Geeks, freaks, and nerds rejoice – I finally made it to the abandoned Game Boy Mailbox!

The abandoned Game Box Mailbox can be traced back to four years ago, when a Japanese angler was looking for a fishing spot in the mountains and instead found a supersized original Game Boy, once used as an advertising display in Japanese stores, converted into a mailbox. Unlike most non-urbexers (and some bad apples within the community) the guy actually cared and didn’t blurt out the location to the world – and so even some well-connected and respected Japanese explorers haven’t been to this little hidden gem. It took me a few years, too, but when I finally made it there on a beautiful autumn day I took pictures from pretty much every angle… because there was not much else to see or do nearby. Somebody put a regular mailbox into the strictly decorative plastic case (none of the buttons are or ever were functional – also the proportions were more than just slightly off!) and used it as such. Since the thing hasn’t been cleaned in quite a while and the nearby house also is in questionable condition it’s pretty safe to say that the Game Boy Mailbox really is abandoned – though there were indications that the house is still used occasionally, maybe as a weekend home.

For most people the Game Boy Mailbox is probably just a grey plastic case, but as a huge Nintendo fan I had the time of my life and took pictures of that thing from pretty much all possible angles. Sunshine, warm autumn day, bamboo grove in the background, autumn leaves surrounding, a remote mountain road – and a now rare piece of video game history. Everything came together perfectly! And if you like (arcade) games as much as I do, you might wanna check out my article about the abandoned *Arcade Machine Hotel*!

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Abandoned hotels can be a challenge as they tend to consist mostly of identical rooms – fortunately this one featured a somewhat interesting dining area and some really old vending machines…

The Old-fashioned Japanese Hotel looked like it was originally built in the 1960s and then expanded two or three times. A kinda charming maze of hallways with rooms in nearly pristine condition – nowadays I barely ever take photos inside of abandoned hotel rooms, but some of them were just too pretty to ignore! The highlights though were the dining area, where either some staff or previous visitors set up meals at several tables, and the three old, barely hanging vending machines for toiletries. I really love those old things!

Overall a nice little exploration for a nice little write-up. I hope to be able to go back to weekly articles soon, but it’s autumn in Japan now, 15 to 20 sunny degrees in a lot of areas, already winter in others, so I’m quite busy traveling these days; a real pleasure without the hordes of overseas tourists clogging up trains, hotels, and sightseeing spots – which are all still busy thanks to a rise in domestic tourism, but the atmosphere is just vastly different and much more enjoyable. Every once in a while I even throw in a more or less spontaneous exploration – more about those on the usual social media channels like *Facebook* or *Twitter*

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Last week I published one of the dirtiest articles ever, this week we’ll scrub ourselves clean at the Aloha Water Park!

Abandoned water parks are amongst my favorite places to explore. Usually they are either outdoor fun parks with pools, wave pools, and more or less large water slides – or they are indoor facilities with hot springs and spa elements. The Aloha Water Park was one of the few places that offered outdoor fun for the kids and indoor relaxation for mom and dad – the latter gender-separated, of course, as always.
I knew about the Aloha Water Park for a while before I finally found it on GoogleMaps… and it took me several more month before the opportunity rose to explore it, but one thing I know for sure: It was definitely worth the wait!
The outdoor part consisted of a few bars and food stands, a relaxation area, several pools (some still with water in it) and a couple of slides – interestingly no grassy area, just stone and concrete everywhere. The indoor section was quite unusual as the main bath was basically a gigantic room consisting of two floors with lots of boulders and greenery on a slope and super large ceilings. The upper floor (with separate changing rooms, rest rooms, lockers, …) was for women, the lower floor for men – that way you could actually look down if you looked over the handrail and some brave or exhibitionist guy walked onto a couple of square meters that were not 100% out of sight, while men had close to 0% chance of becoming peeping Toms. Both areas were connected by an indoor escalator and alternatively a walkway across the outdoor part, accessible by flights of stairs and an elevator – the latter not working anymore and some closed shutters making the whole construction a dead end.

When I first found out about the Aloha Water Park I knew about the indoor section and the outdoor section, but I thought they were two different locations. So entering the large indoor onsen after exploring the beautifully decayed outdoor fun part was absolutely mind-blowing, because it was so unexpected. And figuring out that the onsen was one room for both men and women was… interesting. Nowadays it’s absolutely luxury for me to spend 2.5 hours at a single location, but I enjoyed every second of it, despite the fact that sometimes neighbours could be heard or even seen. Not a low risk location, but one of my favorites in recent years.

