In early 2019 I went to a few exhibitions on Tokyo’s derelict buildings and even took part in one on Osaka. I met other urban explorers and had a great time. People came over to ask me: Aha, thought you were a goner? Still living in Japan? But … did you give up the haikyo? So here’s my answer, distilled into a new Best Of covering the past two years.
38. Vacant Lighting Factory
Sometimes the meaning of one of our haikyo expeditions escapes me. Like this factory in Kansai, devoid of interest. But a void is a call to the imagination so here I am, shadow hunter of the light.
I came away with a different set of images. But to tell the truth I’d rather gaze on a wooded hillside by a pretty little river in the countryside.
37. Prof Cat’s School
I’d already visited this school five years ago. A friend and I were nearby and we stopped off there. Is Prof Cat still around? For anybody wondering what on earth I’m talking about, have a look at my Nippon no Haikyo book, or here: Neko-Sensei School.
I realized with dismay that many of the school memorabilia had disappeared … only a week after their photos were posted on Instagram! It seems that somebody has been concealing, stealing, or even destroying objects so they’d have the only pictures of them. Perhaps they’re explorers new to the game who want to prove themselves. So how can we protect these places? Difficult question. And not even Prof Cat can answer that. Because he’s gone too.
36. Fuurin Love Hotel
This splendid old love hotel is still as creepy as when I first saw it eight years ago, and many of its rooms have collapsed with the passage of time. I’d be very interested to know what else has gone belly up, and how!
35. Okutama Cable Car
I revisited this little cable car on the outskirts of Tokyo as part of a J-One TV programme. It hadn’t changed a bit.
Recently, the site was targeted by a graffiti artist, but the urbexers soon cleaned it up. That’s one of the good things about the haikyo world – most of those involved are true to the game.
34. Shime Mine
I hadn’t seen this infernal tower since 2013. Jing, my partner at the time, translated my tale of the mine into English for the museum next door. In return … a phone call to the town hall requesting a closer look!
Reply from town hall? No! Only incognito explorers get anywhere near. Message received and understood.
33. Western Village
This was my sixth or seventh saunter through these dilapidated streets, but I desperately wanted to show off John Wayne’s remains to my friends (you’ll find out who they were later).
A victim of its incredible post-mortem success, the Western Village was barricaded to keep out everyone but the new breed of tourists. Just as well because wild beasts can’t get in either.
If you haven’t read my article on this abandoned site, you’ll find it here: The Abandoned Western Village in Japan.
32. Tooth Factory
A decade ago this haikyo was well known and popular. Even before I’d begun to nosey around Japanese relics! They used to make dentures there but the workshop is going to rack and ruin. It still has a certain graphic impact though, even if it rather set my teeth on edge.
31. Sogi Power Station
Depending on the season, the site is submerged, floating, or … as here, calm, poised, but forgotten, at a bend of the river.
Another victim of a … dam. Damn ! (dam it’s a dam, damn it’s a damn and the whole thing is a dubious joke)
30. School of the Bear (A✘)
This school in northern Japan is known to urbexers and easy to find. I’d never been there because the site is comparatively uninteresting. But it was on the way, so I was impelled to meet the beast. What do you think – is it really a bear?
29. School N✘
A little school building, all clad in wood. Sweetly fragrant and enchanting. Not only are these schools rare, the survivors are often dilapidated. But this one has been salvaged by its very isolation.
28. Red Villa
For the umpteenth time I retraced my steps to the famous Red Villa. All its autochrome porn shots have been looted. Collectors doubly satisfied! It has also suffered from the attentions of crude taggers and too many visitors. This time I was in the company of David Farrier making his Dark Tourist documentary series for Netflix.
Permits weren’t available because the owners couldn’t be found. So you won’t see me in the series. Anyway David was very friendly and relaxed. His crew on the other hand were unfriendly, permanently stressed out and frustrated, with no feeling for the location. The world of video is also a place of dread.
