Archive for the ‘Strip Club’ Category

Strip clubs in Japan are a mystery to most foreigners. Most likely because of the language barrier – I guess the average tourist isn’t wiling to risk spending unknown amounts of money for drinks and other services; especially if they don’t know what services are available or if they are even welcome. Reports about foreigners not being allowed to enter onsen, brothels or strip clubs are almost as old as reports about foreigners being allowed to enter Japan again (i.e. 160 years…). I guess most foreigners, especially tourists, don’t even know where to find strip clubs in Japan. For that reason the two abandoned and gutted by fire strip clubs in the outskirts of Nagoya and Tokyo might be the most famous ones. But the one I want to present you today might be the new frontrunner…

Sex sells, even urban exploration. My article about the abandoned *Japanese Sex Museum* half a year ago was a pleasant success and it wouldn’t surprise me if some other websites would pick up on this little countryside gem, too – this abandoned Japanese strip club is in amazing condition, hardly known to the net and barely known even amongst Japanese urban explorers.

Like the Japanese Sex Museum I’ve seen the Japanese Strip Club maybe three or four times in three years on Japanese haikyo blogs. That’s it. Usually photos taken from the outside, at the entrance area and at a small stage. Because of that my expectations were rather low when I hit the road with my local urbex buddy Dan and two of his friends to go to a small onsen town in the mountains of Okayama. Luckily one of the Japanese blogs didn’t hesitate to throw out all kinds of information about the location of the strip club, so it was easy to find. Sadly it didn’t give any hard facts about the place, so I can’t tell you much about its history.

The official name of the strip club was a euphemism, like so often when it comes to the sex industry in Japanese spa towns. The sex museum was called “House of Hidden Treasures” – and this strip club was a “Sightseeing Theater”. I’m sure the sights to see were pretty awesome, but the name was kind of misleading as it implied fun for the whole family…

Well, at least our group had fun, although I have to admit that I never really “got” the place, never connected with it. I felt like a creep creeping around this creepy place. It was an interesting exploration though, because the photos I had seen of the place made up for maybe half of its size. Walking up the staircase covered by plastic sheets we quickly reached the entrance, out of sight from the busy street and a nosy neighbor, who had a good look at our little group when we approached the “sightseeing theater”. It seems like the entrance fee was 3000 Yen – and since the door was locked we looked for alternative ways to get in. To the right was a side entrance that lead directly to the oh so known strip room with its orange stage and the countless tine stool bolted to the ground. Well, countless, I guess there were about 150 of them, sometimes as little as maybe 15 centimeters between them. Thinking that in the probably not so distant past they were occupied by cigarette smoking sweaty horny men staring at naked women was quite surreal in the light of day. While I was taking photos of the room my companions went backstage and stayed there surprisingly long. It turned out that although we’ve already seen everything I’ve seen on the internet didn’t mean that we’ve seen everything there was. Behind the stage was a small room with a bed and from there a dark, narrow hallway with an uncomfortably soft floor lead to another part of the building, a part that was actually even closer to the locked main entrance. When I got out of the dark I stepped directly… onto a stage. A stage way bigger in a room way bigger than I just left. While the first location was a little bit shabby and tacky with plastic flowers everywhere and gigantic eagles painted on the wall the second room was… actually pretty similar; just bigger, more spacious and in better condition, probably thanks to the wallpaper that was missing in the other room. Close to the stage were the same tiny little stools bolted to the ground, but with a little bit more distance between them. The last three rows reminded me of old cinema seats – of way better quality than the horrible stools, but still not really comfortable and clearly installed before McDonald’s supersized the average Japanese from tiny to small. Bow chicka wow wow. This room was so cliché 70s porn it was tough to wrap my mind around it. The cheap pink plastic decoration was so horrible I felt a little bit embarrassed just looking at it, but I guess when it was dark and you focused on the stage it didn’t matter. Sadly it wasn’t completely dark in there. Just almost, with bright light coming in from a door leading outside.