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Abandoned love hotels have become a Christmas tradition on Abandoned Kansai, but by now I have explored so many of them that I have to throw in one or two off-season or I’ll never get to publish them all – the best ones though will still be reserved for December…

Most love hotels outside of the big city centers are in rather remote locations between towns or the outskirts of smaller cities. Usually there are a handful of them near a highway or a rather busy rural road, but often enough there is nothing else around… which makes closed / abandoned love hotels an easy victim for vandals – they can go to town (…) and make as much noise as they want (!) without causing anybody to call the police.
The Naughtics Love Hotel (no, it’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a portmanteau of naughty and nautics…) was an original find off the beaten tracks and rather hard to find, which is probably the reason why most of the cabins were still locked, but the ones that were accessible were in decent condition overall. Moldy and musky, but more because of natural decay than vandalism. Some of the cabins had the shape of little huts, other were super original and looked like boats; both inside and out. Which was hilarious, because it all tied the naughty / nautics / cabin / hut / ship theme together – you know, like a rug…
The main rooms of the ships looked a bit like a boat cabin, but the baths were just small tubs and not very original. The garden plot type huts on the other hand were a little bit bigger inside and featured more spacious baths with original tubs, like the large plastic bowls… which raises the question whether or not some salad tossing was going on there!

Unfortunately not all cabins were accessible, but the ones that were made for a great little original find out of sight and out of mind. Judging by the overall good condition and the fact that I found an online review written 5 years prior to my visit I assume that the Naughtics Love Hotel had been abandoned for about three years at the time of me taking photos there on a lovely sunny early afternoon.

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A virtually unknown abandoned 1970s clinic in the Japanese countryside spectacularly unspectacular!

Everything can happen when exploring potentially abandoned places you’ve never seen or even heard of before. Best case scenario is you find an untouched place that sat there quietly for decades and was just waiting to be discovered or you can trigger alarms… or inhabitants, as the location looked abandoned, but wasn’t really.
Driving up to the Local Doctor’s Clinic we had no clue whether or not the building in front of us was really abandoned, except for somebody in the group claiming that it was – and arriving there very, very early on a Sunday morning gave no indication whether they were right or not. The visible maintainable area was small, but maintained, the entrance with the pristine clinic’s sign looked like it still could be used anytime. It was tempting to just assume that the risk was too high and leave, but when you got up at 5 a.m., skipped not only the hotel’s breakfast, but breakfast in general, and drove for almost an hour to your first location of the day you don’t give up that easily.
The premises opposite a tourist hotel were surrounded by a large wall, to tall for me to look over, which barely ever happens. But the wall also featured a sliding door… which was unlocked, much to our surprise. So one after another we slipped through and found ourselves in a small garden that needed some “ing”, which was a good sign as it indicated that the building was indeed abandoned or at least not recently used. But access to a slightly overgrown garden means nothing if the house is locked – which it wasn’t, as it turned out quickly. So we continued our stealth mode and entered… only to find a dead body in the living room! Nah, I’m just kidding… The house was empty (i.e. nobody was there, neither dead nor alive), but some explorers found a corpse at an abandoned hotel in Miyazaki prefecture rather recently. What a nightmare that must be… The Local Doctor’s Clinic, at this point more like the “Local Doctor’s House” as we entered through the private quarters, was safe to explore though, except for the wooden floors making some squeaky noises. The interior was clearly outdated and rather traditional, a bit cluttered maybe, but still in remarkable condition and kind of ready to move in.
The same goes for the actual clinic part, which mostly consisted of a rather large combined office / pharmacy / examination room, but also a small reception and even a tiny waiting room, if I remember correctly. The amount of details was fascinating! So many items to take pictures of, so many ultra-wide shots worth trying to capture! Unfortunately time was of the essence and we barely spent an hour at the Local Doctor’s Clinic before we we left through the garden. Or tried to, as some early risers from the hotel across the street did a very Japanese thing and gathered outside just to have a chat for the sake of having a chat and exchanging pleasant empty phrases. It would have looked very suspicious if a group of people with photo gear would have left through a door in the garden wall of an old clinic that probably everybody within 20 kilometers knew at one point. So we waited for about 10 minutes until the chatter became silent before we finally left in an orderly hurry.

Despite being quite short, the exploration of the Local Doctor’s Clinic was absolutely mindblowing – this traditional mix of private house and medical clinic in nearly pristine condition looked like something from an open-air museum. It was one of those jackpot locations you always hope for as an urban explorer, but that are actually close to impossible to find. Out of respect for the Local Doctor’s Clinic and my co-explorers I waited several years with this article and refrained from using pictures of the exterior or the garden, and hinting where the clinic was or whom I was with – but you guys know who you are and how amazing this experience was! Without a doubt one of the best abandoned clinics in all of Japan and basically the small town version of the much bigger and significantly more modern *Wakayama Hospital*.

