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Haikyo – Emirin’s House (Original Find?)

Another house with a story today, I first spotted this place from a train and determined to head back and check it out as soon as possible. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that I got the chance to go back and explore. Even then it ended up taking two visits to go through, figure out and photograph this place.

The first thing I noticed here was how nice the garden must have been.  Lanterns dotted the undergrowth, and a stone bridge crossing a dry stream bed that run down to a leaf filled pond. It all seemed quite grand for a regular Japanese house.

Moving around the front and side of the main building, there were two obvious entry points – a gaping open window and a half broken door.

I opted for the window and found myself in a long thin corridor running the length of the building with rooms opening off the right side. This part of the building was heavily decayed and collapsing, it also seemed to lack any personal touches. Apart from a few faded photos, a palm print, and a box of music cassettes the rooms were quite uniform in size and contents (the same style phone reoccurring in the debris again and again).

This half was certainly much more decayed and in far worse condition than the other half appeared to be. Maybe because wood seemed to be the main material here, while the other half (behind the broken door) seemed much more sturdily built.

I now think that the rooms in this part of the building were rented out and that this was actually a ryokan (Japanese style inn) – which would justify the nice garden, and explain why there was a big difference between the two halves.

Not finding any way through internally, I had to go back outside and re-enter through the broken door. Immediately I felt like I was in a totally different building. Here the whole structure was much more solid and less decayed; it also felt much more lived in, this must have been the house where the family running the ryokan lived.

Unlike the sparse rooms on the ryokan side, this side was full of personal things. Just inside the door a hallway opened onto a small store room and a kitchen, though the kitchen had large windows exposed to the front of the building so I only gave that a quick once over.

The store room offered the first hint of the theme that would dominate my impressions of this building – the giant stuffed bear, a stack of old kid’s bags, a photo with more kids grinning at the camera… children had been a big part of life here.

The end of the corridor opened onto a large, well-lit, tatami room that was full of children’s toys, videos, books, posters….

There were so many children’s things here that I began to wonder if I’d misjudged, maybe this had been a children’s home, an orphanage, maybe the ‘ryokan’ had actually been the children’s sleeping rooms.

I began to dig around a bit more and it soon became apparent that this had actually all belonged to one girl. A girl whose name was written on the school books, New Year’s cards and toys – Kiyota Emirin.

Emirin (apparently a keen English student) had lived here at least throughout her Junior High School years and was probably the girl in a green shirt and denim skirt posing for pictures in this very room.

With all the fragments in this room it was possible to piece together quite a clear picture of her life here. She listened to Johnny’s music (A Japanese boy band music label), and played the piano herself; she was creative and penned pages and pages of her own Manga; she loved dogs and owned one… the only thing she didn’t seem to have in this room was a bed.

The next room, at the darker rear-end of the house, was a family room with display cabinets and a TV stand. Though here too the kids had dominated – craft projects, more videos (many in English) and video game cartridges littered the place.

Finally in the last corner of the ground floor was a bed room – with two beds. The adult ‘toys’ on the floor, and the scattering of family photos suggested that this had been the parents bed room, but with an extra mattress on the floor. Why?

Had Emirin slept in here with her parents, and if so why? Something seemed off here and for a while my mind was painting a pretty bleak picture of what might have gone on here.  The narrative potential of abandoned buildings is one of the reasons I enjoy UrbEx, but haikyo are places that often suggests quite dark tales.  Of course, there is probably a very simple and innocent explanation in most cases. There were several signs that people had been using this house since it was abandoned, and these sleeping arrangements could well have been set up later. Not wanting to dwell on this point for too long  I decided to head up stairs. A small dark back corridor (with a ground floor bathroom, toilets and an extra sink) opened onto the stairs.

The first floor was much smaller – a tiny bathroom, a spare room and a second child’s bedroom. Much smaller than Emirin’s room, this room had been a boy’s though he hadn’t left his mark as much as Emirin had. There were school books, encyclopaedias and futon covered in rubble from a collapsed ceiling (lucky he wasn’t sleeping there when that happened).

The yellow ‘ghost’ hanging in the window is a Tera Tera Bozu, a little doll that Japanese children make on rainy days that’s supposed to have the power to bring out the sun. I guess it worked by occupying the children with the craft work while the rain rained itself out naturally, smart!

