an eerie exploration.

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On the Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo you can hardly throw a stone without hitting an abandoned place – though I doubt that it was a simple rock that brought down this bright red loop bridge…

There are actually several stories / story elements why this iconic *haikyo* became a modern ruin:
– One part of the bridge collapsed during an earthquake in the 1970s and the bridge was then abandoned.
– Somebody planned a spa resort on top of the mountain, but the plans fell through and construction of the bridge stopped.
– Somebody planned dozens of holiday homes and company retreats on top of the mountain in the 1970s, finished building the bridge and opened it to the public, but then went bankrupt without constructing anything else – so the bridge fell into disrepair and the road leading up to the bridge was dismantled for security reasons.
– The bridge was built in the 1970s, but didn’t collapse until 1993.
– The bridge was built in the 1970s, collapsed in the 1980s, but city officials didn’t admit to that fact until 1993.

40 years later and without access to a local historian or some kind of city archive it’s pretty much impossible to say what happened here. You should think that building bridges is the responsibility of the State, but there are plenty of private roads and bridges in Japan, so having a private investor being responsible for this modern ruin is by all means a possibility. Given that there are no solid roads beyond the bridge, I doubt that it was ever finished and opened to the public; that’s supported by the surroundings, which looked like an unfinished construction site abandoned decades ago. On the other hand it is very likely that somebody wanted to build something on top of the mountain, given that there is another “colony” with dozens of holiday homes and company retreats in walking distance. The Izu Peninsula was indeed hit by three serious earthquakes in the 1970s (1974, 1976 & 1978), but there is no way to say that one of them caused the bridge to partly collapse – though I think it is likely that the bridge was finished in the 70s, then whoever was in charge went bankrupt / stopped caring about the construction, it fell into disrepair and finally came down in the 1980s or 90s. The current position looks very, very instable, too – the massive rocks the nosedived bridge element is resting on now shows huge cracks from the pressure and I wouldn’t be surprised if we will see more movement in the not so far future…

The Partly Collapsed Red Bridge is actually quite a famous abandoned place in Japan, first reports date back to 2004, when hardly anybody did urbex in Japan, and I was never really eager to see it – photographed to death, potentially instable, fences around, rather remote location… and just boring. An abandoned bridge with a collapsed element, come on, how interesting can that be?
EXTREMELY interesting, probably one of the coolest places ever! Yeah, there were large construction fences where the bridge was planned to connect with a regular street, but a few dozen meters down the road was a flat parking area to the right and partly overgrown steps lead up the hill directly to where the bridge begins now, past auxiliary structures to support the construction workers, now more looking like a dump. (And probably used as a dump by locals these days as getting rid of electronics and bigger furniture can be really expensive in Japan…) So I climbed these fading steps with little to no expectations, but then I left the shadow of the forest and stepped into the light, literally and figuratively – I know it sounds cheesy, but it was like a choir of angels started singing. Holy shit – there was a partly collapsed bridge right in front of me, its damaged element pointing almost vertically to the sky, and one step to the left the asphalted loop started! Before I went to see the bridge myself I had seen dozens, maybe hundreds of photos… of quite a rather simple and not very elaborate (failed) construction, yet none of those pictures came even close to capture what I felt like standing there, all of a sudden feeling very small and vulnerable. So cool, so damn cool!
Although I swore to myself that I would not get even close to where the final bridge element slipped off the huge pillar, all of a sudden I realized how my feet were walking towards the metal fence once put in the middle of the road to keep nosy people with bad sense of balance from killing themselves accidentally or on purpose. The lower part of the wire netting had been long gone, so it was easy to get past this now rather symbolic obstacle. In the main corner of the uphill loop I took a photo (now the wallpaper of my computer) and all I could think of was: “This would be an awesome Mario Kart 9 track!” The bridge was actually quite wide, perfect for sliding karts, especially in a video game environment as the crash barrier wasn’t very high and the width of the road varied. I’ve seen my share of amazing yet weird bridges in Japan (including one coming out of a mountain tunnel and looping back in a few meters lower, all of that several hundred meters above the ground!), but this one didn’t look like it fulfilled any modern safety standards!
The very top of the bridge was every little bit as vertigo-inducing as you would it expect it to be – what an awesome sight! Sadly not for me, so I took a few quick shots and filmed some video material on my way back to the “barricade”. From there I headed over to the element that had fallen off at least 20 years prior to my visit, not without a bad feeling in my stomach – the massive piece of dented metal, plastic and asphalt was resting on massive rocks with huge cracks in them, and despite weighing tons, the setup looked very fragile. A few more shots and a quick video from underneath the slipped off part and back to safety I went… still not really believing how cool this location was, especially on a sunny spring day!

