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Kagoshima is literally the end of the Shinkansen line – and one of the few places in Japan that isn’t completely overrun by foreign tourists yet. It’s also home to some stunning and barely covered abandoned places…

Most people probably don’t know much about Kagoshima prefecture, but within Japan it is famous for its hot sand baths in Ibusuki, the continuously smoldering volcano Sakurajima, and a sweet, juicy and very easy to peel mandarin orange called satsuma; named after the former Satsuma province, which is now the western half of Kagoshima prefecture. Food in general is a very important part of the Kagoshima experience and includes lots of fresh seafood, flowing somen (thin noodles flowing in ice-cold spring water) and the famous kurobuta – meat from black pigs, local sub-breds derived from Berkshire swines; basically the Kobe beef of pork.
And this is where *Abandoned Kansai* comes in… While doing a rather relaxing trip through Kagoshima and the neighboring Miyazaki prefecture with my dear friend *Hamish*, we stumbled across an abandoned pig farm, most likely once used to breed and raise kurobuta. The complex consisted of about a dozen concrete buildings and a mostly demolished area – far from being stunning, but nevertheless quite interesting, because how often does one get the opportunity to see an (abandoned) pig farm? Two aspects tainted the experience a little bit though. First of all it seemed like two or three of the buildings were still in use… people seemed to live there, so we had to sneak around a little bit. Which means that the second negative factor was actually kind of a blessing in disguise: Upon our visit of the pig farm it was raining cats and dogs – which made outdoor photography a pain in the ham, but also ensured that the local locals stayed inside and probably didn’t pay any attention to us. (I also found out afterwards that the company is still active, so in hindsight this was actually quite a risky exploration.)
I’m not sure which way humankind will take in the decades and centuries to come, but I’m pretty sure if it is surviving long-term, “meat factories” like that will be considered a stain on the late 20th, early 21st century. Despite it being a rather cold, windy, rainy autumn day and all living creatures long gone, it took only little imagination that this place must have been horrible in many ways, especially during summers, half a century ago.
Exploring the Kagoshima Pig Farm was interesting, but not pleasant – and it being part of local history and not just another random hotel / hospital / theme park added significantly to its attractiveness. It was also a great complement to the *Pig Auction Market*, which I explored just a few months prior… Definitely an unusual afternoon!

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What do you do with your little angels when you are a loving father and tired of your small apartment in the big city? Right, you spend a weekend in the countryside and let your children roam! Until that piece of paradise gets closed down and abandoned…

The first thing I thought when Dan, Kyoko and I drove up to the Cherub Land almost a years ago? “Well, there went another theme park in Tohoku thanks to that darn earthquake…” Well, it turned out that I was wrong. Cherub Land wasn’t really a theme park… and it wasn’t abandoned in the aftermath of the Tohoku incident, it was long gone at the time already.
Cherub Land was basically a campsite with bungalows, an onsen across the street (still guarded by a dog…), a free playground, fruit picking and a small pay as you go amusement park with attractions like bike rentals and go-cart – all of that in the middle of nowhere and in somewhat close proximity of the whole Fukushima thing that went wrong. Opened in the late 90s the campsite side was closed only 10 years later, three or four years before Tohoku 2011. The onsen part apparently survived a bit longer, but was also closed in 2016 when I explored the area. Fortunately there were no fences or other barriers, so we could park easily and out of sight of the main road on the former premises. Center of Cherub Land was a pond of about 20 by 30 meters, surrounded by wooden huts for couples and small families to stay at. There also were several different greenhouses, where tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and melons were grown – and an especially beautiful one full of kiwi vines… unfortunately they weren’t ripe at the time of the exploration. While some of the structures were partly demolished and / or decaying, the rental area was still in decent condition. Rusty and with a few signs of vandalism, but since Cherub Land is rather little known and off the beaten tracks, it was in a surprisingly good state overall. My personal highlight of the overall rather dangerously looking playground: the fading boxing ring, which did probably more damaged to kids than all the children hitting each other.

Overall exploring Cherub Land was heaven, especially on that beautiful autumn day – outdoors, quiet, virtually unknown, the right amount of decay, at first sight underwhelming, but offering tons of details to look at and explore… exactly my kind of abandoned place!

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As much as I love Japan, there is one serious aspect about my adopted home that really disgusts me: Japan loves to disguise its role in WW2, often even portraits itself as one of the victims, continuously downplaying the committed atrocities. In August the self-pity reaches the all-year height on the occasion of the nuclear incidents – which is really sad, especially since July 31st would be a perfect day to show some remorse.
Unfortunately “July 31st” isn’t a thing – neither in Japan, nor anywhere else. Last year I used the date for a little rant about this topic on *Facebook*, but that’s it. Why July 31st? Because of Unit 731, one of Japan’s darkest chapters. To quote *Wikipedia*: “Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II.”

