Best Abandoned Places in Japan (2015–2016)
My previous list of the best of Japan’s abandoned places dates back two years now, as I tend to write about accessible places. As you may know, haikyo (wasteland, abandoned places or even urban exploration) is a sensitive subject. I can’t share information about the sites, both out of respect for the local community but also and especially because it would put these places at risk. But I know you’ll appreciate these photos so here are my best 25 explorations from the past two years. If you really want to know more about a particular place, let me know in the comments at the end and I’ll think about writing some longer articles 🙂
25. School of God
Discovered by chance in a small village on the mountain slopes of Yamagata, this small school is a short but exciting exploration. Having never seen any information about it, I’m pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the gym, frozen between life and death.
24. Iwado Mine
With my friend Wa-san, the idea is often to take pictures of ruins under a starry sky. This time, no luck, the sky is much too cloudy but the effect isn’t totally uninteresting. There’s no way of getting into Iwado Mine but its frontage is very graphic.
23. Crematorium of the Moon
Not sure you’ll reach the moon with this means of transport. Far from being a funky visit, I admit to trembling when setting foot in this crematorium: the morbid atmosphere is repulsive and attractive at the same time. I didn’t … want to stay there … too long 😉
22. Hirugano Height Hotel
–5 degrees, alarms, in other words we won’t be going back to this abandoned hotel – it’s not worth the risk. But for me and my friends it’s on the way to the places in the “Your Name” anime. These pictures taken under the stars, feet in the snow, will make fine memories. There’s a description of the site in Japanese here.
21. Niekawa School
So how did the children get to school? We have to take an old dirt road through the Japanese Alps to reach it. A spot right in the middle of nowhere but splendid and relaxing. Happy birds, hungry insects, the heat of summer dissipated by a light forest breeze, in all an offbeat atmosphere OKLM, as they say, cool.
20. Jordy and the Miso Factory
On the way back from a little abandoned school, we come across a village where nothing seems to be happening. I stop the car in front of an abandoned complex that seems curious to me. It’s true that the buildings are abandoned but at the back you can squeeze in between two planks. No idea what the place represents but my Japanese friend realizes it’s a noodle factory! An original discovery and therefore very strange.
I’d never been to a gynaecologist before. And I don’t know if I will again 😉 This place is surprising, bathed in an unreal light exaggerated by the dust particles floating around. An operating room, the doctor’s office, some bedrooms – this place has probably seen a lot of births … and deaths … in its time? Relax, you’ll recover OK.
18. Skull Tower
Masumi and I wonder how we can climb up. This is a small tower by the roadside, surrounded by trees. There are several floors and the first two have collapsed. The only way is to pile up the rubble scattered about to make a kind of bridge and get into the tower through a small window, not easy! Inside, a rather curious scene: an altar with conscientiously arranged skulls. All around, candles. What really went on there? Depends how you look at it.
17. The Abandoned Dodge of Yamanashi
I dreamed of a spring scene with a lovely model in the new greenery and flowers. So I asked Reina, a dancer friend, to accompany me on this short hike. Once on our way, we soon realize our plans will have to change. After three hours of hard walking in the snow, we finally arrive at the old Dodge. Dead trees, snow, an icy wind, but Reina beautifully contrasts with a kingdom the polar opposite of her usual surroundings.
16. Zenko-ji Temple
A starry night, a haikyo … but who am I with? 🙂 This temple has been used several times in movies and even in anime features. And if you’re a fan, you’ll easily be able to tell me what series it appears in.
15. White School
Sculpture course, artistic project or dope trafficking, why is this school all white? Silent exploration of a school now belonging only to ghosts.
14. Kejonuma Leisure Land
I feel my age a bit at Kejonuma. I visited this place for the first time … in 2010! It hasn’t changed apart from being much more touristy, I found myself on a photography course 🙂 It’s true this is the perfect environment to relax and work on your skills. A local community group wants to save this place and take advantage of the fact that there is a natural hot spring to open an onsen. They have a kind of Japanese Kickstarter, here.
13. Maya Hotel
Again, this isn’t a new exploration, as I’d already been here several times over the years. But this last visit is different: it doesn’t have just one Green Room, but two! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my article on the Maya Hotel here. This room was probably closed up in the past and looks a lot like its little sister but in much better condition.