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After more than 400 explorations only a few things wow me anymore. The Irozaki Jungle Park did, more than once; continually actually!
The first thing that wowed me was the extremely bad weather upon arrival: March 1st, but heavy rain like in late June / early July. Urbex isn’t fun like that, especially when the first things you find are the former gift shop and another building boarded up! A few minutes later we reached the main entrance, patched up, too. Wow, damn, no easy access! I decided to have a look outside first, only to realize that the buildings of the Irozaki Jungle Park stretched across an area of about 200 by 400 meters (wow!), while my friends decided to find a way in closer to the main entrance. The back of the gigantic botanical theme park was roped off, the main building complex sealed tight, a car with license plates parked on the premises. Wow, this former urbex paradise definitely had been more welcoming before the city of Minamiizu took over to re-develop the area about two years ago.

The Irozaki Jungle Park opened in 1969 on 12,000 square meters, developed and run by the Iwasaki group, a conglomerate of about 50 companies, dealing with communications, transportation and tourism; hotels and resorts as well as artificial sightseeing spots like this humongous botanical garden. The park was an instant success, peaking at about 750,000 visitors in 1973. But instant success is rather easy to achieve in Japan, where everybody is on the hunt for the newest, the shiniest, the trendiest – long term success on the other hand is a real challenge, one that the IJP lost. The numbers of visitors went down significantly as the buildings aged. When less than 100,000 people visited the park within a year, Iwasaki pulled the plug and closed the Irozaki Jungle Park on September 30th 2003. Interestingly enough the JNTO (Japanese National Travel Organization) is mentioning / recommending the IJP in an old version of their official tourist guide to the Izu Peninsula, which is still available online. WOW, that’s a whole new level of expert fail! (According to the guide it is “containing well over 3000 species of tropical plants. Open daily: 8:30 – 16:50. Admission: \900.”)

Upon my return to the main entrance I found my friends were able to gain access to the first huge structure without breaking anything, so I joined them to have a look inside. About 15 meters wide, 50 meters long and maybe 7 meters high, this first greenhouse made quite an impression on me (wow!), though that doesn’t mean a lot given that I am not exactly a regular visitor of botanical gardens… Despite the park being closed a dozen years ago, some of the plants inside of the conservatory were in pretty good condition. There was plenty of foliage on the ground, so I had to choose my steps wisely, especially since the greenhouse was located on a gentle slope. The path split and reunited several times before leading into a pitch black and pretty much empty area, connecting the first greenhouse with a slightly wider one of almost the same length, followed by a 15 meter long Rainforest Zone, connecting the middle part with a third greenhouse; about 20 meters wide and 60 meters long. The height inside the halls varied between maybe 4 meters and probably 7 or 8 meters, before we finally reached the end of the tube like biosphere looking complex. There we found some restrooms, a rest area and lots of pamphlets of other nearby tourist attractions. Wow, I knew that the Irozaki Jungle Park was big, but this was much larger than I expected, even though I had already seen the entire place from the outside! The park’s mascots apparently were two slightly dumb looking white “jungle explorers” equipped with helmets, guns and binoculars as well as a dark skinned “jungle dweller” wearing rings around his ankles, his neck, through his ears and through his nose (!) – the three interacted in “funny” ways, for example when the jungle man was drumming, he used the white guys’ helmets, too. I guess you don’t have to be overly sensitive to find this at least slightly racist, and of course we were cracking jokes that the only plywood cutout scene missing was the black guy boiling the white guys in a big cauldron.
And so we headed through a pair of sliding doors – not the exit, but the connection to a huge last greenhouse, a rectangle of about 50 by 70 meters, probably 10 meters high. WOW, WOW, WOW! This gigantic hall featured several ponds of various sizes, several food stands, sculptures made from different materials, and two large glass containers with specimen; the kind you’ve seen in several of my articles about *abandoned schools* before – a ray and some kind of eel, maybe. Wow! Some of the ceiling panels were broken… pretty much in all halls, but especially in this one, so the vegetation here was especially lush. We could even see and hear a couple of birds inside the greenhouse. This place would be amazing to film a 1970s style science fiction movie or some kind of horror flick – gosh, I bet you could scare urban explorers shitless by playing John Barry’s The Black Hole theme when they enter the last gigantic greenhouse! 🙂
Overall the Irozaki Jungle Park was a really mind-blowing location! There was so much to see, so many paths to explore. Sadly we had to leave around lunch time already as we had to return our car before 5 p.m. in Mishima, with traffic being unpredictable due to nearby hanami festivals, the first in all of Japan this year – and we also lost quite some time finding a way inside the gargantuan structure, so taking photos was kind of a rushed job, nevertheless I enjoyed my visit to the Irozaki Jungle Park tremendously. The last thing I did, as always, was filming the walkthrough, and for that we looked for the official former exit of the park. And guess what… There it was, the plywood cutout of the black guy boiling a white guy in a large cauldron, tasting the “soup” with a scoop! WOW…

