Changes are like dominoes.
A shift in economics can force a change of lifestyle that drives people to the cities and clears out whole villages. Building a new major road can leave old byways crumbling and forgotten (which was basically the plot of Pixar’s Cars). Evidence of both of these phenomena can be seen along Route 303 with almost abandoned villages in the woods off to the side, and forgotten winding roads that haven’t been used since more direct tunnels were driven through the hills,
This will be the first of three (long overdue) haikyo updates about places I’ve come across whilst exploring my local stretch Route 303. Since about February I’ve been making irregular trip along this route, and checking out some of the branches running off it which has turned up quite a lot of haikyo goodness.
The first place that caught my eye and got me out there, was this road side diner – which I have to admit turned out to be a pretty dull shell of a building, but it did at least get me out and exploring the area.
My original Kappa post is by far the most viewed post on this blog – so I thought I’d do a follow up for all you Kappa fans and let you know more about everybody’s favorite Japanese water imp. So today I’m going to share a whole host of interesting Kappa images, links and suggested viewing with you all.
I promised a follow up a long time ago when I was about to depart on a quest to try and track down a mummified Kappa in Osaka. So that’s where we’ll pick up today.
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.
This is a small collection of three random costume sightings scored during other trips.
Firstly during a day out at the Meji Muru in Inuyama, I ran into this clawed cutie. A girl in white knee-length boots and a pink crab costume – don’t ask why.
She was actually with a small camera crew so a guess they were about to record a TV segment. The building in the background is a Frank Lloyd Wright original, so maybe it was something to do with that.
Over the last couple of months Andrew and I have been slowly checking off all the sites in the book around Shiga Ken. Today we’re checking out #128 (p.185) and, as usual, without the benefit of any translation we have no idea what to expect, all we know is that it’s somewhere not far from the centre of Omi Hachiman.
As we draw close to the area that we figure it has to be in a huge black brick chimney slides into view above the other buildings. Brick isn’t a typical material in Japan (its dead weight isn’t something you want falling on you during an earthquake) and seeing brick usually suggests a historical or foreign (influenced) building – often both. Guessing that this must be what we’re here to see we park up and make our way across a rather industrial looking bridge and weir combo so see exactly what it is we’ve found.
Anybody who uses ‘ The Book ‘ might recognise this picture from p.199.
I even cropped my picture to look as close to the book version as possible, consider this my homage.
Though I have no idea why they selected this image to represent what is in fact a rather wonderful six storey hotel, with an elevated sky tower so tall you can see it long before the hotel comes into view.
This isn’t even the best bit of graffiti in the building, which has been adopted as a canvas by the graffiti community and is full much grander pieces of art, but we’ll get to that later.
First, let’s put this place into a bit of context.
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.
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.
The mass of history and mythology surrounding the figure of the Tengu makes it almost impossible to give a brief review of them. Through the ages even the way these creatures are perceived has changed a lot, originally portrayed as bad omens and demonic war bringers they have now become revered as a kind of demigod of the mountains.
As such the modern Tengu blurs the line between folk legend and religion – yokai or deity? It isn’t always so clear-cut.
In both traditions the basic image of the Tengu is essentially the same. They are winged humanoids with bright red skin and long noses, which has earned them the name ‘Hanadaka Tengu’ (Long Nosed Tengu).
‘Hotel Penthouse’ which we spotted in a frozen field in the middle of winter, and a nameless place that’s both overrun and easily overlooked – despite being right next to a main road.
Although the find dates were a month apart, neither site was that huge so I’m going to bundle them together in a thematic double bill. Enjoy.
Straight off I want to say that I was personally well away from the area(s) affected by the quakes and tsunami.
It is impossible however to continue to write a blog about my life in Japan without acknowledging the terrible events of the past few days. I don’t want to try and write an account of the events, which by now have been exhaustively covered on the news. What I would like to do though is to give a slightly different perspective, some things that you won’t have seen on the disaster focused news – life going on. (more…)
Another site that might well be new to the net today, despite being in a very visible roadside location. Pachinko parlours are a very common sight in Japan, both working and abandoned. Where I live there are actually an open parlour and an empty old one next door to each other. Despite being gambling establishments in essence (which are illegal in Japan) Pachinko is seen as ‘semi-gambling’ and are tolerated. (more…)
Just three collages from photos taken at some old animal pens I found while out cycling.