12. School of Astronomy
Living in Nara distances me from many places but brings me closer to others that I’d never have visited otherwise. This school is part of it. That day, my exploring wasn’t very interesting. The school is quite empty, in poor condition. But it’s beautiful, and so is the scenery, so I launch my drone. It spots another building further up the mountain, which I go to see. Another abandoned school, much more surprising, with an abundance of unexpected objects. This is the last school on this list, and if you’re interested in abandoned Japanese schools, I’ve written an article dedicated to them here.
11. Fumiya Town
I’d been here in the middle of the night a few years ago and kept the coordinates on Google Maps. This year, I return to Shikoku at the end of the day to see this old village in the fading light. Fumiya is not yet totally abandoned, there is still one character living here. I wonder if his stories deserve a separate article …
10. Kasuga Mine
This is an interesting haikyo with many firsts: the first time I met Masumi, the first time I flew my drone above a haikyo, and the first time I’d walked so far along the tunnel of an abandoned mine – seemed like kilometres!
9. Kuroshio Inn
I don’t mind admitting that Miki is unquestionably one of my favourite friends and models. I suggest visiting a haikyo that I particularly like, and where many photographers take models. In other words this isn’t an original this time but just to prove once more that the Kuroshio Inn is the perfect haikyo for a picture shoot.
Miki always adapts to her surroundings spontaneously and naturally, here’s proof 🙂
8. Chiba sento
After visiting the mystical tree of Chiba (if you haven’t read this article, this is my favourite hike of 2016, look here), I have to refresh myself. I came across this old abandoned sento instead. Ambiance, colours and incredible lighting. Little sento, degeneration suits you well! If you want to know more about what a sento is and meet Japan’s sento ambassador, have a look at this article: Tokyo Sento with Stéphanie.
7. Villa with the Metal Shutters
Right in the town centre, an old wall surrounds a hill on which there stands a forest and an old Western-style house. The setting reminds me strangely of Edward Scissorhands and his sinister castle. Everyone sees it but nobody dares go there, only speaking of it in whispers.
6. Minobu Town
This is a rarely visited haikyo but still incredibly scenic: Mount Fuji in the background, old houses full of memories, a field of green tea … I was there with Masumi and a film crew to shoot a short film about haikyo explorations in Japan. It was broadcast by NHK World TV (Inside Lens documentary series).
5. Wagakawa Hydro Plant
I don’t want to say too much about this abandoned hydroelectric plant because the exploration is extraordinary and I’m working on an article about it. I’ll just say this: everything you need for an unforgettable experience is there.
4. Western Village
This is a very well-known Japanese haikyo that all explorers have visited, and tourists sometimes come across it completely by chance. I’m surprised at the lack of shooting so I have to do some! I find myself with Kaoru, Marin and Naomi + the mother of the three sisters as assistant. An extremely fun day to set up Western scenes with such a a genial and motivated troupe.
3. Nara Dreamland
I won’t be writing about it anymore, but Nara Dreamland was THE abandoned amusement park in Japan. Unfortunately, its life was cut short in the year 2016. You can find my stories and adventures on Nara Dreamland here: An Abandoned Amusement Park; The Abandoned Rollercoasters; The End of a Dream. Get the tissues out …
2. The Skull Clinic
A week of intensive research to try to locate this clinic by triangulation and other dubious techniques. I build a map with several potential spots and we approach at night. The first spot on my list happens to be the clinic! An exciting morning’s exploration with the discovery of a Meiji-era clinic still in perfect condition. Not obvious below but a skull is hidden in the picture. I have two articles if you’re interested in the subject: Abandoned Hospitals in Japan; Little Abandoned Japanese Clinics.
1. Enchanted Power Plant
The best urban explorations are those that require research, reflection, puzzle-solving … and of course also a bit of luck too. I’d seen pictures of this magical scene a few years ago and I always had at the back of my mind that I’d look it up. Then one day I found myself in northern Japan, in a region not much visited, which was exactly where this type of power plant used to be dotted around. I was about to give up when suddenly, at a turn in the path, I heard the sound of a little waterfall and, looking through the foliage, this scene was revealed. It was as if that haikyo had called me! So small, almost insignificant and yet! So much time spent, adventures, emotions. This cute little place is a metaphor for happiness. It’s here, whispering to itself and just waiting to be found.
That took a bit of getting through, well done for reaching the end! Now would you like to know more about a particular place? Or maybe you have thoughts to share? Go ahead 🙂 And if you want more, there are earlier best haikyo lists on my site, dig here and you’ll find them.