The only thing that really said this was a boy’s room was the porn hidden behind the books, including an interesting custom-made image where he’d stuck the body of an underwear model onto a girl he’d obviously liked.

It’s almost sad to think that with the advent of the internet and easy porn access that the once essential boy’s skill of finding and hiding porn will slowly die out like other ancient crafts – like blacksmithing :-)

I’d finally covered the whole building, and felt more exhausted than I ever had on any other exploration (though the fact I was recovering from flu and probably shouldn’t even have been out probably didn’t help). Leaving house behind, I followed the path up into the bamboo grove behind it, and found a small cemetery; calm, quiet and still – the perfect place to sit, rest and reflect on the day.

So here are a couple of conclusions. I’m happy with the Ryokan theory now, it seems to fit the building and the location. A couple of family pictures suggested that the father in this family wasn’t actually Japanese, so Emirin was probably hanbun (half Japanese), which may explain all the English videos and why she liked English. The place has been empty for a long time, but despite all the personal details, unlike the photographer’s house, it seems very unlikely that anybody that knows the family or cares about the place is around now. Trash bags and food cans suggested that the place had been used, possibly even lived in since being abandoned – which was interesting in itself because squatting doesn’t seem common here, and in the pictures of the girl in green (Emirin?) the place already looks pretty rundown and like a squat which raises a few questions. As far as I know this is the first time this place has turned up on an English blog, but I’d kind of welcome a few other UrbExers going and give their take on it – it just seems weird that a family with two kids would disappear and leave so much stuff behind. Theories?

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9 responses

  1. I’m at work and I don’t have time to go through your article thoroughly but… it looks like an amazing location! I’m really impressed :) Okay, I’ll come back and check your article more seriously later :)

    April 7, 2011 at 2:18 am

  2. BantalMan

    This I gotta comment.
    From what I can observe from my many visits to haikyo websites (english and japanese) it seems that something catastrophic had happened.
    For example like abandoned hotels usually it is due to sudden collapse of the economy in that area and/or the owner ‘taking off’. The hotel would just ‘close shop’.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:19 am

    • Thanks for the comment, there’s a lot of truth in what you say. In Japan there was a big economic boom, followed by a stong down period that put an end to many boom businesses. Many businesses just, as you say, ‘closed shop’ and left the buildings standing, often it was cheaper than clearance and demolition to do so.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:32 am

  3. This post was very interesting. Have you thought about asking the people who live near by? Judging by the Arashi poster, the girl had to have put the post up in 2001 ish since that look was Arashi’s look during that time. The w-inds poster is even more recent, I’d say almost 2005.
    If she was in junior high school, she may be 25 ish now. It looks as if the family owned the ryokan and lived there. Many they went bankrupt and fled. I’m really curious to know what happened. Anyways, thanks for putting up all your awesome haikyos!

    September 13, 2011 at 2:45 am

  4. Hi Haruka,

    Thanks for the comment – I don’t know J=pop so well so thanks for your dating of the posters :-)
    I didn’t ask anybody around the place as my Japanese isn’t so good, and I’m never sure about drawing attention to myself when I’m exploring haikyo.
    Lots more haikyo to come – I just have to get around to writing them up!!

    September 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

  5. recently I was in Nagoya and saw 2 abandoned hotels, 1 on Seto highway (looked like a love hotel) and 1 in Seto itself in the mountain beside a huge river, that place looked wild! You’re blog is cool and very well documented!

    March 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm

  6. Lorraine

    this is amazing. i have seen a bunch of haikyo, and i think this is one of my favorites i’ve seen. It seems really run-down for being abandoned near 2001, but i’m no expert on urban decay. Its odd she’d leave so much behind. Just shocking to me. Especially her piano.:p

    May 2, 2012 at 8:15 am

  7. This is so neat! Thanks for posting this! I like photos of haikyos that are abandoned houses that still contain most of the owners’ belongings, it’s so much more personal. This is rather unusual though, it seems like it’s not so common to find abandoned houses from this recent, most are from the bubble economy burst in the mid 90’s. That big-nosed stuffed dog, next to your randoseru photo? I remember those coming out in the mid 2000’s.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  8. I absolutely love the way this story is told: it really breathes life into what was once someone’s home, and makes the circumstances for their unexplained departure all the more poignant.

    September 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm

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