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Even without the Olympic Games and the crippling tourist masses Japan has turned into a hot mess as the number of new coronavirus infections is exploding and a humid summer is descending on the pretty much fireworks and festival free country after a comparatively mild rainy season. “You’re living on an island – grab a beer and enjoy the beach!” is easier said than done as the coast in central Kansai is pretty nasty. It mostly consists of artificial islands and tons of large industrial areas. To get to somewhat acceptable beaches it takes me between 60 and 90 minutes door to sand (Suma / Omimaiko), the nice beaches at the “Korean Sea of Japan” or Shirahama are more like three hours away – not really suitable as day trips, especially in the days of social distancing and the mixed messages by the Japanese government and private companies about subsidizing a domestic travel campaign while dropping subtle hints regarding avoiding unnecessarily crossing prefecture borders. Yes, it’s one hot humid mess with temperatures up to 34 °C (felt like 37!) and a piercing sun – if you ever wondered about the origins of Japanese mythology, just spend two weeks in August in Kyoto or Osaka and you’ll easily piece it together yourself.

Anyway, heat, humidity, everything’s nasty and I’m not really in the mood for endless hours of research for a well-written profound article, so let me pick up on the Kansai coastline theme and post a few pictures I took nine years ago of an abandoned train line that once went from Osaka’s city center to the harbor. It was, most likely, a freight line built in the late 1950s that split from the tracks of the current Osaka Loop Line near Bentencho Station and went for a total of about 1.5 kilometers to Fukuzaki and the artificial island that is part of it. Since my solo photo walk back in 2011 most of the tracks have been removed, the rest looks more or less overgrown now. As railroad tracks are not very wide the narrow strip of land that has been reclaimed was used for very specific purposes – the Osaka Horie Boys, a baseball club for elementary and middle school kids, use a stretch to stretch and play sports, but most of the ground has been turned into commercial parking lots.

The Osaka Harbor Railroad was nothing more than a nice walk on a sunny autumn afternoon a long time ago, but hopefully some of you enjoyed my little rant or are railroad nerds who appreciate memories of disappearing tracks… And if you appreciate the memories of disappearing trains, *check out my article about this train graveyard*.

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A coal heated school with wood floors in the center of an old mining town? I’m surprised that it survived for more than 100 years!

Japanese schools are infamous for bad insulation and equally bad heating – even the modern ones, so you can imagine what a year of school must have been like in this now abandoned school in the mountains. Though “now” isn’t exactly up to date anymore either, “at the time of my visit” would be correct. I mentioned it several times before, a huge factor when doing urban exploration is timing – regarding the condition of a location, the atmosphere, the accessibility… and of course basics like whether it is still there or not. In this case it was there at the time of my exploration and just weeks later itwas not. Demolished without any attention, so I was really lucky… and I found out about the demolition something like 3 years after the fact. One big difference between this abandoned old school and any other I’ve visited so faris that some of the other ones had ovens in the classrooms, but no form offuel, like a small stack of wood or a pile of coal. This school on the other hand was still equipped with heaps of the black gold – probably the Advantage of being located in a mining town and not hundreds of kilometers away from the source.
But first things first. When approaching the abandoned Mining Town School the whole exploration didn’t seem to be under a good star. Everything was boarded up, and when I looked through a broken window, the place seemed cluttered and dilapidated, not very promising overall. Fortunately my buddy *Hamish* and I found a way in on the far side of the school, where somebody busted through the lower half a of a door. Once inside the atmosphere was rather dark and gloomy, definitely a tripod location. About halfway through the condition of the floor became very, very sketchy; potential ankle break or even worse, which is why Ilimited my exploration to the ground floor and didn’t even attempt to reach the staircase that lead up – safety first!
Hamish left the school before me since I almost always need more time than him to takephotos and do the video walkthrough, which was actually a good thing in this case, because when I approached my half-size exit I heard voices outside – some Japanese guy in his 50s was standing outside, having a look at the school. Hamish was able to distract him, so I could leave unnoticed and it turned out that the guy went to that elementary school as a child! He told us about how more and more people left, how that had to close and combine schools, how many of them already had been demolished.

An interesting talk and an interesting exploration after all. There were quite afew items left behind inside the school, the coal-fired ovens I found especially fascinating. After almost 80 years of use and 20 years of abandonment the school was in decent condition overall, I’d say, but doomed – nearby schools had gone before and about six months of snow per year made sure that this building would either be demolished or collapse on its own within the next decade. I didn’t know at the time, but about two months later the school was gone – and with it another reminder of the guy’s childhood, living in a dying town…

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In Japan you have a museum for just about everything – even gingers! … Sorry, that’s not correct. There are no gingers in Japan, only artificial rustheads (and a few imported real ones…). So it’s a ginger museum. A pink ginger museum! The New Ginger Museum!