Being from Germany myself, I grew up in a society that quite openly dealt with the darkest chapter of its history, but also with its attempts to make up for it – not just by paying reparations, but also by showing regret and remorse (*Warsaw Genuflection*) and by being a driving force behind organisations like the European Union. Japan on the other hand were trumping Asia before Donald J. Trump was even born – making half-ass excuses or even apologies, only to taking them back soon after. Japanese history school books tend to be a joke, barely dealing with the 1930s and 40s. As a result Japanese old men grunt “brassas in aams” when they find out that I am German (which is wrong in many ways…), more people seem to know Josef Mengele than Ishii Shiro (which is a shame!), and Japan still has conflicts with Russia, China, Taiwan, both Koreas and probably even more countries over topics that date back 75 years or more and should have been resolved generations ago!
I really love Japan, but the country desparately needs a day for sincere remorse – and what better day than July 31st?!

If you are interested in the topic, please start with the *Wikipedia page about Unit 731* and get more information and further reading recommendations from there.
Abandoned places closely and loosely related to Unit 731 are the poison gas island *Okunoshima*, a *school for suicide squads* and *a factory for suicide squad vehicles* – those are older articles, but of course they haven’t lost any of their fascination.

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An old wooden abandoned school well hidden deep in the mountains of Okayama – and the burning question: Where did the children come from who once visited this now deserted building?

It’s no secret that Japan’s countryside is dying, especially the traditionally sparsely populated mountainous areas. Along tiny, barely maintained roads you can find countless abandoned houses and small settlements often kilometers away from each other – no shops, no public buildings, no nothing anywhere close. Over the years I’ve explored abandoned schools in the most remote areas… in tiny villages and on mountain ridges. On the way I always passed at least a dozen houses, so even the smallest schools made kind of sense, but the Okayama Elementary School appeared out of nowhere on the left side of the road, almost swallowed by the surrounding forest… Not a single house in sight or sound, and I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one. Where did the children come from that visited this school? Did they live in hamlet that are completely gone now? I don’t know and I’ll probably never find out…
Since I was exploring with Japanese friends, my time at the Okayama Elementary School was limited to less than an hour – and though the school was rather small even by abandoned countryside school standards, there were quite a few items left behind, which made this an interesting exploration. In addition to the fact that this is one terribly hard to find school. I didn’t even know about it before that day and only recognized it once since then on another post that was published before my visit in 2016. The typical “Oh, they took that picture THERE…” realization that puts a knowing smile on your face. Unfortunately I don’t know much else about this school. A calendar sheet with tropical fish pinned to one wall was from March / April 1973, which makes sense as the new school year in Japan starts in early April. That would mean that the school was closed years before I was even born – and from the looks of it, that’s not an unreasonable conclusion…

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Pidgeon Pachinko or Garbage Pachinko – quite suitable alternative names for this virtually unknown abandoned pachinko parlor…

Pachinko is probably one of the most sketchy businesses you can get yourself into in Japan. About 40% of the parlors are run by the yakuza, another 40% by exile Koreans with ties to the northern half of the motherland. And the majority of the rest is probably owned by large chains with gigantic parlors – and despite that there are quite a few abandoned pachinko parlors all over Japan, from inner cities to the middle of nowhere. A surprising large number of them are actually in rather bad condition – you would think that criminals, borderline criminals and corporations would pay better attention to their properties, but maybe the abandoned ones are all closed independent parlors; who knows? I don’t, that’s for sure. But I am not much of a gambler. Never even entered an active pachinko parlor and hated every second when visiting one of the highly regulated casinos back in Germany.

The Grazia Pachinko parlor though I will remember as by far the shittiest place I’ve explored, the biggest pile of garbage; unfortunately not only figuratively, but also literally – thanks to a flock of pidgeons living in the entrance area and a hobo filling the upper floor with trash.
I try to approach every exploration with the most positive attitude as possible as I actually look forward to every single one of them (except for revisits – I’m really not a revisit guy… except for *Nara Dreamland*, of course!), but when I was approaching the Grazia on this January morning (a chill winter bastard though dry), I kinda wished the weather were better – luckily it wasn’t, because I think these days, summer days, the parlor is borderline inexplorable. Partly covered by graffiti on the outside, quite unusual for Japan, the innards of the Grazia Pachinko parlor weren’t much more of a looker. The last owner basically removed anything of value and / or interest, the outdoor “artists” and / or their following did the rest. Even worse, several dozen pidgeons decided to occupy the entrance area (now the back of the parlor) and leave huge piles of scat everywhere – now I was grateful for the close to 0°C weather, because neither money nor pidgeon shit has much smell at those temperatures. Well, ground floors of abandoned pachinko parlors tend to be crappy places in general, maybe the living area above the parlor (not a lot of people know that, but most pachinko parlors have a whole apartment area on top!) would be more interesting? The vandalized staircase wasn’t very promising and the real thing fully lived up to the now extremely lowered expectations. The entrance to the boiler room to the left was blocked by a horizontal door and filled with trash, the almost empty kitchen to the right filthy to a level you wouldn’t expect of an empty room. The hallway was kinda darkish and cluttered, nevertheless I followed it down to the next door, where I was welcomed by a breathtaking surprising – the whole bedroom behind it was filled almost knee-deep with trash, most of it empty plastic food containers. Too bad that there is no thing as smell photography, because I totally would have used that technology in this case! And just to remind you, this was dry 0 degree weather in January. Now in July we often reach very humid 35°C during the days and still above 30° at night. At that point I had enough and didn’t even venture further down the hallway. I love exploring like hardly anybody else, but buildings that were turned into garbage dumps… seriously, nobody needs locations like that. Behind the parlor I had a quick look at the building where the few lucky winners could exchange their balls for prizes (locked) and a small bungalow building, but they were of little interest and it was still early in the day – there were other places to explore… more promising places!