I still didn’t like the location, but I continued exploring and taking photos. Before I headed upstairs (yes, this part of the building had a second floor) I checked the entrance area, but it just offered more tacky decoration, an upset vending machine and a huge list of phone numbers of local accommodations…

The second floor (with a sign “Men please keep out!”) was so vandalized and boring that I decided to not take photos there and just include it in the video tour, especially since we were running out of time anyway. I’m sure some fellow explorers would have loved to go through the personal belongings left behind for hours, but I’m getting tired of those moldy, smelly kitchens, bathrooms and tiny private apartments. The only really interesting room up there was almost completely dark and contained the controls for the lights and sound in the big strip stage room. Looking down almost made me expect some pig-cops – the whole setup really reminded me of the first episode of Duke Nukem 3D.
Oh, and in case you wonder: The big trophy you can see in the video was for a karaoke competition…

Leaving the abandoned Japanese Strip Club I felt a little bit like leaving *Nara Dreamland* – my head knew that I was exploring an amazing unique location, but my heart didn’t feel it. Nevertheless I hope you enjoyed this article and come back soon for more. Japan is an urbex paradise and there are dozens, maybe hundreds of locations to come…

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Addendum 2012-11-27: I just posted an article about another abandoned Japanese sex museum: *Hokkaido House Of Hidden Treasures*

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What do you do when you get thrown off your horse? You get right back on! And that’s what Sebastian and I did after we ran into some trouble at the *Cambrai-Fritsch-Kaserne*. Since Sebastian came up with the (almost) deserted US Army base it was my turn to select a place to explore – and I chose the Clubhotel Messel a.k.a. Clubhotel Sehr / Clubhotel Seher.

At the time of my visit the place was virtually unknown to the internet. It was obvious that plenty of vandals, arsonists and paintball players were there before me, but it was almost impossible to find any hard information about the place on the net – luckily that change earlier this year when the German urbex community, usually more interested in photos than the historical background of abandoned places, took care of that situation.

It seems like the Clubhotel Messel (named after the municipality of Messel near Darmstadt, usually known for the UNESCO World Heritage site Messel Pit where all kinds of fossils were found) was not only a single hotel, but a conglomerate of businesses, all part of the frivolous nightlife industry. The nightclub “Broadway-Bar” and the hotel “Je t’aime” were right next to the “Swimming Pool / Sauna Club d’Amour” and the “Nightclub d’Amour” – basically one big brothel complex, one of the biggest in the Rhine-Main area. Since all establishments were owned by a guy named Wolfgang Sehr the place was also called Clubhotel Sehr or, misspelled, Clubhotel Seher. The special attraction of the Clubhotel was a mini zoo including a pair of cheetahs – the cages are still in the forest! I’m not exactly sure when the place opened, but I guess it grew kind of organically and was in full bloom in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. In January of 1988 it was mentioned by leading news magazine Der Spiegel in an article about a scandal regarding nuclear waste. A company called Transnuklear Hanau (a subsidiary of Nukem – I’m not joking!) illegally imported 1942 barrels of nuclear waste from Belgium and of course there were bribery and other manipulations / irregularities involved – one of them was a bill to the amount of 14010 Mark (roughly 7000 Euros) after some managers of the nuclear industry had a fun night at the Clubhotel. (The article mentioned a nightclub called “Mon Bijou” and a fine dining restaurant named “La Chandelle“ – probably both part of the Clubhotel complex.

The Spiegel report was the beginning of the end of the Clubhotel, although the details are vague since everything happened before the age of the internet. It seems like the German State wasn’t very fond of the local sex businesses and started to shut them down one after another – either in the late 80s or early 90s. Some of the brothel owners went to jail for procurement and promotion of prostitution; and according to an article by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) in late 1994 Sehr was convicted of those crimes…

When the brothel complex was abandoned but still in good condition the Zeitung für Darmstadt (Newspaper for Darmstadt) reported in 1993 that the State of Hesse had plans to reconvert the place into a *deportation prison* for 250 illegal aliens. These considerations were terminated abruptly when parts of the club hotel complex burned down to the ground on January 25th of 1994 as the Zeitung für Darmstadt reported in early 1994. It seems like the then owner, most likely still Sehr, tried to commit insurance fraud to make up for the millions he lost when the place was shut down. (The guy definitely went to jail – I’m just not sure if it was for one or both of the alleged crimes.)

