Archive for the ‘Visited in 2016’ Category

Old Japanese clinics are amongst my favorite abandoned places – and this one was just gorgeous!

Finding abandoned places in Japan is relatively easy as there are so many of them. Go to an average onsen town and you can barely throw a stone without hitting an abandoned hotel. Finding really good abandoned places is difficult in Japan, too – especially countryside hospitals. Before the rise of modern hospitals after World War 2, general practitioners in Japan tended to live in more or less large houses with a more or less large clinic part included. Some were modest accommodations with a small waiting area, a front desk and an examination room at a separate entrance of the house, others were large mansions with several examination and patient rooms, a pharmacy, a study and maybe even a surgery room. A century after being built, most of those countryside clinics of the early 20th century have been demolished, are in rough condition… or are still hidden between regular houses in the countryside – passing by you’ll never know if it’s a (former) hospital or not, sometimes not even if it’s really abandoned or not.

Like the Hospital By The Sea! Located in a small coastal town, surrounded by a still upkept garden, it just looks like an old wooden building in need of a fresh layer of paint. Maybe still inhabited, maybe maintained at minimum to prevent the worst, maybe recently abandoned… Even three years after my exploration I’m still not sure about it. (Well, nobody lived there anymore, so the building was definitely not inhabited anymore!)
The front was carefully locked, but it’s usually easier to find in via the back anyway – and this surprisingly complex structure was no exception. Overall still in decent condition it was a crumbling wall that allowed access… to the private quarters. Right next to what turned out to be my favorite room, the family bath, featuring yellow tiles, a wine-red tub and an unusual ceiling. Beautiful, just beautiful! Various items on the floor, like a soroban, an old microscope and a box with little bottles filled with chemicals lead like a trace through the house to the clinic part. Coming from the back I first ignored the extremely steep stairs to the upper floor and had a look at the former entrance – the usual: front, waiting room, examination room, small pharmacy hidden underneath a staircase. Some chemicals lefts behind, but otherwise fascinatingly clean – a set of X-rays made me wonder whether they were taken at a different place or here… and if here, what happened to the equipment? Probably cleaned out with the rest of the building.
The upper floor was empty, too, but featured some beautiful woodwork – the hallway, the patient rooms… the windows! One of the wooden panels was removed and gave interesting insight on how electricity was wired throughout the house underneath the floor. I’ve never seen anything like it before or after and it was fascinating to see. You can read and listen to things as much as you want, but seeing stuff and making your own conclusions is so much more memorable! Though only from the inside, unfortunately there were also signs of decay – hopefully somebody will step up and restore the Hospital By The Sea before the damage is beyond (reasonable) repair!

Despite being mostly empty, exploring the Hospital By The Sea was just fascinating – a building straight out of a folk museum; just real and without supervision. Nothing I hadn’t seen before (the now vandalized or maybe even gone *Tokushima Countryside Clinic* comes to mind!), but a really beautiful location and a rare opportunity in general!

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Fully stocked modern abandoned hospitals are rather rare, even in Japan – this one though was still in really good condition when I explored it three years ago on a solo weekend trip!

