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Kawasaki Warehouse: Kowloon Walled City

Kawasaki Warehouse: Kowloon Walled City

Wandering along a Kawasaki avenue, ready for anything, I come across a mournful-looking building that’s impossible to ignore. Behind there is bedlam: dogs baying at the moon, metallic sounds, the hum of machinery and, illogically, voices calmly murmuring in Chinese.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

The heavy door seems to separate two universes. And the other side inexorably draws me in.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Wrenching open the metal door sealing in these strange goings-on, I slip inside the raucous monster. There seems to be movement all around me, voices rising here and there, lights twinkling, strange furtive shadows flitting by …

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

I walk on down a long narrow corridor that strongly reminds me of adventures during the year I spent in China. So where am I now?

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

I follow other corridors, turning my head left, right, always on the alert, feeling as if I’m in a FPS (first person shooter) video game where I’d be armed with a big gun …

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

… but I don’t find any monsters to kill.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

I press on, needing to know more, at a high pitch of excitement.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

The corridor opens out onto a space with a restaurant, roast chickens on display but nobody to sell them, just closed shops and underwear hanging on the line.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

I know this place, I’ve seen pictures of it. Not the restaurant, of course, but the whole place. I’d always dreamed of visiting it.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

It’s Kowloon Walled City, in Hong Kong! But this is near Tokyo and the walled city was demolished … in 1993.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

The settlement was a lawless place, where anything could happen. Densely populated, with a post-apocalyptic atmosphere and chaotic organization, it reminds me of Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) of course. Except that here everything looks fairly spotless, despite first impressions.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kowloon Walled City had everything you could possibly need, all kinds of services – especially dentists, who it seems were inexpensive and highly skilled.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

There were also plenty of restaurants (serving mainly dog meat – particularly appreciated by Chinese men on the last day of the month to build up their strength for the next), Triads, dealers, coffee shops with coke and other delights, churches and their followers, small factories, combini stores, brothels …

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

The whole thing was of course totally clandestine, illegal, but supposedly subject to no laws or taxes. 50,000 people lived there in an anarchic jumble of buildings, piled one on top of the other.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

How did they come to be there? The best way to find out is to read this Wikipedia article: Kowloon Walled City. But essentially this former military fort was an ungovernable enclave that neither China nor the United Kingdom wanted to take on. The city recovered some strength and cohesion under Triad control but was cut off from the rest of society. It evolved naturally thanks to the residents’ instinct for survival and hopes of improvement.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

In 1992, the city was evacuated, razed to the ground and replaced by a park. The residents were given compensation and most were satisfied with that.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

So where are we, then? As it happens, between Tokyo and Yokohama, in Kawasaki.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse is a … video games arcade! Not among the most modern though, as there’s quite a few retro games, but the atmosphere is incredible.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

The place is a real work of art in itself. Some items are authentic, imported from Hong Kong, but the rest has been completely recreated from scratch. A titanic work by artistic director Taishiro Hoshino.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

You might be wondering if this place wouldn’t have had more success as a museum than a fairly empty amusement arcade?

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Welcome to the Warehouse…

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Video games and splendid vending machines …

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

Tables and chairs just right for chilling out …

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

In a video game project under development in the South of France (http://hk-devblog.com/), you can explore the Walled City in the shape of a cat!

Kawasaki Warehouse

Kawasaki Warehouse

If you’d like to know more about Kowloon Walled City, I highly recommend this beautiful book: The City of Darkness. And if you love gaming machines, rather than visiting Shibuya or Shinjuku, I recommend Kawasaki! After a quick evening trip to Yokohama ?

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Who Am I

azalea, drone, flower, japan, japanese, kyushu, natural, nature, saga, spring

I am Jordy Meow, I am a French photographer living in Japan. My interest is to discover and share information about offbeat and lesser known locations for foreigners coming or living in Japan. I published books and now preparing new beautiful series of guidebooks.

asia, autumn, hokkaido, japan, japanese, lake, natural, nature

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