Later in the 90s the Clubhotel made the news when paintball players occupied the premises and actually started to do minor construction work. The rural district Darmstadt-Dieburg intervened and a court of law decided that the “Magic Boys Rhein Main” needed to find another location for their colorful war games… (The small building next to the big outdoor pool was their safe house and Gotcha related graffiti are still all over the place.)

For more than a decade all kinds of people came to the Clubhotel for all kinds of reasons. Some people played paintball, others airsoft. Some homeless people looked for shelter in one of the smaller buildings that weren’t affected by arson and of course photographers came to… well, do what photographers do. It seems like for a while artists lived on the premises and in summer of 2011 Sebastian and I had a quick look. Only to find a rather uninteresting burned out hotel and some vandalized smaller buildings. In the early 80s the Clubhotel must have been quite a sight – nowadays it’s just another unspectacular rotting place in the woods. Luckily it has a story worth telling. But maybe this patch of land in the middle of nowhere will find new beauty and glory soon. On March 26th of 2012 a public auction of the property by court order took place and on May 13th Echo-Online reported that the (new?) owner of the site is looking at plans to build a new hotel – probably for the whole family this time, not only for dads…

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Onsen Town Theater

Hot Spring Theater – that’s what was written in four kanji (温泉劇場, onsen gekijo) at the front of the building. And this was clearly a euphemism in many ways. First of all: The small building didn’t look like a theater at all. Which isn’t a surprise, because “hot spring theater” is common code for a Japanese strip club in an onsen town. So the only play on the stage of this theater was happening between the hand of “actress” and the rest of her body… I guess what set the Onsen Town Theater apart from a classic strip club was the fact that the stage looked like a theater stage and didn’t extend into the audience. Full frontal! The seats by the way were gone, so basically all we had was a dark empty room and a dull stage in a rather inconspicuous building. If it wouldn’t have been for some signs stored in a room next to the entrance *Michael* and I might have missed the stage and therefore the purpose of the building. Smaller signs at the counter of the main entrance announced the rather steep admission charge of 2.600 Yen and the fact that you had to be 18 years old to enter. I’m still not sure though if the Onsen Town Theater really was a strip club or maybe rather a brothel – or both. The building had a second floor and up there were not only a couple of small rooms and a seedy looking waiting area. Right at the top of the stairs was another counter with a surprisingly low and small opening with curtains – and behind the counter I saw quite a few paper slips looking like receipts. Did the performing ladies live up here? Or did they offer extra services? I guess we’ll never know…

And with this little mystery my report about the *road trip to southern Kyushu* ends. Right on time, because tomorrow the Gakuranman and I will leave for another road trip. Urbex in Okinawa – here we come!

(If you don’t want to miss the latest article 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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Spring time is long weekend trip time! While Kansai doesn’t have much of a winter it nevertheless can be quite cold, especially when having a hobby involving taking pictures in abandoned places, other places of Japan can be snowed in for months with meters of snow… So when the sun finally warms the hearts of Japan and causes the first sunburn of the young year it’s time to explore places beyond my beloved Kansai – whether it be *Kyushu with Enric* two years ago or Shikoku with Gianluigi last year (a series of articles yet to come…), it became kind of a tradition for me to go on an urbex spring trip with a friend of mine. This time *Michael Gakuran* and I teamed up for a road trip to the southern end of Honshu, Japan’s main island – Chugoku, to be exact, the area west of Kansai. A trip with such exciting places that I decided to start writing about it right away – the last pictures are barely 50 hours old…

At this point I don’t want to give away too much about the locations we visited or which order we visited them in. But there were 8 of them in 3 days. 3 long days I might add, with me getting up at 6.30 a.m. on a Sunday, at 6 a.m. on a vacation day and at 5 a.m. on a national holiday. As I mentioned before: I’m a morning grouch; and by “morning” I mean any point in time which is followed by “a.m.”…

But the trip wasn’t just exhausting, it was also exiting, fun, frustrating, satisfying, rich in variety, surprising, delicious (I finally ate Hiroshima Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima prefecture and bought the best local sweets outside of Kyoto – mikan dango) and insanely expensive.