27. Space School
The purpose of this abandoned school in the far north of Japan was to welcome our alien friends. The landing platform for flying saucers stood ready! As luck would have it, a snowstorm damaged the site and saved us from intergalactic mortification.
This is the last school on my list. If you like the look of these buildings and want to find out more, check out this article: Abandoned Japanese Schools.
26. Dentist M✘
Paradoxically, the patient facilities are fairly modern but the dentures workshop is obsolete. An allegory of Japan?
An enjoyable yet nerve-racking visit with two rather cute Japanese wise guys. As the building was next door to the retired dentist’s home, with family members going in and out of the garden … we were on tenterhooks.
25. Blue Clinic
Here’s an example of the usual vintage clinic overgrown by scrub and cut off from the world. It was built at the end of the Meiji era, and a kindly lady is said to have lived there until she was 89.
24. Mickey’s Gyno
On a quick solo trip, I came across a village with onsen (hot springs) that visitors completely ignore, and not without reason. Obviously I was likely to come across neglected clinics and that’s exactly how it turned out. I found four! But only one was accessible.
A little Mickey Mouse watches over the entrance. Apparitions warmly welcomed!
23. Heian Wedding Hall
Some ruins mellow with age, like a fine vintage. Just like this building, dedicated to weddings. I’d already been there in 2010, and even ventured to write a rather mediocre article: Heian Wedding Hall. I wasn’t expecting much at the time, but these are cherished memories.
Today, the play of light brings out the best in the dilapidated rooms and celebrates with passion the union of green and asbestos fibres. Bless you.
22. Dynamite Warehouses
This little shack used to shelter a mysterious natural ecosystem under its roof. Until its tragic fate! The explosives stacked inside blew up and the greenery was scattered far and wide.
I did say warehouses, plural. Because there are several shacks like this on the site. The dynamite, stored near a mine, was probably used for tunnelling rather than blowing up the neighbours. I see there are sceptics among you.
21. Kaisai-yu Sento
The abandoned sento (communal baths) in Tokyo are venerable relics of the past. It’s easy to picture daily life here. Regrettably, their future doesn’t seem too bright.
20. Last Chance Salon
I came across this little country haikyo by chance on a trip to one of the islands. In fact the whole house is abandoned but I just visited the salon.
Maybe you’re thinking this room seems outmoded, but just hold on: it’s up-to-the-minute compared with the kind of hair-razor you’ll find on the mainland.
19. Love Hotel N✘
I’m far from intimate with love hotels, but the originality of these rooms came as a surprise. There’s something for everyone: the Peter Pan syndrome, the show offs in space, the grounded that live in hope, and so on.
And you, what kind of bedroom would make you … er, dream?
18. Kappa Hotel
Friend Joranne (yes, she was with me at the Western Village!) had always dreamed of haikyo. Just for a day. She’s a trigger-happy star who shoots from the hip. I then thought about going on a yokai shoot like they do in Onibi (comic book published by Issekinicho) at the Kappa Hotel.
This was the second visit for me, after nine years. The first time I’d found the place oppressive, spooky as can be. This time it was just funny! I think Joranne enjoyed it … let’s ask her. Joranne?
17. JAL Plane
For those who don’t like planes, and want to have a run-in with them, here’s an abandoned one at your mercy!
Surprising to find so much asbestos inside, as this machine is relatively recent.
16. Collapsed Tunnel
This was a beautiful tunnel, until the day it collapsed and was left to its fate, almost 30 years ago.
Magnificent in the evening light. Why aren’t there more constructions of such elegance?
15. Shrine F✘
This shrine is dilapidated but not quite abandoned. It seems that an old lady lived at the site before it was taken over by cats. But I saw nobody …
14. Clinic T✘
This clinic, the height of popularity on Japanese social media, has been copied for the past two years.
The blood wasn’t there originally. It’s just an extra, in poor taste.