Japan is littered… with abandoned countryside clinics – old doctors’ offices, often dating back to before World War 2, usually located within large traditional mansions in more or less small towns; most likely owned by the descendants of former noblemen. A study, a pharmacy, an examination room – but usually no operating tables, patient’s rooms for overnight or even long-term stays, or large modern equipment. For that you’ll have to find one of the handful “modern” Western-style hospitals – one of them being the Coastal Town Hospital, which I was able to visit three years ago, just months before it became popular amongst Japanese explorers and a few tourists. I had a hunch that time was of the essence in this case (and more recent photos confirmed my worries about vandalism and disarray), so I went there during a weekend trip in spring of 2016, solo, because nobody was available on short notice. Despite me arriving at the hospital reasonably early on a Sunday morning I had a hard time getting in (and out, for that matter…) – not because it was locked or boarded up, but because the little town was surprisingly busy due to dog walkers, morning runners… and visitors of an event at a nearby school. So I had to walk up and down in front of the hospital several times until I was afraid that this would attract at least as much attention as slipping in when seen. Once inside I couldn’t relax much either. Solo explorations are always nerve-wrecking, especially when little to nothing is known about the location in question – and abandoned hospitals are always creepy even on a sunny day… which heated the building quite a bit. And then there were those weird noises coming from one of the upper floors… which turned out to be pigeons or something like that behind a curtain. Saw a last flight of stairs leading up to what could only be roof access, covered by said curtain, and didn’t dare to risk getting pecked to death by a bunch of crazy birds! But even without that last percent of the building there was plenty of stuff to see – and since I started my exploration on 3F it got better and better and better… It started with a cluttered room on 3F featuring all kinds of items, from dolls behind glass to music equipment. On 2F were several patient rooms, the nurses’ station as well as the room of the chief physician – and the ground floor… Well the ground floor had the check-in desk, a waiting room – and several rooms stuffed with hospital equipment. The beautiful and still very tidy surgical suite with a scrub room right next to it, a well-lit and a virtually dark room with all kinds of medical devices, including some beds for physical therapy (?) and an X-ray machine. And of course the office with a fully stocked pharmacy – as much medication (most likely) beyond its expiration date as you can swallow!

Abandoned hospitals are among my favorite places to explore and I’ve seen tons of them – old ones, new ones, popular ones, really rare ones, vandalized ones and almost pristine ones. And although I already *tagged 35 articles on Abandoned Kansai with “hospital”* I still have seven or eight of them already explored on hold in my archive – which means that I’ve explored about 40 abandoned hospitals overall, most of them in Japan. And the Coastal Town Hospital definitely was a Top 10 hospital exploration, maybe even Top 5 – because it was in decent condition, had tons of stuff left behind… and it was a solo exploration, which always adds some accomplishment bonus points. Of course it couldn’t hold a candle to my *2010 exploration of the Tokushima Countryside Clinic* (classic) and my *2015 exploration of the Wakayama Hospital* (modern) – but lets be honest, those will be very difficult to beat even if I should explore another 40 abandoned hospitals…

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An abandoned seminar house of a university for women from Japan’s golden years – fading away in one of the country’s most picturesque areas.

Back in the 1980s everything was peachy in Japan. Long before Abe, overaging, and a recession that would span decades Japan was the epitome of technological advance and economical success. It was during that last booming phase before everything went down the drain that the Women’s University Seminar House was closed and abandoned after probably 30 or 40 years of use. Most likely because it was too old and not affordable anymore – in a way 25 years ahead of its time… 😉
The Women’s University Seminar House was a typical post-war structure with typical post-war amenities. Built at a leveled slope the complex consisted of three parts. A rather big cafeteria / seminar room with a large kitchen and several entertainment options (for example a reading corner, a “stereo”, and a piano) as well as shared baths on the lower level, a two-storey dormitory on the upper level, and a roofed wooden hallway connecting both. A wooden structure covered by sheet metal and corrugated iron. Probably cold as f# in winter and hot as f# in summer, but hey, even the golden years were partly made of fool’s gold. Now, whoever shut down the Women’s University Seminar House did a great job boarding it up, nevertheless the combination of wood, more than 25 years of abandonment (at the time of my visit), a nearby lake (humidity!) and a damp surrounding forest made this place… made but a deathtrap, but at least an ankle breaker. Even after that long and a collapsed bath, access was limited and only possible at three or four points in total. The easiest way in was through the kitchen (as so often…), which was directly connected to the main room. Walking past the baths to the hallway connecting both buildings turned out to be a bad idea as the floor was already partly collapsed and spongy like a soft cracker – and at places like that you never know how far your foot would go down when put too much pressure on the ground…
The upper building was in even worse condition. So bad, that I didn’t even care to get inside and instead took some pictures through a hole in a door and an open window. Sure, I could have climbed inside, but navigating the building would have taken forever as the floor was in total shambles. And after several hundred explorations as well as research done beforehand I doubt that I missed much there, especially on that overcast to rainy day.

