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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This is an Abandoned Kansai classic! First explored in late 2009 and published in early 2010, Arima Wanda Garden a.k.a. *Doggy Land* was one of the original original finds!

When I first considered giving urban exploration a try and make it a hobby in mid 2009 one thing was clear as day to me: I didn’t just want to follow other people’s footsteps and seek out places dozens of more experienced explorers have been to before me (more like hundreds 11 years later…). I wanted to look for places unknown to the internet, original finds! The first three original finds I’ve located have been the abandoned theme park *Expoland* (now demolished and replaced by the gigantic shopping mall Expocity), the *Hitler Surgical Hospital* (demolished and replaced by an apartment building) and dog themed park called Arima Wanda Garden.
Writing about abandoned places puts you under constant struggle between wanting to present beautiful locations and trying to keep them and their location as secret, so not every shmock goes there and tramples through – or even worse, steals from or vandalizes the place. Both Expoland and the hospital had already been under demolition by the time I ended taking pictures of them, so there was nothing to worry about. But Arima Wanda Garden and many places after that forced me to make a decision between writing about them and exposing them that way, even if using a limited selection of photos (for example not publishing anything with a logo) and a fake name – or not writing about them at all until they’ve been demolished or other people did the dirty work of exposing them first. In recent years I tended to choose option 2 – I have at least two dozen places in my vault that are truly spectacular, but publishing an article about them with all the photos and information I have would probably turn them into tourist spots, some of them actually really dangerous for a variety of reasons. In the case of Arima Wanda Garden I initially decided to write about it with a limited selection of photos, no video walkthrough, without references where it was, and under the fake name *Doggy Land*. Six and a half years and several recent appearances on Japanese blogs later I revisited the once pristine Doggy Land and found it severely vandalized – so I published an article about *Arima Wanda Garden* in 2017 with the full original photo set, video walkthrough, and real name; there was not much damage it could cause that hadn’t been done already. Almost three years later I finally publish the photos and video walkthrough of my 2016 revisit with this article…

Revisiting Arima Wanda Garden was bittersweet. During my first two visits in late 2009 / early 2010 it was in nearly pristine condition and I had to climb over a fence next to a rather busy road. In 2016 I was able to step through a low unlocked window and leave that entrance building through an open door on the other side. What I found was a much wilder, much more vandalized park. The first time around all the buildings were still locked, this time most doors were open and a lot of windows were broken. It was sad to see Arima Wanda Garden in that kind of state, on the other hand it looked so different that it almost felt like a new exploration. Usually I avoid revisits as I tend to explore locations fully the first time and only little things change from on year to another – but those six and a half years definitely made a difference! You can see for yourself and find out more about Arima Wanda Garden by *clicking here to get to the comprehensive article I posted in 2017*.

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A rundown abandoned „Japanese pinball“ venue with a shocking surprise on the upper floor – welcome to the Nightmare Pachinko Parlor!

In recent weeks pachinko parlors quite often made national news during the coronavirus crisis in Japan, especially in Tokyo and Osaka, when several prefectures ordered them to close temporarily as they were / are considered hotspots for spreading the disease. In addition, legally opened parlors attracted attention, when gamblers from prefectures with successful shutdowns crossed borders specifically to play pachinko, The 1985 opened Nightmare Pachinko Parlor fell into neither category as it was closed down for good (or should I say „bad“?) more than a decade prior to my exploration in 2017; a decade that didn’t treat the establishment kindly…
It was a cold, rainy autumn day and the trash scattered all across the slightly overgrown parking lot lowered my hope of having found another good abandoned pachinko parlor significantly – the busted doors and windows didn’t help either… The good news: It was still there and easily accessible. The bad news: Pretty much everything else. Because of course the inside was severly vandalized and dark instead of pristine and well-lit. But that’s not all! Since it took me a while to take pictures due to the difficult lighting, my buddy R. kept exploring the rest of the building – which included a soba and udon restaurant as well as the non-public rooms upstairs, usually a mix of offices and living spaces for owners and employees. And when I was finally documenting one of the rooms that was either part of the restaurant or the prize exchange (you can’t win money with pachinko, only „gifts“ of limited value), which included the boxes of several sex toys, R. came back and told me a little disturbing story. While he was upstairs he saw a young guy hiding in the cabinets! Since there was no longer exchange of words we don’t know if it was somebody hanging out there for the afternoon, if he was some kind of squatter (very unusual in Japan!) or maybe a murderer on the run, but R. suggested that I could have a look myself in case I didn’t believe him. But there is one thing you can believe me – I believed him! And I had not the slightest urge to turn this really bad exploration into a nightmare…

Exploring the Nightmare Pachinko Parlor felt more like a duty than fun (it was there, so I had a look…) – but I’m generally not a big fan of rundown, vandalized, trashed places on rainy days. Add unexpected people to the mix and it’s even worse. If you want to see some abandoned pachinko parlors in much better condition and find out more about the economics of pachinko, please have a look *here* and *here*.

