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Archive for the ‘Visited in 2012’ Category

The *Mount Maya Tourist Hotel* is one of the most famous and most popular abandoned places in all of Japan – and it features one of the most gorgeous exteriors ever. What most visitors are not aware of is the little known fact that the hotel wasn’t the only accommodation on that seaside slope with the gorgeous view. On the other side of the cable car tracks was a small bungalow village! Unlike the massive art deco hotel, the little huts were not able to withstand the ravages of time – but if you look closely, you will find some interesting remains and a network of paths, now mostly covered by half a century of foliage…

While the history of Mount Maya and the tourist hotel is documented quite well (*click here* if you missed it the first time), there is little known about the bungalow village. I’ve seen it on a handful of maps / leaflets from the 1960s – one of them featuring a small print ad for a Isuzu Florian, a 4 door sedan introduced in the late 60s. I kid you not! Is life friggin weird sometimes or what? (Until yesterday, when I did some research about the bungalow village specifically, I didn’t even know that there was a Isuzu Florian! There even is an English Wikipedia entry…) According to a Japanese source, the bungalow village was built in 1957, at a time when the Maya Hotel was closed due to damages from World War II – and according to a leaflet about the Maya area, the 14 bungalows cost between 600 and 2500 Yen per night, housed between 2 and 12 people, and were available between July 1st and August 31st. That’s it for historical facts. Nothing about when it closed, nothing about the one remaining house you’ll see on the photos… Nevertheless this is infinitely more information in English than was available before this article.
The Mount Maya Bungalow Village I visited in early 2012 with a nice young fella from Nigeria living in New York, Bukola. We took the cable car half way up the mountain and descended a bit along a hiking trail to reach the bungalow village behind a partly collapsed house along a rather steep slope. It was early January and rather cold. Cold enough to snow every once in a while – not heavily, not strong enough to stay on the ground… but every flake is sacred along Osaka Bay, where half of the people dress like Reinhold Messner during his Himalayan adventures as soon as temperatures hit 10°C (50°F). Sadly there wasn’t that much to see. I am quite familiar with the history of Mount Maya and the layout of its elements, so I loved the flattened, leaves covered huts, the concrete foundations and the occasional leftover item – especially the large Bireley’s cooler! (Bireley’s is a soft drink brand and belongs to the Asahi Beer Company via Asahi Soft Drinks.) 50 years ago this part of Mount Maya must have looked quite different – I assume one had a gorgeous view at Kobe and the coastline, but in half a century trees grew so big and thick that there was little to see even in the midst of winter.
The one remaining house was definitely not a bungalow, it rather looked like a rich / important man’s home. Sadly it was also a dilapidated, vandalized death trap, probably thanks to the hiking trail leading right past by. From the back we were able to enter both floors separately, but of course there was also an internal wooden staircase in less than trustworthy condition. At the time of its construction, the house must have offered some of the best views in all of Kobe, at the time of my visit most of the living room had already crashed down to what I assume was a study / library. With a little bit of imagination you could still see the former glory – and that another major earthquake might send the whole construction down the slope, so we spent as little time inside as necessary to take a few quick shots.

If the Mount Maya Bungalow Village would have been on the slope of any other mountain, it would have been 90% less interesting to explore – but the location made it part of the fascinating and somewhat tragic Maya history. Of course afterwards we continued to have another look at the *Maya hotel*, but that… you probably already guess it… is a story for another time…

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The Mount T Lift was probably one of the most pointless transportation devices in the history of mankind. A large hunk of junk that once lifted lazy butts from the parking lot of a now abandoned hotel to a viewing point on top of a mountain – but not all the way or all the height difference, just half of it each; time and energy saving 250 meters (!) / 15 meters (!) respectively… more or less parallel to a regular road!
Located on a mountain slope about 10 kilometers away from the nearest train station, the Mount T Lift is a rather rarely visited abandoned place, because hardly anybody cares enough about it to go there… even by car. I on the other hand explored the place solo and by public transportation, which was a steep learning experience and quite a pain four years ago. To cut down the walking time, I took a bus for the first seven kilometers and walked the remaining three up the mountain – though in the end it would have probably been more time effective to walk all the way as researching bus schedules and routes is a friggin nightmare in Japan. Not only for a stupid gaijin like me, but also for the staffs of tourist information offices all over the country. (Half a year later I needed a bus connection from Sapporo Station to a university in the suburbs – it took the staff about half an hour to find the proper schedule!)