Overall the Women’s University Seminar House was an average exploration – a couple of neat items in the cafeteria, lots of natural decay, some vandalism. Nothing I hadn’t seen before at other places and a bit underwhelming given the hype on Japanese blogs around the time of my visit, but still a decent one, especially if that kind of look is your thing; no regrets, but surely no revisit any time soon…

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Abandoned hotels barely ever excite me anymore – this one was different though. This one was an original find!

The Rokkosan Hotel, named after the gorgeous Rokko mountain range that stretches from Tarumi (west of Kobe) 56 kilometers in northeastern direction all the way to Takarazuka (fun fact: There is no Mount Rokko, all the peaks have different names!), is one of the most famous pre-war hotels in all of Japan and has an almost 90 year long history that started in the late 1920s, when the stretch between Mount Maya and Ashiya (home to the most expensive apartments in all of Kansai!) was developed as a nearby recreational area. Designed by local architect Masaharu Furuzuka and opened in 1929 as an annex to the equally famous Takarazuka Hotel, the Rokkosan Hotel was served by the Rokko Ropeway (right across the street) from 1931 till 1944, when the latter one was closed to get metal for the last desperate war efforts. (*I explored the abandoned remains of the Rokko Ropeway back in 2010.*) After World War 2 the Rokko Mountains experienced another boom period and the 2-storey wood-frame hotel with its 25 rooms was expanded by a new and modern main building with 45 rooms. In 2007 the Rokkosan Hotel was awarded “Heritage of Industrial Modernization” status and in November of 2015 is was announced that the original and smaller part of the hotel would be closed a month later as the building didn’t meet the updated earthquake resistance standards. Half a year later yours truly showed up to explore a third building on the premises. Bored out of my mind one day I used the satellite view of GoogleMaps to look for abandoned buildings… and I had a hunch about that one – luckily I was right, though I am still not exactly sure what the building was, except that it belonged to the Rokkosan Hotel as you can see written on several signs in the photos. And to bring the story of the Rokkosan Hotel to an end: When the older building was closed in 2015, business continued in the newer building. In 2016 the complex was sold to a car importer in Osaka who closed the last remaining operating building at the end of 2017 to start renovation and the construction of a new annex, both to be (re-)opened in 2019, 90 years after the Rokkosan Hotel first opened.
Now to the abandoned part of the Rokkosan Hotel I explored in 2016 – and I swear, I saw it by chance on GoogleMaps, marked it, checked it out some time later with my buddy Andrew; boom, jackpot! Never saw it on the internet before, never since then. It’s not visible from the street and the front is basically overgrown, though we could hear people talk all the time thanks to its proximity to the main building. Not only were we lucky that I found the building, we were also lucky that a door on the back was unlocked, so we entered, like so many other hotels, through the kitchen. From there the entrance area and the dining room were easily accessible. Due to the layout of the building without a formal front desk, I assume that it was either a low cost hostel type expansion of the main building – or maybe an accommodation for employees. From the looks of it, the building hasn’t been used for at least a decade or two; the vegetation in front was wild and blocked a lot of light. Oh, and the floor… Darn, it wasn’t in good condition anymore. The dining room floor was bending and the hallway next to it was so dark and soft that I decided to look for another way around. Fortunately the building featured two rather solid staircases, one on each end, so the second floor was easily accessible even for a tall heavyweight like I. Unfortunately the kitchen and the dining room were by far the most interesting part, the rest was just a rundown old accommodation, slightly trashed.

Was the third building of the Rokkosan Hotel a spectacular exploration? No. But I loved every second of it – because I found it. Other explorers I admire don’t go after the famous locations everybody can google in five minutes, they find places themselves and show me something I’ve never seen before. The only thing better, much better, than seeing an abandoned place for the first time on photos is seeing it for the first time yourself. True exploration, not knowing what’s behind the next corner, behind the next door, behind the next curtain. So whenever I am able to explore an original find I am having the time of my life, even if it’s just an average abandoned hotel – but things you’ll see in the gallery below you’ll probably never see anywhere else; not in the past, maybe not even in the future. It’s an original find – and as much as I hate to reveal locations, I’m proud to say: You saw it here first, on Abandoned Kansai!