There’s not much to be seen there now, exactly what kind of animals were kept here, or if there used to be some bigger structure here, isn’t really clear.
Later on in the same day I found a far more impressive place, a house, which will the subject of my next (much bigger) haikyo report.
Tesso (The iron rat) is truly a one of a kind yokai. A rat demon the size of a full-grown man, armed with metal teeth and claws, capable of shredding and tearing almost anything. Combine this with a pied-piper like ability to call a legion of real rats to do his destructive bidding, and Tesso becomes quite a formidable foe to be reckoned with
Today’s yokai shares something in common with Hashi Hime in that also Tesso began life as a human, a buddhist monk named Raigo, but was later transformed into a vengeful yokai. Again it was sheer force of will, and a driving anger, that provde the catalyst for the transformation.
I already knew the basic story of how Raigo came to turn into his rodent form, however as Raigo’s temple (Mii-Dera) is not far from where I live, I decided to make the trip there and see if I could dig up anything connected with the myth.
Yet I’m glad I did as this extended return visit turned up quite a lot more information about the history of the place as well revealing several things I missed on my first (brief) visit.
I also got a perfect answer to the question I was left with after my last visit – Why did they call a huge ferris wheel ‘Biwako Tower’ ? (more…)
That the Kappa, a water spirit whose behaviour can veer from troublesome to lethal, has become prominent in Japanese folk law isn’t surprising – Japan is a very watery place full of lakes, rivers, irrigation canals and drainage ditches.
Watery deaths must have claimed a lot of Japanese lives over the years, and the Kappa is the anthropomorphized embodiment of that danger.
This trip was another join exploration with my friend Florian over at abandonedkansai.com. We had two sites in mind for today’s exploration, firstly an old love hotel, and a return trip to Biwa Tower (which proved to be much more interesting than my first trip there).
For those of you who don’t know about love hotels, they are exactly what they sound like hotels where you go to get a bit of love – though you have to take your own partner with you. They aren’t brothels, just cheap hotels with rooms rented by the hour or for overnight stays. They range from quite elegant to ferociously tacky, and from unremarkably bland to truly bizarre. As a haikyo type ‘the love hotel’ was high on my list of must sees.
Today is the 1st of February which means in two days it’ll be time for Setsubun. Setsubun is the day which marks the start of the new season, though the most significant of these is the spring setsubun (or Risshun).
The spring setsubun is a chance for a fresh start, much like New Year’s day it’s a chance to stop the bad and usher in the good. (more…)
This week I made a trip to Uji to try and find the shrine dedicated to this lovely lady – Hashi Hime (illustrated here by Demonicangel-Bayou from Deviant Art).
Hashi Hime, literally ”The Bridge Princess’, is somewhat a rarity in yokai circle as she started life as human who transformed herself into a vengeful yokai by sheer willpower. The name appears in many tales and she herself in many incarnations. Perhaps the most famous variation is that of the jealous wife who is driven to distraction by her husband’s infidelity and swears revenge.
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.
Today is partly a direct ‘what-happened-next’ continuation of my last haikyo post, and a bit of a clearing out of my haikyo cupboard – showcasing a range of smaller sites and finds that are interesting, but don’t deserve dedicated posts. So here they are – the not-quites and almost-weres.
The remains of this fish farm, that I found cycling back from the industrial site, are a good example. Most of the buildings are gone and just the bare bones are left now.
Recently it’s seemed that the discovery of one haikyo naturally leads to the discovery of another. This site is only a short drive from the electronics factory and we found it during a bit of ‘Let’s find a haikyo’ driving after leaving the factory.
It was too late and too wet for a proper search that day, but we jumped over the barrier on the side road leading up to the site, scrambled over the mound of dirt that had been bulldozed into place to stop vehicles from going up, and quickly counted four or five buildings in the area. Then we went back to the car, marked the location for future exploration and went home. (more…)