Public Transportation in Japan

And with that we are onto yet another “I beg to differ, Japan!” topic: public transportation.
Public transportation in Japan has the image of being flawless, especially amongst tourists, so I will hold it to higher standards than in other countries, because that common (mis)perception is annoying when you have to live with it on a daily basis. At least back home in Germany everybody knows that trains are always late and calculate that factor into their plans; Italians apparently are positively surprised if a train actually runs, and in France everybody is on strike all the time anyway… So you have a car and don’t rely on public transportation unless you really have to. And even then it’s rather “giving it a try, expecting to be disappointed despite lowest expectations” and less relying on it. Japan’s public transportation system on the other hand lulls you in a sense of reliability and screws you over in the most sneaky ways, usually when alternatives are either super expensive (taxis) or not available (taxis…). (I actually started writing this bit of the article a while ago when I was sitting in the middle of nowhere waiting for my bus back to civilization – the one in the morning was cancelled due to a marathon (!), so I walked the 7 kilometers to my destination without a map and just a general direction in mind. It was January, overcast, cold, windy and the “bus station” was a metal stick with a 8 connections per day schedule. The afternoon bus was due at 16:35, but didn’t show up – luckily the next one 45 minutes later did; the other direction (on time at 16:34!) was already out of service for the day…)
First of all: The Shinkansen Superexpress that connects most of the major cities on Honshu and Kyushu (no service on Shikoku and only a hub on Hokkaido) is indeed close to perfect, except being overpriced unless you are eligible for a JR Pass; which you are not when you live in Japan. The Shinkansen is fast, clean, almost always on time, offers the best souvenir shops in special parts of stations, standard announcements are at least bilingual (Japanese and English, recently maybe even in Chinese and Korean) and overall it is a real pleasure for destinations within one hour of flight time. Or maybe 45 minutes. Living in Osaka I’d rather take a plane to places beyond Fukuoka or Tokyo, because it tends to be so much cheaper… and most likely faster.
Public transportation in big cities tends to be great, too. When you have intervals of 3 or 4 minutes, who cares if a train / subway is early or late? You just take the next one… One big letdown though: No transportation between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. at all. Not even night busses once per hour in large cities. Nothing. Except for January 1st, so people visiting a shrine at midnight can go to one further away than just down the street. So if you limit yourself to big cities between Tokyo and Osaka (and / or between Osaka and Nagasaki), as most tourists do, your mind indeed will be blown. BUT:
If you leave the large cities, you might… you will… run into problems. Stations with 8 to 10 connection per day instead of per hour are anything but rare, so you better have your plans laid out well… It happened to me countless times that one of those countryside connections was late and I missed my connecting express at the next bigger station – which can quickly result in another hour of delay.
People tend to ridicule the Deutsche Bahn employees for their announcements in sometimes broken English… but at least they try! If something goes wrong, if there is any delay in Japan – only announcements in Japanese, not a single word in English; even on the Shinkansen and in cities like Osaka.
When you go to the countryside, be prepared that NONE of the announcements are in English anymore – just travel south towards Shikoku from Okayama to make that experience… or past Kansai Airport to Wakayama. A lot of those local trains heading to the countryside are old and therefore don’t have electronic signs, which means that you have to rely on the conductor’s announcements. Oh, and you’ll probably never forget your first “wanman” (one man) experience – normal looking trains that have no conductor, usually serving lines with unmanned stations. The first time I ever took one of those without being aware of the wanman concept I was sitting in the second car… and when I tried to leave, the doors wouldn’t open – by the time I realized that I had to leave through the first car (so the train driver could check my ticket, so I won’t exit the unmanned station with a low fee ticket), the train was already moving again and I missed my remote station. Since they tend to be far apart in the countryside, it was more time effective to wait 45 minutes in the cold for the next train in the opposite direction than to walk back one stop… Yay!
At least you can plan train schedules ahead easily as all train stations and schedules are available in English online data bases (if you can’t read station names you can write down when to get off the train) – probably 95% of the bus schedules / maps on the other hand are available in Japanese only… and on online maps usually only their locations are marked, not their names / schedules, like on GoogleMaps for example. Inner city tourist buses in major cities are the exception, but even regular city buses can be a challenge – like I said, it took the Sapporo Station tourist information staff 30 minutes to find me the correct bus to a nearby university…
Long story short: Japan’s public rail transportation in big cities is as good as it gets – if you think that also applies to bus transportation and / or the countryside… think again! In those cases you better know at least basic Japanese… and how to plan ahead. I’ve used bus routes with two connections per day and I’ve waited more than an hour for connecting trains just 13 kilometers (less than 10 miles!) away from an international airport – in perfect scenarios with no delays involved! Overall this rant is probably more than ever complaining about first world problems, but this is my tenth year in Japan and you have no idea what kind of ridiculous conversations I had about transportation in Japan. It’s good, but it’s also far from the glorified image some people seem to have…