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With a history of almost 150 years the Yamanashi Elementary School was by definition a very special location. But wait till you see what I found inside!

The sky was unusually grey for a Japanese autumn day – at first sight the weather was quite reminiscent of your average fall day in Germany, but then then relatively high humidity and temperature reminded me quickly that this was just another early October day in the mountains of Japan, about six weeks too early to enjoy the autumn foliage this part of the country is famous for. Hidden behind a line of large, lusciously green trees on a gentle slope the Yamanashi Elementary School can be easily missed, especially since it is completely out of sight driving along the nearest bigger road. The institution dates back to 1872, unfortunately the current school building is not nearly as old – it was built in 1957 and closed in 1985. Since it was maintained for about two decades it was used in 2004 for a Japanese dorama (ドラマ) on Kansai TV, but it looks like after that the long 2 storey construction fell into disrepair.
Since I tend to explore on sunny days (because grey days are rather rare on mainland Japan, there are like five of them per year – it either rains or there is sunshine; grey for the sake of having a grey day is really, really unusual) exploring the Yamanashi Elementary School was kinda eerie, borderline spooky. I started at noon, but it felt like sunset time… and there were actually dark corners. Plenty of them. Since it was a wooden school, the floors were creaking with every step – and then there was Mr. Innards… a mutilated life-size anatomic model of a (skinned) human. Luckily he waited for me in a tidy, well-lit classroom – him in a dark corner or hanging from the ceiling would have creeped the beep out of me! His feet looked like they were tied together with wire, the toes as if they were frozen off in an attempt to climb Mount Fuji in winter barefoot. And the rest of it looked “a bit off”, too… Just bring a camera on a cloudy day and shoot your horror short – everything you need is already on location; including some instruments for the score, including a piano and some drums.

Arriving at the Yamanashi Elementary School I was a bit disappointed since I had mostly seen bright, colorful pictures of the school, and I was expecting to experience the same warm, welcoming atmosphere as the people before me. Due to the overcast sky the colors of my photos didn’t nearly pop as much as usual – but the whole thing turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me to literally capture the school in a different light. 🙂

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Wooden schools in Japan… the kind of abandoned places I can’t get enough of! Always interesting, always different, always unique… and always very Japanese.

Another thing that abandoned wooden Japanese schools have in common is the fact that they are really abandoned – and most of them are located in the countryside between two towns (hamlets…) or even on top of a ridge between two valleys. The Riverside School was abandoned, wooden, Japanese, and located out of sight… but there still was a caretaker we had to carefully avoid even on a Saturday visit. Luckily I quickly figured out a way how to reach the elevated located school from the back.
The Riverside School consisted of three main buildings – an elementary school, a junior high school and a gymnasium… with easy access through an open door far away from the main entrance. Both of the big school buildings were actually long gorgeous wooden hallways with rooms to one side – the hallways ended in beautiful staircases with just one upper room, not a complete second floor. Why? I have no idea. Little is known about the Riverside School in general. Apparently it was built just after the war in the late 1940s and both sections closed in the mid-1990s – most likely due to the lack of students in the Japanese countryside.
Nowadays at least one of the buildings is still maintained, although none of the buildings necessarily looked like it. But just a few minutes into exploring the Riverside School we heard some noise from the other end of the building. Since I was super busy taking photos, my fellow explorers Dan and Kyoko “stealthed” forward and had a look – as I feared it was indeed a caretaker, not fellow explorers. We kept quiet as well as we could and just as we were done exploring the lower school building and the gymnasium, the caretaker took his bike and cycled away – lunch time!
Of course we took the opportunity and headed outside for some outdoor shots before walking up the mountain (hill?) to the second main building a bit higher up. The interior of the upper school (like I said, technically the Riverside School consisted of two schools…) was in worse condition, but less chaotic – while the rooms in the lower building were cluttered with all kinds of items, the rooms with often dangerously arched floors in the upper building were tidy and neat – a telescope still standing behind a window, books stacked on untouched tables; probably because one would most likely have broken the floor if trying to enter the rooms.