Tochigi Prefecture is most famous for Nikko and its Toshogu Shrine with the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, but its name-giving capital also has a tourist attraction or two to offer – probably the strangest one is the New Ginger Museum, just a quick 10 minute walk east of Tochigi Station (featuring both JR and Tobu trains!).
When I first heard about the New Ginger Museum I had no idea what to expect, but my buddy *Hamish* and I were on the way to Nikko for a road trip weekend anyway, so why not stop there and have a quick look around?
Apparently the museum is super busy on the weekends, which is why it has four designated parking lots, some of them suitable for buses, but we went on a weekday, so we were able to get of the few parking spots right in front of the building. Needless to say that there was hardly anybody there when we arrived at around 11:30 in the morning.
To both of our surprise the museum was free to enter, but if you want to spend some money, you have plenty of opportunitiws at the gift shop and the restaurant, both featuring a large variety of ginger themed / flavored options. A smart decision, because the museum turned out to be quite underwhelming. Probably 1/3 of the exhibition space was used for self-referencial things like old menus of the restaurant and posters of events held at the museum; basically a museum about the museum! Another 1/3 was used for all kinds of random pink things, from many units of the same plush animals to a pink shrine to printouts of caught pink Pokemon from Pokemon Go – I kid you not! The remaining 1/3 was actually somewhat ginger related as it depicted ginger and ginger products. Still not super interesting, but at least related to the topic. If they would have charged 500 Yen or 700 Yen at the door I would have felt slightly ripped off, but since it was free I was rather amused and more than willing to shell out several thousand Yen for lunch and presents for family and friends, like ginger scented candles and ginger salt. The food at the restaurant / cafe was actually pretty good – on one of the photos you can see pink ginger curry, pink ginger bits wrapped in bacon, ginger tea and ginger lemonade. (Speaking of which, sorry about the photo quality overall. The museum was rather dark and I didn’t bring a tripod inside, so shooting there freehand was quite challenging at times.)

The New Ginger Museum is literally and figuratively an acquired taste. I enjoyed the unhidden nonsense of it quite a bit since I was on vacation – and because it was on the way to our destination we didn’t waste much time to get there. Would it be worth a trip from Tokyo? Probably not, unless you really like (pink) ginger or really are into roadside attractions. Even as a stop to or from Nikko I would rather save the time and spend it in the mountains. But if it doesn’t take you much time and / or effort to go there I’d absolutely recommend it, just for the giggles and the gift shop.

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A crisp, clear spring day at an abandoned driving school. What better way to start an urbex road trip?

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but abandoned driving schools are rather rare in Japan, because usually they are located near train stations for accessibility and come with their own practice course, which makes them rather large (in comparison to the two room driving schools I’m used to from Germany) – and therefore quite valuable, even when abandoned. In almost eleven years of exploring I only documented three abandoned driving schools and found out about two or three more.
The Hokkaido Driving School was a one stop shop. Located on a busy countryside road it featured a large but somewhat dilapidated school building as well a car repair shop and probably once a upon a time a dealership, like back in the 70s. All structures were in rather bad condition, but the school building was a real death trap that looked like it could collapse at any moment. (Which it actually did some time after my visit, so this location is at least partly demolished now.) The combination of more than a decade of abandonment and heavy snow for six months of the year were just too much… But the driving training area usually is the most interesting part of an abandoned driving school anyway – and this one was no different. It was definitely the largest one I’ve explored so far and featured plenty of way to practice parking, starting a car on a slope and just not hitting other cars. 🙂
Exploring abandoned driving schools is always fun to me – and this one wasn’t an exception. Nothing you want to spend half a day on, but there is always something to learn… and with some melon icecream from a nearby Seico Mart exploring in Hokkaido is even better! The other two abandoned driving schools I wrote about was this now completely demolished one *here* and *this one* featuring a driving simulator!

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Abandoned food factories are rather are in Japan, so I was quite excited when I found this one by chance…

About four years ago I spotted on GoogleMaps what looked like an abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of the residential area of a rather big city in Japan. A few months later I had the opportunity to check out the place with my buddy Rory. To both of our surprise the fading sign at the entrance gate said Yamato Food Factory, so my excitement rose significantly as I have fond memories of exploring an abandoned food factory in Hokkaido years prior. Fortunately the gate was open and roped off… and a bit out of sight, so getting on and off the premises turned out to be surprisingly easy. There were three or four different structures, all of them accessible, unfortunately all of them more or less empty. So in the end this actually was kind of an abandoned (empty) warehouse. I also wasn’t able to find out more about the company „Yamato Food Factory“ on the internet, so it’ll probably stay a mystery what kind of food was produced here.

Overall not a bad exploration though. It’s always great to check out original finds (I haven’t seen this location anywhere before or after my exploration), the weather was great… and so was lunch afterwards. Of course the Yamato Food Factory couldn’t hold a candle to the spectacular *Fuji Foods Bibai Bio Center* in any aspect, nevertheless it was a nice little autumn exploration.

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