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Archive for the ‘Visited in 2018’ Category

A little known fact about Japan is that the country has a surprisingly high number of water power plants, though hardly any of them are abandoned – and the status of the Tottori Water Power Plant one was questionable at best…

“He is inside!”
I was sitting on the rear bench of our tiny rental car when I heard those words from the front passenger seat – and my heart sank a little bit. Coming from a spectacular countryside clinic the three of us were on our way to the mountains for more explorations, when we made what supposed to be a quick stop at a site of historic interest. Japan was about a century late with its industrial revolution… and it’s a few decades late appreciating this time of fundamental change, but this small water power plant somewhere in Tottori prefecture somehow managed to be chosen as being worth of preservation – and so the building was cleaned out, partly bricked up, and provided with a few plagues. Especially the wooden ceiling / floor (depending on how you look at it…) that makes the otherwise massive stone building a two-storey construction was in quite bad condition and probably one of the main reasons why the former water power plant has been locked up tightly – until “he” found a way inside after “we” were already back at the car, ready and happy to move on…
Buildings between preservation and abandonment are one of the grey zones in urban exploration – and those under government management are the worst, because they don’t care about the electricity bill of an alarm system or having the cops showing up every once in a while, because, well, they are on the payroll anyway and small-time crime not really being a problem in Japan, those guys have more times on their hands than the night watch at a mental institution (a friend of mine had that job and put in more than 1200 hours on Monster Hunter Freedom Unite – during work hours!). So when I heard from Her that He made it inside I was only modestly happy, to be honest – but I knew that She would follow Him, so I put my hooded jacket on again and started to trudged through the snow back to the building…
Put into operation in 1919, the Tottori Water Power Plant had an output of 1000 kW. In 1977 power production ended and the plant was reduced to a substation. From 1984 on the substation was further demoted and became a training facility till 1990, when the then owner transferred the building to the local government – six years later its rise as an industrial monument worth being protected began.
Exploring the Tottori Water Power Plant you can only assume that it has a rich history as it was pretty much empty, except for a couple of boxes, a scale, a table or two, a sparsely furnished tatami room… and a large item partly covered by a big blue tarp. (The upper floor covering half of the building was empty and in rather bad condition, but offered some decent photo opportunities, including different layers of the wall…) Halfway through and me still being uncomfortable my two co-explorers decided to fully remove the tarp to reveal what looked like an old manually operated fire engine from the mid- or late 19th century – the kind you might have seen in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. What a fantastic find! We were just about to have a closer look when a car outside honked. So I rushed outside to see what was going on / try to distract whoever was there, while my co-explorers covered up the precious hand-drawn machine. Fortunately the honking wasn’t directed at us inside the building, but most likely at our car parked at a narrow road – but by the time I was back there the other car was already gone… and soon later were we.

Whether or not the Tottori Water Power Plant qualifies to be featured on a blog about abandoned places is a matter of what you consider abandoned, but given that nobody ever complained about me prominently featuring *Nara Dreamland* (which at no point in time was abandoned!) time and again, I guess most of you can live with this grey area location. Personally I could have done without the excitement of exploring such a place, but I really enjoyed seeing that old hand-drawn water pump – and as it turned out it was the last exploration of the day anyway as all of the other locations we checked out were in the middle of a horrible snowstorm…

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The Sand Dune Palace is one of the few well-known urbex locations in Tottori – although it shouldn’t be…

I first visited the Tottori Sand Dune Palace during Golden Week of 2012 and *wrote about it half a year later*. Built in 1965 right across the street from the famous sand dunes, Tottori’s #1 tourist attraction, the Sand Dune Palace was used as a restaurant and souvenir shop for a few decades before falling into disrepair and out of business – giving it the abandoned look both urban explorers and readers of urbex blogs like so much. But looks are deceiving… and the dune palace has actually never been really abandoned.
When I first explored the palace solo in spring of 2012 it was quite a famous urbex location, yet nobody had ever posted inside photos – which is usually a bad sign. But the building looked somewhat interesting with its round lookout on the top floor, so I gave it a chance. There were plenty of potential entry points – large windows, several doors on different floors, but they were all locked… and the outdoor staircases were blocked by rusting barbed wire. Yesterday I went back to the Sand Dune Palace with two great explorer friends on the way back to Osaka. The whole area, including the sand dunes, was covered by a thick layer of snow, so my second visit was a completely different experience, though not much less disappointing. People had cut through the barbed wire and made the higher floors accessible, but only on the outside. All the upper doors were locked, too, and nobody dares to smash a window; which is quite unusual for a building that sees some traffic passing by, but is not really in busy area. On the ground floor one of the doors apparently had been fixed… and the formerly empty main room was now filled with boxes, so clearly somebody is / was using the Sand Dune Palace as a storage facility. The question is… for how much longer? On the parking lot I saw tons of ready to use scaffolding, which gave me a serious flashback to May 2016, when I first saw scaffolding in front of *Nara Dreamland* – a few months later the greatest abandoned theme park of all time was gone…
As on my first visit, the photos of the Sand Dune Palace look much more interesting than the place actually was, so if you like the picture set below, *please click here to get to the previous exploration* for more photos!

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