Monster mazes, empty spaces, pretty faces and more!

Haikyo – Limestone Processing Plant

According to the book this place was in operation until a severe storm caused so much damage that the cost of repairs was too great for the owners, since then it’s just been left standing with minimal supervision; it is also listed, in the book, as one of Japan’s top haikyo spots. Even from a distance it was easy to tell that this was going to be an impressive site. Far bigger than anything we’d previously explored.

The whole site spreads along the side of the valley that hides it from the main road, yet despite the secluded location though there were a surprising number of people milling around nearby thanks to a popular water spring just across the road where people were filling up water bottles. At first this made us a little nervous about heading into the site, but after a bit of hanging around observing we noticed a couple of other people slipping in and out – following their lead we soon found what seemed to be a small pumping station with a convenient ladder leaning against an outside wall.

One quick scramble later we were in.

The labyrinthine nature of the place soon became apparent with various paths, gangways and flights of stairs leading off in all directions.

Not wanting to be too visible we headed straight for the interior and the cover of the buildings. The first thing we really explored was a series of wooden buildings where the raw stone must have been processed into a powdered form judging by the white dust coating everything.

The interiors were an almost uniform pristine white from the build up of  ‘lime’ that caked everything, it all looked so stark and strangely beautiful. It’s no surprise that this area was chosen for the cover picture of ‘the book’.

Leaving the white wonderland behind and climbing higher among the buildings we passed between two huge workshops and came to a kind of cross-roads. On one side we had the buildings we’d just passed between and a path leading beyond them up the hillside, on the other side a kind of paved road led down between wooden buildings.

Deciding to carry on up the hill we doubled back through the workshops and walked straight into the middle of a firefight. A group of young Japanese guys were using this area for some pellet powered war games, and I can’t fault them on that it was a perfect location.

After a brief cat* with the war gamers (and a photo-op) we begin to explore the building in more detail, discovering steps leading up to a second and third floor.

(* Or a brief  ‘chat’ even; no cats were harmed during the writing of this blog!)

From the top floor our next objective is clearly pointed out for us, and we’re quickly realising there’s not going to be enough time to cover the whole site today with all these buildings ahead and this being just one part of the site.

We eventually exit out the back of the building, back on track and heading up the hillside via a winding path past rusted gas tanks. After a short walk we come out at a spot looking back at the place we’d just come from beautifully framed by a huge pipe section.

Smaller and more derelict buildings line the path now, with hoppers and conveyor belts crisscrossing inside and overhead. Somewhere ahead the raw materials were being processed and this is the route they were brought down to be crushed with metal gears and grinding wheels.

Finally we reach the end of the line, beyond all the buildings, up by the quarry face and by the tunnel entrances, we can look back across the valley and the site laid out below. A lot of what we can see from here was by-passed on the way up, and beyond where we started there’s still so much more unexplored ground, but already we’re beginning to lose light and it’s time to start heading back down.

Still we can’t resist exploring some of the places we missed on the way up. So, checking out a few of the smaller (less industrial) looking buildings, we soon find a few rooms that seem more set up for research purposes. There’s a distinct ‘lab’ like feel to some of these rooms with tubes, beakers, measuring devices and jars full of mineral samples strewn around.

This last room had boxes and boxes of core samples drilled out of the rock, enough to make any amateur geologist go weak at the knees (probably).

Back down the steps and tunnels to the ladder, down through the pumping station and back to the car. Despite being here several hours we’ve seen less than half the site and half-formed plans for a return trip are already bubbling away. Would another access point from the other end of the complex be possible?

Determined to find out we scout out the road that should lead down directly to the main entrance gate and take a stroll along it. Sure enough the side of the road is littered with collapsed wooden huts and eventually we come out by the main gate, complete with the old security check point still there.

Oddly the main gate looks well-preserved and has an apparently working alarm system attached to it. I say oddly considering how redundant it seems, I have never seen so many people inside a haikyo before (as well as the war gamers there was also another explorer and a couple taking cosplay pictures).  Also there seemed to be so little there worth protecting, though I guess that if you could drive a big truck in you could salvage quite a lot of reasonably valuable scrap and that’s probably what they are trying to stop.

Anyway, not far from this site there is supposed to be the remains of the power station that provided most of the energy for this place. We don’t have the time to track that down today, but a double bill trip to see the power plant and re-visit this site may well be in order one day.

For my next haikyo trip though I was back to exploring the area around where I live by bike and turning up a lot more than I ever expected to find.

UPDATE: I just added a big gallery of pictures from this trip that can be seen here.

3 responses

  1. Hm… the sign is new. I wonder why they don’t remove the ladder. Would make it a lot more difficult to get in there.

    July 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm

  2. That’s an interesting place! I’m moving to Japan (Shikoku) soon, so maybe I’ll follow your blog. If you know anyone who loves to cycle the back country, please let me know! Cheers – Derek

    July 27, 2011 at 7:45 pm

  3. Hi Derek,
    If you want to see a bit of Shikoku, here are some links to my general travel blog and the reports from my two day trip there a few months ago, more detailed Haikyo reports from that trip will be up here later.
    http://dkjm74.travellerspoint.com/94/
    http://dkjm74.travellerspoint.com/95/
    I’ll be going back to Shikoku in August for a weekend of whitewater rafting and canyoning which will be on the general blog at some future point.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:05 pm

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