Like I said in the intro, I absolutely love abandoned old wooden schools in Japan – and the Riverside School was no exception. There is just something very special about exploring a 70 year old wooden building that has seen the rise and partly decline of post-war Japan. All those items left behind, the stunning natural decay, nature creeping in – the skipped beat of your hear when you stick your head into a rather dark room and all of a sudden a bat flies out. And nobody else around. Just you and this “open air museum” that allows a glimpse at times long gone. And the architecture of those buildings! Simple, but so beautiful… There’s just nothing like those abandoned schools anywhere else in the world. And if you enjoyed this article about the Riverside School, have a look at classics like the *Landslide School* and the magical *White School*… they are at least equally interesting, yet completely different.

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Nara Dreamland is no more… but that doesn’t mean that you’ve seen the last of it – quite the opposite! This is the first in a series of articles that will show you the rather unknown parts most people missed…

*Nara Dreamland* has been demolished in the last quarter of 2016, but most visitors who went to the world’s most amazing abandoned amusement park took all the same photos: of the two rollercoasters, the castle, the main street, the water park, and maybe the merry-go-rounds in the back… and that’s it. Spectacular photos that never got boring to look at, but Nara Dreamland had much more to offer – and sadly people rather crossed sights off their lists than actually explored the large park. In the spring of 2016 it became very apparent that Nara Dreamland would be demolished rather sooner than later when the new owner piled tons of metal framework on the *Eastern Parking Lot* – and though I had seen much more of the park than your average visitor due to regular visits since 2009, I realized that there were whole areas I hadn’t seen before… resulting in more than a dozen trips to Nara in 2016 alone – in addition to revisiting the spectacular sights I was looking for the unknown areas. At first completely undisturbed, then while the demolition preparations began (I’ll write a separate series of articles about that sad part of NDL’s history…) – and from one week to the next Nara Dreamland turned from open gates (yes, the gates were literally open, you could drive in by car if you wanted to!) to an active construction site with security and alarm systems; but that’s a story for another day…

Today I want to show you an area I’ve barely ever seen on the internet, wedged in the back between a pedal coaster and the Jungle Cruise of the Adventureland – the Nara Dreamland Shrine. Yes, there was a shrine on the premises, and hardly anybody ever mentioned it… not even the official maps of Nara Dreamland that I’ve seen; which makes me wonder how many tourists saw it while it was still open. The shrine was located on a little hill, after you followed a small road underneath the now overgrown rollercoaster. It consisted of half a dozen buildings and maybe a dozen statues and sculptures – not very spectacular to look at, especially in comparison to the nearby abandoned rides, but at least worth mentioning. The *Ishikiri Shrine* I visited in 2010 and wrote about in 2011 was even less to look at and very well deserved its own article, despite the fact that it had absolutely no connection to any famous theme park. Was there a priest living at Nara Dreamland? Most likely not. I don’t even know if the shrine was run by employees or a real priest. All I know is that the Nara Dreamland Shrine existed… and so do you now, too!

There is no doubt about it: As a fan of spectacular urbex photos, the Nara Dreamland Shrine was a bit underwhelming – and to be honest, I thought that had taken a lot more than just three photos when I decided to write this article… I guess my memory was a bit tainted by the many visits and the video I took of the shrine – a video that shows much more of the shrine than the meager three pictures. As a fan of Nara Dreamland though, the Nara Dreamland Shrine was a mind-blowing surprise find that put a smile on my face for many, many days. I hope you are with me on that, and are looking forward to future installments of Nara Dreamland Unknown as much as I am… then with more photos, I promise! (Yes, I double-checked before I made that promise!)

(For all your *Nara Dreamland* needs please have a look at the *Nara Dreamland Special**Like Abandoned Kansai on Facebook* if you don’t want to miss the latest articles and exclusive content – and subscribe to the *video channel on Youtube* to receive a message right after a new video is online…)

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