13. Gluck Kingdom
I really feel like I’m repeating myself … but I’ve been to Gluck Kingdom again! With my mother this time, and just a short visit because we had other things planned.
I’ve since returned in a totally different mood. But I can’t mention that now … because it was in 2019!
12. Nakagin Tower
I’m frequently invited to look round one of the capsules in this amazing building, before somebody renovates it.
11. Cracked Clinic
This clinic has cropped up on several websites and, as we were passing late one evening with a friend, we stopped off. It’s said that a psychopath has lived (or still lives?) here. Have a look – not very reassuring is it.
What’s the story of this place? What really happened here?
10. Droid Clinic
This has been the most visited derelict clinic over the past two years. I came across a girl with her mother. The girl is a haikyo fanatic (and knows this site well, much to my delight), and mum was waiting outside … cute, right?
Did you spot the droid?
9. Clinics U✘ and H✘
I loved these two little clinics lost up the backstreets of Japan. The main interest, apart from managing to find them, was their curious collections of objects …
… a vintage still and a cabinet of curiosities! The doc probably used them to concoct cyanide-based potions for his friends. Seen as good for your health at the time. As for the future, we don’t care so much about ourselves … for good reason!
8. Oshito Zuido (大石峠隧道)
Japan is a veritable anthill, what with all its tunnels and underground pipelines! There’s also a maze of derelict tunnels. Oishito Zuido at Kyushu, the largest in the country, is falling apart. It’s extremely dangerous. So on your own head be it.
This was my fifth visit! No way is the island becoming any more accessible. Surveillance cameras, official tours, giant wild rats. Very difficult.
The site is slowly but surely disintegrating, the buildings deteriorating and crumbling. But the island is still so intoxicating.
6. Marriage SM✘
Everything you could ask for was here. A chapel, apartments for family and friends, the bridal suite with a splendid view of the sea, banqueting hall, swimming pool, games, countless dresses. I’d love to see the faces of those who married here if they were to come back now.
5. Clinic K✘
Here’s some of the haikyo that I’ve enjoyed so much, it’s impossible to decide between them. They’re all abandoned clinics too!
I came across this clinic in one of the better neighbourhoods of a town with a very rich past. Why is it still here? And, more importantly, what’s it like inside?
As I’d never seen pictures of this clinic (access not easy) the temptation was great. But with a wave of the magic wand (which cut my face and arms) I finally broke in, covered with sweat, dust and spiders. A poignant moment for me.
4. Clinic N✘
This one was concealed in a bamboo grove, in a little township well away from the cities. The patients’ quarters are in very bad shape. But the doctor’s office is frozen in time and a surreal atmosphere pervades the operating room.
It was very hot that day. I was carrying a Gunkanjima souvenir towel to wipe the sweat away and … I dropped it. But only realized later. So decided to go back the same evening, alone, in total darkness. My skin was crawling, indeed it was, but I found my beloved towel!
3. Hospital I✘
I’d so love to tell you stories about this extra-special place, unfortunately I’m bound by … medical confidentiality! But seriously, the Japanese try to hide the location as best they can, although it’s fairly well known.
The hospital has been abandoned for over 15 years now, but it’s modern and well preserved.
2. Clinic M✘
This clinic is so well maintained that my partner was overcome with emotion! It’s obvious that somebody still looks after the place. I’ve been there twice, with a year between visits, and nothing had been moved. You see how important it is to keep its location well protected.
1. Clinic K✘
We’ve reached the end of this Best Of. This clinic is as beautiful outside as inside, and without the thick layer of dust it would be hard to believe that it’s abandoned. It really deserves to be officially converted into a small museum.
So much for the past two years. So, in two years from now, 2021(!), a new Best Of!
I already have five excellent haikyo at the time of writing, early 2019. Can’t wait to tell you all about them!
If you’d like to carry on exploring with me, here’s a list of my articles on the best haikyo.