Up Where We Belong

Sadly there is nothing known about the history of the Mount T Lift, but I assume it operated for a few years sometime between the opening and closing of a nearby hotel. Right next to the bright orange upper terminus was a little shack made of corrugated iron and wood on a concrete platform, supported by metal stilts – with a huge glass front, offering a great view to everyone too lazy to continue for another 250 / 10 meters on foot to enjoy the full 360 degree experience. Most of the lift line was overgrown and rather unspectacular, but parts of it were secured by a net below as the lift seats didn’t have safety bars.

Overall the Mount T Lift was a nice extra to the abandoned hotel I mentioned before, especially since I wasn’t aware of it beforehand. So I took some pictures and a video of the lower terminus before I explored the hotel – and some more pictures and another video of the upper terminus after I explored the hotel. What about the hotel, you ask? Well, that’s a story for another time… 🙂

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And now for something completely different – an outdoor shooting range of the French occupying army in Neustadt, Germany!
After six years and more than 350 articles it’s not easy to present abandoned places you haven’t seen yet at all. Better ones or interesting variations… no problem. They keep me exploring and you reading. But basically new ones? Something else other than deserted hotels, theme park, hospitals, schools, … How about an outdoor shooting range then? I explored it back in 2012 and two more since then, but I don’t think I ever presented one here on Abandoned Kansai.

The first abandoned outdoor shooting range I ever explored was built and used by the French occupying army near the beautiful town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Germany. My sister and I were on our way to the now demolished *IBAG*, so we made a quick stop at a forest in Neustadt’s outskirts. The former military area was easy to find and even easier to access – a surrounding fence was still there, but the open gaps were as big as Alsace…
There is little known about the history of this outdoor shooting range, but people on the German-speaking part of the internet agree that it was used by the French occupying army… and sometimes by the German Bundeswehr, for joint exercises. The range consisted of two lanes, 600 meters each, with a bunker 15 meters high at the end; functioning as a backstop. The earth walls to each side were six meters high and about every 20 meters down the lane was a wooden clad concrete bullet trap to catch ricochets. Near the front end of the shooting range were a couple of abandoned and completely empty buildings without roofs, obviously beyond repair. Pretty much the whole area was at least partly overgrown and progress wasn’t that easy, especially since the exploration took place mid-summer.
Despite the fact that there wasn’t that much to see, the Military Shooting Range Neustadt was quite an interesting exploration – mainly because it was my first abandoned firing range… I didn’t even try to namecode this location as it is really well-known and easy to find, but if you want to have a look yourself, be careful in summer: that area is tick infested!

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About four years ago there was a brief period of time in which there were three abandoned New Zealand themed parks in Japan; in Kagawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi – and to the best of my knowledge I am the only urban explorer to visit them all. One of them even twice…

There are many reasons to revisit abandoned places. At some I run out of time, so I come back to see more. At some mother nature prevents a full exploration with lavish vegetation in summer or snow in winter. Some I fell in love with and want to enjoy again. And then there are those nearby places I shoot several times in different seasons just because they are there and I have nothing better to do. The *Shikoku New Zealand Village* (in Kagawa prefecture) though I revisited for several reasons, despite the fact that I had been there just half a year prior: Different seasons (March vs. September), there was construction machinery parked nearby during my first visit, during summer I bought a toy drone that I wanted to try at a suitable place, and my friend Chris from New Zealand was interested in going – so we went.