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It’s amazing how fast things can go to hell in a handbasket in Japan – sometimes even twice or three times…
From the looks of it, the Seto Onsen Hotel dates back to the 1960s and has been abandoned for at least 15 or 20 years. But looks can be deceiving. For example: While I don’t know when the hotel was closed, it was definitely not abandoned for 15 years or more as I’ve seen pictures from about 2011, just six years before my visit, when it was standing there in decent condition, ready to be demolished, no shrub or tree anywhere near to be seen – pictures from the inside confirmed the good condition with plenty of items left behind, including some coin-operated children’s rides. When I explored the hotel with my buddies Dan and Kyoko, it was a fight just walking along the overgrown road leading up to the hotel, which was also almost swallowed by the surrounding green hell. Unfortunately the place wasn’t exactly a looker, except for one of the staircases and the amazing view from the roof. The rest was rundown and partly prepped for demolition, but it looked like they stopped halfway through the process – and whatever they left behind has been stolen or vandalized since then. I’m sure though in the 70s it was quite a neat place, despite its plattenbau kind of construction.
Since the Seto Onsen Hotel wasn’t famous or special in any way, there is basically nothing known about it – it’s just one of those rundown, vandalized dime a dozen abandoned hotels you can find all over Japan; not even the onsen part was interesting at all. I guess the only reason why we or anybody else goes there, it’s because the place is right next to the *Mindfuck Hotel*, which in many ways was the opposite of this one…

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A lot of abandoned places leave an impression because of what they have been, not what they are now. The Hiroshima Hospital is one of those places…

Japanese urban explorers are quick labeling as haikyo, ruins, their common term for abandoned places – but very often they are just closed, or even worse: they just look abandoned and are actually still in use; especially “abandoned” schools. So whenever I see an “abandoned” place popping up on a Japanese site and it doesn’t feature inside photos, I become worried / skeptical. Was the location really abandoned or did the explorer not bother to have a closer look? Did they have a closer, but couldn’t get inside? Did they try to, but cause an alarm? Were they maybe even caught? (It happens to the best of us…) Did they get inside, but decided against publishing photos, because the interior was too spectacular or not interesting enough? There are a million different possibilities, and they all run through my head whenever I see outdoor shots only of a potentially abandoned place.
The Hiroshima Hospital was one of those places – all I knew about it was its location in a residential suburb of Hiroshima City, all I’ve seen about of it were a couple of outdoor shots, showing massive barricades. It’s quite a drive from Osaka to Hiroshima (between four and five hours, depending on the route and the traffic circumstances), so Dan, Kyoko & I made the hospital the first location of the second day, exploring along the way the day before.
At first all the things I worried about came true: The main entrance of the hospital was barricaded, people were walking their dogs, and even from the outside the places looked kinda vandalized. But coming a long way kinda makes you persistent, so we kept looking for a way in and found a weak spot after a while. Sadly our second impression of the Hiroshima Hospital wasn’t much better than the first one. Except for a couple if items here and there the clinic had been cleaned out when it was closed – as it should be. I still can’t believe the kind of equipment, tools and drugs I found in various other abandoned hospitals over the years, so it’s hard to complain that somebody did the right thing for a change. Unfortunately that person didn’t think things fully through. As confirmed by StreetView, the Hiroshima Hospital wasn’t boarded up at first, which explains the serious amount of vandalism – broken windows, graffiti, airsoft pellets… the whole shebang.

Long story short: I’ve been to three, four, five abandoned hospitals in Hiroshima prefecture, but the Hiroshima Hospital is actually my least favorite one. It didn’t taint a great exploration weekend at all, but to be honest: I was kinda hoping for another *Wakayama Hospital*, and by that standard it was definitely a disappointment.

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