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The abandoned Love Hotel London was one of the most pitiful places I have ever explored and borderline worthy to become a part of the soon to come “Worst of Japan 2014” article (scheduled for December 30th!) – but it’s one of the most famous rotting places in all of central Japan; probably because of the name…

Despite being called London, this deserted and dilapidated love hotel apparently had nothing to do with Great Britain’s capital. It looked like a cheap, fake castle and the rooms had the usual array of themed rooms from all over the world. Like most love hotels in Japan, the London was actually more of a motel. You parked your car in some kind of garage on the ground floor and then went upstairs to… well, do what people usually do at no-tell motels.
In its heyday the London, conveniently located next to the Hamamatsu Air Base in central Japan, must have been quite a site – now there is not much left to see. Some furniture pieces outside, some vandalized, rotting rooms inside. Pretty much everything was busted open, all windows smashed, everything beyond repair.
If you ever wanted to know more about the love hotel industry in Japan I recommend *this old article*… and I also wrote about *my two cents on relationships in Japan* – both articles come with photos from other abandoned love hotels in better condition…

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A lot of Japanese people are very proud of their country’s distinctive four seasons – summer, autumn, winter and spring. Yet a lot of them mention a fifth season, which explains why they are not very proud of their math skills… rainy season. Rainy season is a period that lasts for about two to four weeks, usually starting in early or mid-June, turning most of Japan (especially Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) into a humid hellhole for about three months. Personally I don’t think Japan has four seasons as it stretches too much for a general statement like that. Okinawa definitely doesn’t have a winter, and in my personal experience, Osaka has only two seasons: “Kind of nice” and “unbearably hot and humid”.
The period of rather intense rain began early this year, in the first week of June, starting to turn Osaka into a sticky place where you don’t want to wear any long clothes or do anything that requires even the slightest effort. Luckily my friends Dan and Kyoko weren’t eager to stay in Osaka either, so I planned a nice little weekend trip to Shikoku… which I had to re-plan after the weather forecast changed – Chubu instead! (Chubu is one of eight major regions in Japan, basically the central part of the main island Honshu between Nagoya and Mount Fuji)

Three days later I found myself sweating like pig hiking up a mountain in Shizuoka prefecture. A couple of minutes prior we passed through a small village on the slope, located in the middle of nowhere, where only one old lady was living, at least part time – she and her husband were tea farmers, but he passed away a few years ago, so she takes care of what is left; everybody else had died or moved away many years before…
We escaped Osaka’s rain and humidity, but central Japan’s countryside was surprisingly warm for early July. The hiking trail us three were on connected the hamlet with its school, closed in the late 70s and officially abandoned in the early 90s. Why it wasn’t built directly next to the settlement is beyond me, but farm land was probably more valuable than the place for an elementary school; and so the kids had to hike up that mountain every day, an elevation gain of almost 100 meters! Even after 30 years the path was clearly visible, yet partly overgrown and covered by several layers of foliage, making it a rather slippery climb these days. I was taking another break enjoying the beautiful surrounding and silence, when I heard Dan from above: “The school is up here!”

A few minutes later I saw the school near the top of the mountain myself – a surprisingly big wooden building with a living quarter annex; probably for a teacher or two to live in. The main building consisted of two classrooms and an office (all wooden floors), plus a tatami room right next to the office. Outside was a small playground with a slide and leftovers of some swings and a soccer goal. And there was a shrine with a wooden building, empty according to the old lady…
What made the Shizuoka Countryside School quite special was its authenticity. While a lot of “abandoned” schools in Japan are still maintained by the local community (like the *Kyoto Countryside School*), it was pretty clear that this wasn’t the case here – yet there were barely any signs of vandalism, with small exceptions like the pink painted nipples of the female gypsum bust or the smashed wooden metronome. There were signs of visitors though – not only did I find a Sony lens cap in the grass, you could see that certain items were staged for photos and that some explorers crashed through the wooden floors when they were not cautious enough. Most of the rooms had plenty of interesting items left behind, like a chair and table combination, a table tennis plate, books, posters, chalk, and whatever you think should be at an abandoned countryside school – considering that it was basically a two room school I think it was rather well equipped and I really loved some of the tacky items, like the National manufactured red record player. The icing on cake, of course, was the location itself. Near the top of a mountain, with a shrine next to it, on a lovely late spring / early summer day… quite magical. Sadly I had to share one of the rooms with a suzumebachi a.k.a. Giant Asian Hornet. There are a lot of them at abandoned places these days and usually I avoid them, but in this case that would have meant not taking pictures of one third of the school. Half the time it was trying to leave through a window and failed, half the time it was flying around the room, causing me to hastily leave. After a few rounds of hide and seek I got most of the shots I wanted to take and called it a day.

Just getting out of Osaka for another two days was a blessing, exploring an abandoned countryside school in good condition and being able to share that with friends… priceless!

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