Exploring a location a second time is equally different as exploring it with a friend. Exploring the Shikoku New Zealand Village a second time with a friend almost made me feel like coming home, showing him my old neighbourhood. (If you haven’t read the *article about my original exploration*, I recommend doing it now as I won’t repeat certain information in this article.) This time we entered straight away without scouting the perimeter, heading through a park like area straight to the barn – which was actually accessible this time. And people say there is no vandalism in Japan… Anyway, while I was still taking pictures inside, Chris headed towards the back of the barn where he found something I had overlooked the first time – a small museum like the one at the *Yamaguchi version* right next to what I assume was the sheep show; including information about different kinds of breeds. One of them was called “Romney”, which probably isn’t that funny anymore now, but 3.5 years ago, at the time of my visit, good old Mitt was running for president of the United States, so this made me chuckle at least a little bit.
From the small auditorium we continued to the little kart track and then deeper into the park, to the souvenir shop / restaurant called Oakland, with the landslide in front of it. (If you read the previous article, you know what I mean!) And to my total surprise… the landslide was gone! Right in front of the building was a brand-new road with a freshly secured slope, including a low fence. Now, why on earth would anybody repair a road at an abandoned themed park? We had no idea, so we continued to explore the park. Well, Chris explored, I just took some more pictures of the same old… and a video walkthrough of the Oakland House, which was accessible this time, too. Speaking of videos: Thanks to the nearby model plane airport I was able to fly my toy drone without making much extra noise, but the combination of me being a horrible pilot and the weather being overcast by the time I started filming created some barely watchable videos of which I chose the least eyesore one. It doesn’t have sound for obvious reasons… and the video is a bit choppy. But hey, what do you expect from a cheap five year told tech toy in this day and age? (Drones in general are not really urbex compatible, even modern ones with good or optional cameras – indoors they are hard to navigate and the rotors blow everything up / away, outdoors they tend to catch the attention of people passing by…)

And that’s pretty much it. Chris and I had a good time exploring the Shikoku New Zealand Village (again), and I was prepared to go back for a third round, but that never happened. Recent updates of the GoogleMaps satellite view though show that the construction work on the premises continued. All buildings except for the entrance and the Oakland House have been demolished, the pond has been drained, lots of vegetation has been removed, the ground levelled – the Shikoku New Zealand Village now is a huge solar farm… (And so is the nearby model plane airport!)

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You didn’t like the *Tsuyama Plaza Hotel* very much? Well… I can beat that… and not in a good way! So let’s start this year with one of the worst locations I ever explored. One I only took pictures of, because I already had climbed the friggin mountain it was located on and had nothing better to do after shooting the neighboring, partly demolished and now completely gone *Misasa Plateau Family Land* – welcome to the mostly demolished Misasa Plateau View Hotel!

I am sure at one point in time the Misasa Plateau View Hotel has been an awesome accommodation. Located on the slope of a mountain plateau, it was actually kind of cut in half by a street leading to a country club further down the road. But the street didn’t go through the hotel… When the hotel was planned and constructed, the main building was on top of the mountain, but the annex was down below on a small ridge along the slope – and both buildings were connected by a tunnel for guests underneath the road! That it had been surrounded by its own amusement park was just another awesome perk… Sadly, by the time of my visit the main building already had been demolished to make space for a now finished solar park, but the lower ridge part was still standing – and completely vandalized. The view from the small balconies was gorgeous, but the building had turned into a bit of a death trap. Some exits sure weren’t safe anymore… Despite its elevated location, the hotel most likely featured some really nice public baths, not for nothing the floor plan I found showed the name “Misasa Plateau Radium Garden”. The most interesting part though was the old outdoor pool, though I am not 100% whether it was part of the hotel or of the theme park. It was located on the side of the main building / family land, but a bit lower, probably the same height as the annex building. Two pools, a slide and a pool building with some sponsored benches in front… Morinaga HiCROWN chocolate. Nothing special by any means, but photography gold in comparison to the rest of the location.
So here you are, another vandalized hotel in Japan. Shot in 2012 and totally not representative for the mind-blowing explorations I did over the course of the past 12 months. I would even go so far to say that 2015 has been the best year of explorations ever for me – some of those locations I have already written about (for example *here*, *here* and *here*), and I am looking forward to showing you some more in 2016! 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!

