It’s autumn and my dear friend Marutan needs some fresh air. So I pick a suitable abandoned site: Wakagawa hydroelectric power plant in Iwate prefecture. After hours of driving, I park the car. Against a cliff-face, menace! But down there, on the other side ….
Jordy: Hey, you OK Marutan? You don’t look so good …
Marutan: Huh … if you didn’t drive drinking your coffee with one hand and checking your mail with the other, I might be in less of a cold sweat! Now we have to climb down 20 metres, and there’s no path that I can see …
Marutan makes like Indiana Jones and abseils down via the handy creepers. Of course one has to snap and, with the energy of despair, he just manages to grab some branches. His hands are lacerated. We come to ourselves down by the river. The damply cold behemoth looms on the other side.
The water is icy, turbulent, of unfathomable depth. In short, a bad start. We head along the bank to find a simpler way through and finally these overhanging cables suggest themselves. So be it. The pain they afflict on our hands is excruciating, but we have no option.
Thankfully delights lie on the other side. Leaves redden on our arrival while others irrationally turn yellow.
We push our way through the semi-jungle towards the concrete giant.
Jordy: I’d like to take this chance to introduce you, in a friendly way of course. Well, you’ve been living in Japan for ages, you do a great job, but why doesn’t anybody know about you? You don’t know how to flood social networks with mugshots? There’s no shame in that, is there.
Marutan: It’s just that I don’t want to be like you, spamming like a Russian bot with your pictures of ramshackle derelict shacks! But it’s true, it’s a few years since I’ve been hanging around Japan and despite the weather, I never tire of it. Coming back to your sly dig, you’re wrong. People still stop me in the street to ask if I’m the Marutan who was in the French programme on NHK tv (shown back in 2012). It’s true I’m discreet on social networks, but that’s just because I’m taking time out to prepare my plan for conquering the world …
Hacking out a rough path with machetes, we finally reach the walls of this famous power plant. It’s barely 8am (we left Tokyo at 3am, not without difficulty) and the autumn light is sublime. We have no trouble entering the building, which is neither barricaded nor guarded.
Inside, we’re taken aback by the beauty of the place. The vast hall with its 15-metre ceiling is bathed in a splendid light filtered through huge vertical windows. A veritable industrial cathedral.
So how did this bordelic contraption work? We start at the end, in this room where the transformers used to be. Like you, we don’t know anything about the place, so just try to comprehend its mystery.
The heart of the plant used to throb here. Electricity was generated through turbines set in these huge cavities, their gears agitated by the discharge … fluvial, glacial!
Jordy (out of the blue) : You’ve a little girl in Japan, together with a Japanese woman … but would you recommend this setup to anyone else?
Marutan: Oh, that’s a vast subject! I could talk about it for hours, and besides (attention, product placement) I’ve talked about it in pages and pages of my comic strip Un papa français au Japon [A French Dad in Japan], published for around 4 years in an NHK magazine. As an artist, it’s a constant source of inspiration. As a human, it’s an inexhaustible source of wonder! To answer your question, I recommend of course this setup, starting with you, since you meet the pre-selection criteria. Go for it! You know it’s not the kindly stork who’ll bring you the toddler already hatched! Otherwise, I particularly don’t recommend this adventure for idiots who don’t deserve all the joy it can bring, nor those who like to sleep in of a morning.
From above, we’re now below. A turbine used to be here, and the input / output pipes are easily identifiable.
We plan to climb up the pipework. It seems to be much wider higher up and then splits into several sections, much closer together, probably to raise the pressure. It’s a pleasure to roam through the innards of this metal beast.
We find ourselves face to face with the Lord of Wagakawa. That’s some goatee he has, real vintage Japanese.
Right at the top, we find a kind of double pipeline whose workings are beyond me. Perhaps you’ll know, or can guess? Plenty of explorers like to take pictures of themselves in this central section. As for me, I think it’s pretentious and inappropriate to put your life on the line for a selfie.
Back down. There’s another group of explorers: a guy, two girls. The guy ignores me completely (typical) at first, but the two girls come to meet me (typical). When I say typical, it’s not that the girls are interested in me. They’re just curious, like anyone would be! The Japanese male tends to ignore such things, especially if it’s a stranger. Something that’s always rather bugged me.
They ask me if I’m … Jordy Meow. Triumphant cries follow, and I don’t know where to put myself. We shake hands politely. I wonder if they extol the virtues of my person, my photos, or, in truth, the performance of my SEO! Ohhhh, Jordy Meow, you manage the SEO, and how! I admit to being a little uncomfortable each time this happens, but I’m touched.
SEO, wassat? This is the work you do on a website so that it’s well placed in search engine results. The Japanese version of this site often comes top in the results on ruins, hence this relative success. If you’re curious, check out my SEO Checklist sur Meow Apps.
After a photo shoot of this fortuitous but fortunate meeting, we’re minded to carry on with the trip. There’s more than one way to skin a cat … like those on Japan’s Cat Island! So expect to find them in an upcoming post.
We’ll return to Marutan’s lifestory very soon, on another trip. Not easy to ask this character questions, and the hazardous terrain wasn’t ideal either! In the meantime, if you have any ideas about this site, any questions for Marutan and his life as a dad (or illustrator) in Japan, the comments section is there for you.