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After several poultry farms and regular nurseries I finally had the opportunity to explore an abandoned plant nursery – and all I had to do was traveling 10000 kilometers…

Yesterday was Greenery Day in Japan, a public holiday to remind people to appreciate the beauty of nature – originally celebrated on April 29th, Emperor Hirohito’s birthday (because the guy apparently liked plants…), it was moved to May 4th in 2007 to annoy Star Wars fans. Nah, it was actually moved due to a revision of public holidays in 2005, which included stuffing Golden Week with one more day off to make it really shine! Unfortunately this year GW didn’t really shine at all as it was rebranded „Stay Home Week (To Save Lives)“ – which seems to be much more successful than the rest of this weak state of emergency the government proclaimed in Japan.
Anyway, Greenery Day reminded me of an unpublished plant nursery I explored on a vacation to Germany back in summer 2016. Since it was a virtually unknown business in the outskirts of a small town I basically know nothing about its history – but since I’ve never explored a garden nursery before it was nevertheless quite interesting, despite sounding dull at first sight.

The location basically consisted of several green houses, some sheds and a private house – since there were no signs of a shop I assume that they either produced for wholesale, a shop in town, or had seasonal stands somewhere on the property. Unfortunately I’m not much of a botanist, so I have no idea what they were growing there; though I think I spotted a couple of blackberry bushes. I just snapped a few pictures and got the hedge out of there… I was late already anyway as the exploration of the nearby abandoned school *Alte Martinsschule* with its large indoor pool took much longer than expected…

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A nice little original find along of one of Japan’s most beautiful coastlines – the Seto Inland Sea Rest Stop!

The Seto Inland Sea separates three Japanese main islands (Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku) from each other and is part of eleven prefectures. While some areas are highly industrialized (especially the part from Kansai Airport to Himeji and near cities like Hiroshima, Takamatsu, and Tokushima) others are popular tourist spots famous for their beauty – like Miyajima, the Seto Naikai National Park, and Shodoshima). And where you have tourists, you almost automatically have abandoned tourist infrastructure, like hotels and restaurants.
The Seto Inland Sea Rest Stop was a large restaurant and omiyage shop in one of those touristy areas – closed and boarded up about 15 years ago according to the last calendar. I found this place by chance on GoogleMaps and it turned out to be a nice, quick exploration I’ve never seen anywhere else before… or after. Not a spectacular place, but with lots of parking space and rather easy access – and relaxed original finds I’ll take over photographed to death spots any day, especially since this one hasn’t been vandalized (yet). A fun little spot that offered some nice photo opportunities with an abandoned, but not rundown / destroyed look. If it was for me, I’d do one of those every other weekend…

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About five years ago this would have probably been one of the most stupid stories you’ve ever heard, but in the day and age of social media insanity you’ll probably like: “Yeah, really dumb – but not as bad as…”

Japan being a mountainous country, land reclamation has a long and important history – from trying to drain the swamp that is Osaka City to the construction of Kansai International Airport on its own artificial island just off the coast of Osaka Prefecture; flat land is very much appreciated in Japan for everything from housing to agriculture to solar farms.
In this very specific case somebody had the idea to dam off some rather flat land along the coast and use the area to create salt evaporation ponds, regulating the constantly rising water with pumps. Sounds like a pretty good idea as long as the saltern makes money. Which apparently was the case until the late 1970s. Then somebody decided to turn the flat piece of land into a bungalow resort with four tennis courts, a swimming pool and a driving range – which seemed to be successful while it was new and during the bubble economy, but in the 90s the whole thing was doomed and the drains pumps were turned off… and the bungalow village was slowly flooded, with only one building “surviving”. (It’s a death trap now, too…) Interestingly enough nobody cared to clean up first – when you look closely you can see traffic signs, cars, and of course several bungalows sticking out of the water. Along the dam that separates the flooded area from the sea are a couple of dry patches of land next to the last dry building, but I guess it’s safe to say that nobody should build something there as it is most likely going to flood or is flooded temporarily during periods of heavy rain. The day I had a closer look I found a dead fish there, a feast for one or some of the countless seabirds occupying the area now.

I don’t know why exactly, but considering the current situation in Japan, I felt like it was about time to write about the Flooded Bungalow Village – a touristy place deliberately drowned by it’s owner. Most of the people reading this live in countries that are under lockdown currently while Japan is still more or less pretending that the water isn’t rising… or that a deadly virus isn’t spreading at a potentially devastating rate. Anyway, enjoy the gallery – and let’s hope that this train is not going to run off a cliff. You know what happened if the articles stop…

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Abandoned golf courses in Japan are turned into solar parks more and more often – time to explore one of their tiny offshoots, an abandoned ground golf course!

Ground golf (グラウンドゴルフ), a Japanese invention is a minimalistic version of regular golf. The courses are smaller (usually 8 holes) and so is each hole of a course (between 30m and 100m) – every player only needs one ball (similar to bocce balls) and one club, which can be made of plastic, metal, or wood. In “match play” each hole nets the person with the least amount of strokes a point – winner is the person who has the most points at the end of the course. In “stroke play” the strokes of all holes are added up and the person with the least amount of strokes at the end of the course is the winner. Ground golf is especially popular amongst senior citizens in the countryside as it is easy to learn, communicative, cheap, slow paced, but still offers some form of exercise…

The Overgrown Ground Golf course was actually the main attraction of a now also abandoned hotel, but of course it was also accessible to day guest players, much like a lot of onsen hotels open their facilities to non-guests. Unfortunately there is not much to say about this location as the course was overgrown and there was little to see. Even the small club house / equipment storage at the entrance was mostly empty and pretty severely damaged at one side, with some walls missing. A quick exploration for a short article during busy weeks, when the Abandoned Kansai motto is: “A small abandoned location is better than none!” And now please enjoy the small photo gallery… and if you are into golf and / or haven’t seen it yet, check out the *Japanese Driving Range*!

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