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I am getting a bit tired of hearing stuff like “Oh, there is no vandalism in Japan!” and “Japanese people are so much more respectful towards things that don’t belong to them… and nature!” – yeah, you might get that impression if you’ve never been to Japan or never left a bigger city here, but overall those almost quotes are highly exaggerated in my experience. So now I finally post a location I should have posted years ago… the Tsuyama Plaza Hotel.

Before I get to this vandalized rundown piece of sh…ub-dee-doo, let me say a few words about vandalism in Japan… and why the problem is a bit more complex than “Because it’s Japan”!
Yes, I am aware that the average place presented on Abandoned Kansai probably is indeed in better condition than the average place presented on a weekly blog about urbex in Europe or the States. One of the main reasons probably is that I am holding back locations like the Tsuyama Plaza Hotel, because I rather show you more interesting places. And when I go to rundown, vandalized buildings, I still try to take interesting photos, presenting even those locations in the best possible way. “But most urbex blogs do that!”, you might say, and you have a valid point there. Which bring us to an urbex related reason why there is less vandalism / damage to abandoned places in Japan: There are a lot less urban explorers in Japan than Europe and the States! I know, urbexers don’t damage, don’t steal, and don’t reveal places – in theory… But every visit, even when executed as carefully as possible, contributes to the downfall of a place – you bring in dirt and humidity, some people move items when looking for hints about a location’s history or to create more interesting photos… and when those are published, they attract more people to those locations, not all of which are (serious) urbexers. Speaking of attracting more people – geocaching is not a thing in Japan; not at all! I know, I know, geocachers treat every place with the highest respect and would never damage anything… in theory. But they actively lure people to deserted places by publishing coordinates. Just google “lost places geocaching” and I am sure you’ll find tons of abandoned places in the German speaking parts of Europe, despite none of those search words are German. And please don’t get me wrong, this is not an attack against geocachers – they have the same right to be at abandoned places as urbexers (technically: none…), though I’ve never heard of a place being torn down due to too many careful, serious photographers, while I was given the “too many” reason about geocachers by the demolition crew tearing down the *Deportation Prison Birkhausen*. Long story short: a lot less urbexers, hardly any geocachers in Japan. But in my estimation a lot more abandoned places per square kilometer. Japan is a country with very densely populated and rather remote areas and a distinct “out of sight, out of mind” mentality – outside of city centers, places are rather abandoned than demolished, especially since there is (was?) a tax break for built-up land, which means abandonment not only avoids demolition costs, but also taxes in the years to come.
Which brings us to “the Japanese people” – and as much as I hate those generalizations, I guess they are kind of necessary in this case. First of all: the average Japanese person is a lot more superstitious than the average European person. It’s actually mind-blowing how many of them believe in ghosts and stuff like that – which probably can be explained by the indigenous Shinto religion and its relationship with spirits and purification in general; abandoned places, especially those where people died, are absolute no-go zones for those people. In addition to that, Japanese people are a lot more subservient to authority than most Americans and Europeans, at least in my experience. They tend to follow orders by higher ranking people without questioning them, kind of in a Prussian way. Do you remember that Simpsons episode in season 20 where Lisa is standing in front of the Springfield Bell Tower with a sign stating “Keep out”? Below is another sign: “Or enter. I’m a sign, not a cop.“ Well, in Japan a sign, a rope or even a traffic cone usually is enough to keep people from entering places thanks to that general obedience. I’ve been to abandoned places with Japanese people and they didn’t dare to pass a sign or step over a rope – which is nothing in comparison to what urbexers all over the world do to get past barb-wired fences or avoid security to take pictures of places they consider “abandoned”. (But if somebody pays for security, is that place really abandoned? Or just currently not used to its full potential?) Which brings us to another major character difference – Japanese society is still about (large) groups, while urbex tends to be a rather individual hobby; especially when you are interested in taking photos. In my experience, Japanese people love big groups. 15, 20, 30, 40 people. But that doesn’t work for urbex. Even 5 people can be too many for some locations, especially if the place is small and / or access is a bit more complicated. Big groups also support another thing Japan is great at – social control and public shaming. Even in a group of 15 people there is always a snitch happy to rat out the rest… All of that combined explains why there are a lot less urban explorers / geocachers / individualistic people in Japan.
As for vandalism in general… in my opinion / experience it’s quickly on the rise in Japan. Sure, there is not nearly as much graffiti and pointless destruction in Japan as in Europe or the States, but there is infinitely more in comparison to when I first came to Japan almost 20 years ago. And when there is the opportunity, there is lots of vandalism in Japan, too. Just look at the *Rape and Death of an Abandoned Japanese Sex Museum* article I wrote a few months ago. That place went from awesome to completely vandalized in less than two years. Why? Because it was located on the main road in a busy spa town just south of Sapporo and somebody marked it on GoogleMaps. Plenty of bored people of all ages after dark – 4.45 p.m. in winter, 7.30 p.m. in summer. The *Tuberculosis Clinic for Children* in the south of Osaka went from “completely locked with running machines inside” to “completely trashed” in less than three years. Why? Opportunity! The clinic was out of sight and out of hearing from any neighbors, yet still in walking distance of a train station. If you went there at any time of the day, even with the intent to smash windows and furniture, chances were close to zero that anybody would have heard you. And those are just two examples for trashed places (both have been demolished in early 2015). And sometimes they literally get trashed. With trash. Because getting rid of electronics can be expensive in Japan, a lot of people just dump their old TVs, fridges and other equipment somewhere in the woods or at abandoned places – so much for the nature loving population mentioned in the intro… (I once took a very special photo in the middle of nowhere – a sign stating in many words “Don’t unload your garbage here!”… and in the background a huge pile of garbage bags and electronics…)
I’m not trying to be “anti” here, I just wanted to share my experiences / observations of living in Japan for almost 10 years. Maybe I am wrong and there really is significantly less vandalism in Japan. Who knows? But if there is, I am pretty sure the explanation is much more complex than “because it’s Japan”.

