Haikyo – Half Life Housing
Tom Waits once claimed he’d ‘seen it all through the yellow windows of the evening train‘, so chance are that along with Emirin’s house he might well have seen this place too as it’s just one stop down the line.
This place got me both curious and cautious as although it looked distinctly run down it was in a very visible location, right by the train tracks, and surrounded by other buildings.
I took my time going in circles around this building checking it out from every angle, and couldn’t come to any conclusion. On one hand there was a scooter parked outside, but the ground floor apartment entrances had obviously not been used for years and the roof was clearly falling apart in places.
Not taking any risks and sticking only to areas that were wide open I made my way around the back of the building and found a gaping open door leading into a short corridor straight through from one side to the other flanked with a couple of large bare rooms and post boxes hanging of the walls.
There was, however, no access to the main building. Which just left me even more intrigued and frustrated, as I now had a hint of what the building might be like inside. So getting bolder I headed into the yard/garden of the building where sliding doors opened up from the rear of the apartments.
Sure enough one door was wide open and a couple of others I tried were unlocked and opened onto cramped one room apartments. However each one was very self-contained with no access through from one area to another, meaning I had to explore one piece at a time.
It was time to try the stairs, a really nice big old wooden fight of stairs that opened onto the yard. Maybe there would be something more interesting upstairs, and there was… electric lights, still lit.
My first instinct was to run, but then I realised I was still in an area that was ‘publicly open’. I hadn’t crossed any ropes, opened any doors or gates, or climbed over anything to get here – just walked directly in. So I decided to keep looking, and the first thing I noticed was that every door on the hall had a tag on the handle and the power meter. They were all empty, except one – that’s why I called this a half-life haikyo. The electric lights, the clean hall, the reason this building hadn’t been closed was one room without a, metaphorical, toe-tag. This building was one room away from being pure haikyo.
Heading down a second flight of stairs at the end of the corridor proved the point. The electric lights stopped here, swallows’ nests festooned the ceiling, and the dust danced in fire damaged rooms.
As I took those photos of the burned tatami though I heard footsteps above and a door open, the occupant of the untagged room had returned, so I decided it was time to make an exit and headed out quietly – but quickly.
It was strange to think of someone living in a place like that and to have the line so visibly drawn between the life and the death of a building, and to put it in human terms this one was strapped up to machines in a hospital ward. What it really called to mind was J. F. Sebastian’s apartment in ‘Bladerunner’ where he too is the last occupant in a towering, but rotting, apartment block.
I wandered around the surrounding area and noted another couple of interesting buildings, even found way into one of them, but decided it was time to call it a day and quit while I was ahead and as curious as I am I don’t think I’ll be going back to these places.
Next haikyo up will be another one from the book, the Rainbow Hotel (#152), a big site with six floors, an observation tower and some spectacular graffiti.