Haikyo – Salary Man’s House (Original Find)
This is the third and last report from an epic day of exploring that started in the industrial site, took in a very derelict fish farm and ended up in a typical Japanese style house in a small village.
This is probably the most common kind of haikyo you’ll find in rural Japan, empty houses are 10 a penny it seems sometimes. I’ve stopped to check out a few before, but usually there no way in without resorting to forced entry (which isn’t something I want to try) but sometimes you get lucky.
I could easily have cycled past this place, it was only the overgrown wall and damaged roof that made me curious. As I said last time, sometimes it wouldn’t be difficult to mistakes a ‘living’ building for a haikyo, so caution is advised to say the least.
However, a closer inspection hinted that this place really was long since abandoned.
Mainly it was the mass of disregarded, old mail stuffed into the front door, and, as I moved around the building, how overgrown everything was – plants climbing in through cracks in the windows.
I was a little nervous about how exposed the place seemed, but there was a reasonably hidden-from-view side door opening onto the kitchen. Not expecting anything I tried it, and found that it was stiff, but not locked.
Moving inside I still found myself wondering if this really was a haikyo – so many things looked like they had been left ‘just so’ earlier that morning.
There was a pair of slippers by the tatami mats waiting for the wearer to come home, the duvet was neatly folded on the bed, the morning’s washing up still on the drying rack by the kitchen sink.
There were plenty of other signs that it was abandoned, like the vines crawling over the slippers, the fallen door on the sagging floor, the 1997 calendar on the wall and, well, just the general state of the place.
More than any other house I’ve been in there was an air of unexpectedness to this one, the person who had lived here hadn’t expected to be going anywhere – they had thought that they’d be back and would put on those slippers, and sleep in that bed. I don’t want to jump to any unfounded conclusions, but I couldn’t help but speculate over what happened so quickly and unexpectedly that stopped the whoever lived here from ever coming back… can you think of any nice reasons??
There were still a lot of personal touches inside – wildlife videos on top of the video player and a clock with breeds of dogs instead of numbers suggested an animal lover, a photo of the Emperor hung over the bed and a few cheap everyday suits hanging in the wardrobe – no real feminine touches. Ashtrays and medicine; I’d guess this was an older single man, quite conservative and a heavy smoker. From the clothes, an office worker or low-level company employee. A salary man, as they say in Japan.
I really liked the Oni (devil) masks in the entrance hall – as well as the fantastic wooden one (above) there was a second smaller golden one mounted on a red dish.
Unlike most haikyo, where time and decay have taken over, this place seemed so fresh (though, if the calendar is to be believed, 13 years have passed since anybody lived here). It was a real window onto the life of the person who lived there, and what it lacked in history it more than made up for with character and intimacy.
At the time it was the most interesting house I’d been in – but since then I’ve found and thoroughly explored what I call the ‘photographers house’ which puts this to shame.
Before that I’ve got a rotting love hotel, a much more detailed return trip to Biwa Tower and a minor detour to a mystery farming (?) haikyo to write-up before I get to that – so you’ll just have to wait.
All these devil masks are awesome! I love them 🙂
January 14, 2011 at 11:55 am
Thanks Meow – I finally checked out your blog, you’ve got some great reports on some great sites – very impressive.
I added you to my blog roll 🙂
January 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm
You’re in my links too 🙂 Keep up the good work finding such little places full of stories, they’re the best!
January 14, 2011 at 11:52 pm
Fascinating. Very fascinating. Whenever I’m in Japan I try to stop and take photos of haikyo but my wife isn’t a fan, so I usually twist my neck as we go by, or I return later for quick photos as they’re in the onsen or something.
In any case, I love the photos, and your writing and sensibilities are resonant. Definitely appreciated.
If I was on that side of the Pacific more often than I am I’d ring you up for some haikyo investigating.
Keep up the good work!
February 8, 2011 at 4:48 am
Thanks for the kind comment Alan.
I’m quite open to folks contacting me and getting together for trips if I’m free – especially folks with cars, I can’t drive and that really limits me.
February 8, 2011 at 8:06 am