Now, let’s finally get to the Tsuyama Plaza Hotel… and get it over with. According to the calendars on the walls, the hotel closed in June of 2000 – and neither time nor people have been nice to the building ever since. It was (and probably still is) basically a prime example for a large, boring vandalized hotel with nothing special about it. Graffiti everywhere, broken glass everywhere, interior and everything not screwed or bolted lying around everywhere… and even some of the screwed stuff got screwed. Heck, I don’t have anything nice to say about the place either, except that the view from the lounge on the top floor was rather nice during sunset; but that’s something not even the most violent vandal would be able to destroy. I was bored exploring the place and I am kind of bored writing this part of the article. So I’ll stop – please enjoy the photos and the video. I’m outta here! 🙂

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Japan is a mountainous country and therefore abandoned ropeways and cable cars are not that unusual – abandoned chairlifts are surprisingly rare though. One of the few examples is the Utopia Lift that once connected a mountain ridge accessible by the *Beppu Ropeway* with the *Shidaka Utopia* amusement park – both of them abandoned, too. (Judging by the latest satellite photos, the Utopia took a few demolition hits since my visit, but it’s hard to say for sure how much of it is left these days without going there…)

After my exploration of the *Shidaka Utopia* on a bright, hot, sunny spring day I hesitantly left the abandoned theme park to head for the mountains in search of the Beppu Ropeway and the upper terminus of the Utopia Lift. Back in 2012 the satellite photos of that area were rather outdated and blurry, so I had a tough time figuring out in advance how to climb the mountains of Oita to get to where I hoped to go. All I knew for sure was that it wouldn’t be easy as nature was already in full swing – both flora and fauna. It turned out that my chosen path was way too long as I unknowingly added about an hour of walking up and down a mountain slope to my route; a shortcut I only found on my way back. But hey, at least I didn’t have to go to the gym that night… or the following one. But sooner or later my hike finally ended when I saw a rusty tower and a single lift chair of the abandoned chairlift in front of me – I guess this rather strenuous hike is one of the reasons why the Utopia Lift isn’t exactly a favorite amongst urban explorers. Another one is the fact that there is not that much to see. A couple of towers, a handful of chairlifts, the massive return bullwheel overgrown in the forest closing in as well as a small office and an even smaller plastic lavatory. But I genuinely enjoyed the vandalism free decay of the chairlift as well as the atmosphere on the mountain ridge on this wonderful spring day. It would have been a lot easier to get up there and to take photos in winter, but the green of the surrounding flora against the clear blue of the sky was almost intoxicatingly beautiful. Probably not a place you should go to all by yourself, but I very much enjoyed being up there alone. I know the photos are a bit repetitive, but I often get e-mails asking to publish more photos with each article – in this case there are not more photos, but probably the most per square meter of explored location, so I hope you’ll enjoy the set…

