Archive for the ‘Supermarket’ Category

Timing is everything… and in this case it allowed me to explore a closed shopping mall that was currently being prepared for demolition!

In spring of 2017 I went to Gifu to explore the *Riverside Mall* – more or less a failure as it was already under demolition and the place was crowded with workers… so I got kicked out after just a few minutes on the premises. While I took some additional shots over some fences my buddy Mark googled the mall and malls nearby and found out that there was another abandoned one just down the road, the LC World Mall. So of course we headed there to have a look, just in case.
Upon arrival the mall and the circumstances gave me a weird vibe. It looked like there were still employees in the back. Near the former main entrance there was some scaffolding a few fences, and a few cars parked – but nobody around. So we found a parking spot, too, and the main entrance open wide. Weird. I was hesitant to go in, but fearless Mark just headed inside. “I’m just looking for a toilet!” Yeah, that might work for some people, but I’m not much of a bullshitter (who looks for a toilet at a shopping mall under demolition when there is a kombini every 100 meters?), so I’m having a hard time telling stories like that. As a result I only took some photos of the closed supermarket near the entrance… and from the outside. And then I waited for Mark to come back… and waited… and waited. When he didn’t show up after a while I actually went in, too – looking for my lost friend. Not a BS story, but the honest truth. It took me about 20 minutes to find Mark, in which I shot two videos while walking around, plus I took a few photos – all freehand and without any prep at rather high ISO, basically quick snapshots to make the most of this… tricky situation… When I found Mark I urged him to get the f# out of there, which was probably a good idea as more and more construction workers showed up – heading towards (our) exit, we saw about 15 at the main entrance. Mumbling some standardized greetings we walked straight past the group towards the car, despite catching the attention of a foreman. (Grunts in Japan don’t care about anything, taking on responsibility is something nobody does voluntarily on purpose, so only people who have it had forced on them already speak up in situations like that.) We ignored the guy, got in the car and drove off as quickly as possible…
So, no. The LC World Mall wasn’t really abandoned, it was closed and prepped for demolition. Places like that usually don’t get abandoned at all, especially in Japan. Nobody gives up properties like that here! So we had lucky timing that we came between the thing being shut down and being demolished. Because thanks to the gutting crew the front door was open. And thanks to our very special timing, nobody guarded it. As it turned out we arrived at the mall at around 12:10 – enough time for the worked to leave for lunch or gather in the back! When I finally found Mark and we headed back, it was pretty much 13:00 (or 1 p.m.) – so we hit by chance the lunch sweet spot when nobody paid attention and nobody cared. (The vast majority of workers in Japan, be it blue or white collar, have a one hour lunch break between 12 and 1, often announced by bells or melodies. Who needs flex time when you can be treated like a school kid?) If we would have come 10 minutes earlier we probably wouldn’t have been able to enter, if we would have stayed 10 minutes longer somebody most likely would have called the cops – to least make sure that we didn’t steal anything…

The LC World Mall definitely wasn’t my kind of exploration for a variety of reasons, but in hindsight everything went well, so it was totally worth it. And how often do you have the opportunity to see a shopping mall being prepared for demolition? So from that perspective it was at least an interesting exploration!

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The Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm (referred to as Taesongsan Combined Fruit Fam in most tour programs – I looked at GoogleMaps, it’s definitely the same place…) about half an hour outside of Pyongyang was one of the most unspectacular locations on my trip to North Korea. We were given the choice of either visiting the Pyongyang Folk Village (a park with miniature versions of landmarks in Pyongyang and the rest of the DPRK) for a rather steep entrance fee (something like 20 Euros) or heading out to the fruit farm for free, and the vote was unanimous – Taedonggang Fruit Farm!

Well, what can I say? The view from the observation point was nice, given that it was barely 50 meters high – but a fruit farm, predominantly apples and peaches, in spring isn’t exactly the most exciting place to be. So after we listened to the local guide how 800 people work on the farm, that the apple trees were imported from Italy and that the whole thing was built within just three years we headed down to the gift shop, which was actually the more interesting part of that stop. Fresh apples that looked like apples I remember from my childhood – different sizes, not perfectly formed, spots everywhere; much unlike the cloned stuff you get in supermarkets nowadays. I bought some dried apple rings and apple shampoo as souvenirs, but they also offered different kinds of juices and alcohol. Then we boarded the bus and headed back to the city, Pyongyang.

If I had only done some research in advance… What the guide didn’t tell us was that the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm is probably the best-defended farm in the world – the residence of the Kim family in Kangdong is only about 10 kilometers away and Kim Jong-un most likely passes by on the way to the city every day! There are several units of the Korean People’s Army stationed in the area, including some anti-aircraft units. So when you look at those peaceful pictures, please remember that all hell could break loose within seconds…

(Please *click here to get to Abandoned Kansai’s North Korea Special* and *here for a map about the tour at GoogleMaps*. 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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During our visit to the Zone Of Alienation our guide Maxim asked us several times if there is anything specific we really want to see. After we’ve seen the standard attractions Palace of Culture and the Amusement Park I actually wanted to get an overview of the city and since there are so many well-known pictures people standing on top of buildings I asked Maxim if we could do that, too. Of course officially it is way too dangerous and therefore forbidden, but after a well-timed pause of like 10 seconds, part of the program as the information we got about every location, Maxim told us that he knows a building where we might be able to “risk it”. But first he wanted to show us the supermarket on the way to the car.
Since Pripyat was a city built to house the personnel working at the nearby nuclear power plant a lot of highly educated and well-payed people lived in the town – Pripyat was a privileged city in many, many ways. Maxim illustrated that by mentioning that the supermarket in Pripyat was one of the few places in the Soviet Union that actually sold Chanel Nº 5. In times when every one hit wonder teeny idol sells half a dozen perfumes as merchandising the Chanel thing might not seem to be a big deal, but given the political situation back in 1986 it is actually the perfect example of how high the standard of living in Pripyat really was.
Nowadays the central supermarket, which was part of a small shopping mall, is quite a sad view, but in 1986 it must have been state of the art with a reputation that good that people from the surrounding area took long trips to shop there. The ground floor was mainly for food and the huge freezer cabinets with their isolation containers cracked open made the place look rather creepy. The entire floor was in disarray with shopping carts, shelves and a bunch of broken furniture scattered all over the ground – pretty much the only things unharmed were the signs showing where the aisles once were.
The first floor, reserved for non-food items, was in even worse shape. With all the shelves gone and the ceiling cladding, including all the lamps, crashed to the ground the whole floor made the impression as if it could collapse at any time – that feeling was boosted by the fact that the ceiling remains were softened over the past two decades by the forces of nature; even walking there gave me the creeps. The view across Pripyat’s Lenin Square to the city’s most famous hotel “Polissya” was nice though…
(If you would like to know more about my trip to the Zone Of Alienation please *click here* to get to the “Chernobyl & Pripyat” special. For a map of the area please *click here*.)

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