Why insanely expensive? It’s because at the end of the first day a serious mishap happened to me. We were on our way to a hotel to stay for a night when we saw this huge, blue and white flame at a gigantic industrial plant – probably coke oven gas burning at a cokery. (Addendum 2012-06-11: I guess I was wrong about the gas – Gert from South Africa wrote me: “This couldn’t be coke oven gas burning, because coke gas got a very very hot orange (impurities) or yellow (cleaner) flame. But the flame in the video is actually blast-furnace or corex, midrex, finex gas flame (more methane content in gas).” Thanks a lot for pointing that out! I really appreciate it and changed the title of the video below, too.)
We decided to make a stop to take picture or two and when I got out of the car to marshal Michael I grabbed my bag and I don’t know how or why, but my beloved D90 camera flew through the air and crashed hard to the concrete ground. The body cracked open a couple of millimetres so I could see the insides. Parts of the electronics were still working (e.g. I could use the screen to look at the photos on the memory card), but since the lens mount was part of what cracked it was impossible to take pictures anymore. Mad props to Tokina BTW! The mounted 11-16mm lens survived without a scratch or any other damages as I found out with relief the next day.
Sunday evening past 7 p.m. – of course I was in shock at first, because going on a photo trip without a camera is pretty pointless. So we headed towards the flame to take some picture which I couldn’t do since my photo camera broke and Mike couldn’t do because of the lighting, lenses and passing traffic. So I took the video you can find below the article – it doesn’t fully capture the beauty of the flame, but it will always remind me of the death of my favourite camera so far (I also included the last JPG I ever took with it, even though it wasn’t related to urbex). Back at the car we decided to look for an electronics store, although it was almost 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening. After a couple of minutes we found a shopping mall, but it didn’t have a camera store. The staff at the mall was very nice, telling us where to find an electronics store – but it closed at 8. Michael, who did all the talking since his Japanese is WAY better than mine, wasn’t discouraged by that and asked for the phone number of the store. Although the store was closed Michael called and somebody picked up. He told them my tricky situation and they agreed to let us into the store if we hurry – so I got into a taxi and went straight to the store. There a guy with pretty decent English helped me at the camera department. I was hoping to replace the D90 with another one, but they didn’t have them in stock. A lower model was out of the question, so the only option was a D7000. Which they didn’t have in stock either. Just the display model – which they couldn’t sell me without the kit lens since it was a display model. After some deliberation and the certainty that not buying that display model would mean losing at least 5 hours the next morning looking for another camera (electronic stores in Japan usually open at 10 a.m.) I half voluntarily upgraded from a Nikon D90 to a Nikon D7000. With a bad feeling since I not only spent a huge chunk of money, but I also had to learn by doing how to handle a new camera. While I’m very pleased with how the photos of all locations turned out it was quite unnerving at times to get the shots I wanted to take.

Now just a few quick words about the locations we visited. The undisputed highlight of the tour was the abandoned Japanese Sex Museum. Both Michael and I had high expectations and we were not the slightest disappointed, shooting in almost complete darkness for the majority of the 4 hours we spent there. Another glorious highlight to me was the Kart Pista Hiroshima race track – why it was a highlight you’ll find out soon. Since theme parks are one of my favourite types of abandoned place we visited two of them and I loved them both. 4 world class haikyo in 3 days – plus 2 good ones (a Meiji Era army fortress and a quite tricky hotel) as well as 2 more we took pictures of because we went there and it would have been a waste not to cover them… a strip bar in an onsen town (euphemistically called “theater”) and a car camp site. To my knowledge all of these places never appeared on English speaking blogs, some of them are even unknown to the Japanese urbex crowd. So please enjoy the preview pictures and come back for much more information, photos and about one hour of video material!

Here’s an alphabetical list of the upcoming locations:
Ganne Fortress
Hiroshima New Zealand Farm
Japanese Sex Museum
Kart Pista Hiroshima
Moriyama Auto Camp
Noga Hotel
Onsen Town Theater
Yamaguchi New Zealand Village

(If you don’t want to miss the latest article 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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