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A festival village? What the heck is a festival village? To be honest, even 3.5 years after exploring it, I am still not sure!

A couple of years ago, the Shikoku Festival Village was one of the most popular abandoned places on Japan’s smallest and least populous main island; at least amongst Japanese explorers. Sadly, hardly any of them cared much about the location’s history – and the rest of the internet neither, given that it was apparently abandoned in 1999; three years after the first camera phone was sold in Japan and almost a decade before they achieved decent quality. And so I wasn’t able to find a single photo or video of the time the Shikoku Festival Village was still in business – and only little more information, though it is said to be yet another failed project of the Japanese asset price bubble, which means that the place was most likely built between 1986 and 1991. It consisted of two buildings, a dome shaped museum and a big multi-purpose building, connected by a huge parking lot that included a helipad and had two massive entrance gates on different height levels, given that the whole complex was located on a slope – yep, that sounds like the megalomaniac bubble economy…

I think it’s safe to say that the Shikoku Festival Village was carefully closed and shut tight when closed about one and a half decades ago, but vandals / airsoft players made sure to gain access as BB pellets all over the place indicated. The museum was still split in two parts by massive shutters all over the building. Offices, exhibition rooms (with both intact and shattered showcases) and a couple of bathrooms. On the ground floor I found a huge and still closed abandoned safe, a Pythagoras by SECOM. The main building across the parking lot was accessible on the ground floor and on the third floor – which turned out to be a great thing, because when I was about to leave, I realized that a car parked in front of the gate I entered… not really through… but rather by. Luckily not a security guy, but some random dude, most likely trying to kill some time away from his family. Nevertheless it would have been a hassle to exit with the fella watching through his driving mirror. The building itself was big enough to have an escalator, though I have to admit that I don’t remember much of it as I kinda rushed through since I was running out of time. On the ground floor I found some hover disc, flying saucers if you want to call them that – probably a lot of fun in the 1990s, especially with the large parking lot right in front of the building. The top floor seemed to be the amusement area with a bar or two, seating areas and more exhibition space. There also were several boxes filled with high quality prints of the last museum exhibition – expensive pottery. The quite vandalized middle floor offered more party space, though it didn’t look as if the building allowed for overnight stays, which probably contributed to the Shikoku Festival Village’s downfall, given that there were no bigger hotels in walking distance.
On a sunny day with friends I probably would have considered the Shikoku Festival Village somewhat of a dud – but the overcast, drizzly weather and the fact that I was exploring solo added quite a bit to this event space’s atmosphere. Especially the darker areas of the museum were spooky as hell. Too bad that the place’s history is still mostly shrouded and most likely will stay that way forever, but overall it was an interesting exploration. Oh, and of course I would have loved to take a ride on one of those hover discs, but they were probably beyond repair anyway after all those years of abandonment.

