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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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…)
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.
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…)
The same day that Andrew and I explored the fish farm we also made another original discovery when we spotted this overgrown, red, building across the fields.
Making our way over, it was easy to get inside through a missing window and it was soon obvious that this had been some kind of light industrial production facility. The first room was a large open space with work benches, shelves, scattered tools and boxes of old components.
When I decided to start searching my local area for haikyo this was one of the first places I thought about checking out. A small over grown compound with two or three wooden buildings which I’d often cycled past.
I called a friend, Andrew, and asked if he was up for a spot of exploration, then a couple of days later we cycled over to what turned out to be a long abandoned fish farm.
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 was another accidental discovery. During an Autumn walk we spotted this place at the bottom of an overgrown slope. I managed to persuade my non-haikyoist friends to stop and briefly check this old ski centre out. However, with the light fading, a long way to go and only me really interested I had no time to really explore.
Luckily, a couple of month later I was back in the same area with more willing friends and managed to get them to make a more thorough search with me.
The biggest mystery about this place is why the owners decided to call a ferris wheel ‘Biwa Tower’?
A couple of people have recently asked me how I first got into haikyo, and the truth is I’m not sure.
What does Haikyo mean?
Haikyou is a cover-all term used to describe any abandoned place. From recently bankrupt hotels to decaying ruins; like this one on the banks of Lake Biwa. Japan has a wealth of these places, being a post economic boom society with a declining population, they stand as evidence of Japan’s more prosperous and populous past. Domestic, leisure and industrial ghosts that haunt the villages and cities of Japan. (more…)