Monster mazes, empty spaces, pretty faces and more!

Haikyo – Haisen and Onsen

More haikyo for you today, in fact a double bill of  two significantly different types of  haikyo .

The first is a well-known, and very public, old rail line near Takarazuka.

The second is a Japanese style hotel about three hours train ride away from where I live.

So let’s start with the train line.

This is a great ‘beginner’ haikyo – or haisen (abandoned line) as to be fair it is more hike than haikyo.

The line, which apparently closed down about twenty years ago, runs along side a nice river valley with beautiful views full of trees that’ll turn vivid red in autumn. It takes roughly two hours to walk the length of the line and it’s flat the whole way making it nice and easy walking. What makes it interesting are the series of six unlit tunnels that the line passes through, and the old bridge crossing the river.

Despite frequent signs about falling rocks and reminding you that this is not a hiking trail there’s no attempt to block access to the line and it’s become a popular walking route.

The six tunnels vary in length, but a couple are quite long and a light is essential to avoid stubbed toe and tripping. There is something undeniably fun about turning off the lights and finding yourself in the pitch black though.

The most scenic part of the route has to be the iron bridge; the rusted angles of its metalwork framing and dissecting the background. Apparently there has been at least one fatality here and the more dangerous rail crossing is now blocked off, but the footpath on the side of the bridge is still open.

(To see some more pictures from this trip click here).

One last point of interest from an urbex point of view is what seems to be an access point into some smaller tunnels or mine workings.

It was very easy to open the door and get inside the passage, however only a few meters inside there was a quite deep pool of water that we couldn’t cross. We could see the bottom, and with a good pair of waders (or in a drier season) crossing it wouldn’t be hard. Beyond that the tunnel stretched on and curved out of sight, whether there’s anything interesting down there or not is anybody’s guess.

Anybody interested in doing this walk for themselves can find more details on how to find it here. (You can make a nice day of it by also visiting the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum in Takarazuka).

Well, that’s the B-movie over – now for today’s main feature!

Recently I finally acknowledged that for me haikyo had become more than a casual interest, it was turning into a hobby – something to be sought out and experienced rather than just enjoyed when I just happened to run into something by chance.

So on November 6th I found my self  catching several trains (and getting quite lost and delayed) to go and meet Florian, the writer of Abandoned Kansai, who I’d been chatting to for a few weeks. We’d agreed to join forces to explore a spa hotel that was on his list.

Florian was a little worried that as this place is listed in ‘the book’ that it might have been over visited and damaged. We worked our way along the hillside behind the building and got in through what was actually a top for window. First impressions were that Florian’s fears might be right as this room was pretty trashed.

However I always enjoy the details and I found lot’s of  nice touches even here.

I liked all the shredded newspapers on the floor – lost images, coloured and devoid of context and yet somehow more meaningful now than they ever were new.

I even managed to get a phone shot immediately – I think the ‘phone shot’ is going to become my signature haikyo photo.

However as we began to work our way down the floors we began to realise that it was actually a for more interesting place than it had initially seemed. Yes, the building was damaged, but by time and nature more than visitors.

Some areas were in such a bad state of repair now that they had totally collapsed making some ways impassable and giving the whole hotel a labyrinthine feel. By its very nature urbex can be a dangerous sport, and you are reminded of that when you open a door and there’s no floor on the other side – just a yawning emptiness and some urinals hanging off a wall.

I’m glad I didn’t need  to go as that would have been a long shot.

What had once been the main entrance was now almost totally collapsed as well, meaning that where the reception had once opened onto a staircase there was nothing but a drop now; to the left the thin windows, an old light fitting and a hand rail combined nicely to make a skeletal face watching over the ruins.

Going deeper we worked our way through the halls, guest rooms and a small kitchen area behind the reception. Next we found the larger function rooms and, after figuring out how to navigate around a collapsed staircase, we got to the bathing areas.

The way the building kept unfolding really surprised me, having covered all the main areas we were still turning up hidden corners; a small wooden staircase that lead down into a basement area with pumps and water heaters, outside the main building an unimportant looking outhouse turned out to be a well stocked kitchen full of crockery and kitchen ware – the cooking fat still in the deep fryer.

It took more than two hours to really go through the whole building and come out on the ground floor in front of the main entrance. Behind the reception I’d found some old promotional leaflets for the hotel back in the day; the cover image and the reality make for an interesting contrast of the past and the present.

However, perhaps my favorite image from the whole trip was this rather ironic magazine laying among the scattered debris; if only somebody had read it, maybe it would all have been very different today. (If you can’t read the title, it says ‘ Hotel Ryokan Management’ – I wonder if the place on the cover is also a haikyo now?)

(For the full gallery from this trip click here).

Coming soon: Two local (to me) haikyo which I believe are both original finds: a fish farm and factory.

Also, tomorrow I’m off to photograph another local find, from a couple of weeks ago, that I haven’t explored yet. All I’ll say now is it looks big and interesting, fingers crossed!

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