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Misasa is a small onsen town in the mountains just behind Tottori’s coast line, famous for its radon rich spring water and the Sanbutsu Temple, a temple complex with one of its buildings built into a cliff. Interestingly enough, radon is a decay product of radium – colorless, tasteless, colorless, but radioactive. Despite being generally considered a health hazard, radon rich waters are keeping several spa towns all over the world alive; and Misasa is one of them, avoiding the demise other second tier onsen towns are fighting against for decades now. Well, the city center of Misasa does… the Misasa Plateau, about 200 meters above the city on a mountain ridge, was less lucky though. While the Misasa Country Club survived Japan’s rough 1990s, the Misasa Plateau View Hotel and the Misasa Plateau Family Land, combined known as Misasa Plateau Radium Garden did not – and neither did several company and family retreats in the area; while some are still frequented by their owners, about one in four are not, decaying on steep slopes along scenic mountain roads and paths.
My trip to Misasa in the spring of 2012 marked the end of a rather *bad Golden Week* – and even though the *Sand Dune Palace* and the *Saikaibashi Corazon Monorail* weren’t exactly highlights of my exploration career, they were still better than what waited for me at Misasa. It took me hours to locate both the hotel and the amusement park on the then blurry GoogleMaps, but I went there with high hopes – otherwise I wouldn’t have made the long trip, including a costly train ride, a bus ride and a long hike up a friggin mountain along vaguely labelled hiking trails. Finally reaching the plateau, I only found some roads, some rubble, some debris and some more or less intact structures here and there. It took me a while to figure out on location what happened and how the pretty much gone hotel (part of a story for another time) and the pretty much gone theme park were related. Both looked really interesting the one time I saw them on a Japanese blog, but now they were gone. The upper area with the three storey hotel, all the arcade machines and the go-kart track were carefully leveled and I took quite a long rest in the shadow on that brutally hot spring day, barely a cloud in the sky. After taking photos of some of the smashed leftovers (piled arcade games, UFO catchers and pachinko machines), I made my way down some wide, but rather overgrown steps, past a rotting totem pole and several signs indicating that the Misasa Plateau Family Land had been a pay as you go amusement part. The final couple of steps were on a sketchy looking metal construction, but since it was the only way down to the lower area, I took the risk – though it turned out there was not much left to see. Basically just a wooden hut, filled with all kinds of left-behind stuff, and a huge parking lot, mostly covered by various kinds of debris and garbage. At one point I saw a guy in a car there, but he seemed to mind his own business, later harvesting some roots or whatever.
Overall the Misasa Plateau Family Land was a really disappointing exploration, given the amount of time, money and effort I put into it. But that’s urbex – sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug. Not every abandoned theme park looks like *Nara Dreamland*… But to end this article on a lighter note – when I had a look at the area on GoogleMaps again recently, I found out why the upper area was neatly leveled… solar panels! The Misasa Plateau Family Land is a solar park now, which is absolutely fantastic news. Japan has an energy problem, and this is definitely a step into the right direction!

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about exploring the abandoned *Lower Terminus of the Yubara Onsen Ropeway* (if you are interested in the history of the place, please read that article first as I don’t plan to reiterate it). It was quite easy to find, quite easy to access, quite easy to explore.
The upper terminus was a little less known and a little harder to find (or at least it was three years ago, when GoogleMaps wasn’t nearly as detailled in the countryside as it is now), but obviously a worthwile destination to be combined with the lower terminus, if for nothing else but convenience – like most people we got to Yubara Onsen by car, so the difference in elevation wasn’t much of a problem. Finding the half-overgrown building though was a bit of a challenge as it was behind a corner after several left or right decisions walking up a slope from the road below.
Arriving at the upper terminus, we were rewarded by a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, including a massive storage reservoir. Half a dozen coin-operated binocular were once lined up here, but only the Nikon labelled poles were still there. The building itself was much more vandalized and delapidated than the valley station, which didn’t give us a boost of confidence, given that it was forming a platform over the slope – when that thing goes down the mountain, you don’t want to be on there for the ride! It looked like a typical ropeway building, with a small restaurant at the entrance and the platform and machinery room at the far end of the construction. Sadly there wasn’t much left, except for a rusty cash register, a broken wooden chair and some machinery on the ground floor. The metal stairs leading up to the control room were very rusty, a couple of footholds actually missing; and I really hope that nobody got hurt when that happened. Being a rather big guy myself I took it as a warning and refrained from climbing up there, hoping that one day I would be able to explore a less risky ropeway control room. (My patience was rewarded just a couple of weeks later during a solo exploration trip to Tottori prefecture at a virtually unknown station there. Stay tuned, it’s one of many great stories yet to come!)
Overall the upper terminus of the Yubara Onsen Ropeway was an easy, rather unspectacular exploration on a sunny spring day – nothing too exciting, rather relaxed actually; a pleasant, yet not very memorable experience, but one I’d repeat at any time, if for nothing else than spending an hour with friends in the countryside.

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