Evolution of Japans historic Negishi Grandstand: witness to horse racings cultural impact and legacy.
Witness the evolution of Japans historic Negishi Grandstand, from royal gatherings to wartime repurposing, now a symbol of cultural and political significance.

Negishi Racecourse: Story & Blood (2/2)

I go first. I move slowly under the surveillance camera, I approach the barbed wire… My god, it will not be easy! I try to pull myself up, but I could only get close the damn barbed wire that is ready to slide me open any minute.

We’re back in the Negishi Grandstand Yokohama. If you missed the ultra colourful tour of the abandoned racecourse, go read that article first! Because we are going to calm down a bit and bring the story back to it natural colour.

Afternoon at the Negishi

1866. Here we are in the middle of a neighborhood of Yokohama yet very residential at the time. The Emperor Meiji decided to build a racetrack: it is the architect JH Morgan, who was commissioned to develop it. This racetrack was then visited many times by the Emperor Meiji himself, and even more often by his successor, Emperor Hirohito.

1923. There was the Great Kanto Earthquake, which destroyed Tokyo and Yokohama. The building of Negishi remained almost completely intact, except for the wooden grandstands that caught fire. It was renovated at the time, but never touched since.

Downstairs at the Negishi

1942. We are now reached the major turning point for the Negishi Grandstand, which was not the earthquake but the Second World War: horse racing became prohibited and the Japanese military then used this building for for printing (including print fake notes), and the stable became prisons for Australian prisoners during the war, until Japan surrenders later.

Huge Bulb at the Negishi.

1945. During the occupation of Japan, General MacArthur discovered the printing machines inside. He uses it to print then 140.000 acts of capitulation redistributed throughout Japan. The Negishi was the internet of the time!

1947. The U.S. military claimed the entire complex, built a residential area and Negishi Grandstand was used as administrative offices. Of course it became a photography workshop as well (if you check my previous post). The area is known for a short period of time “Area X” before becoming”Negishi Heights”. There are some vintage photos on the site Yohidevils.

Death at the Negishi

1983. The territory of the “Negishi Heights” is finally returned to Japan. The ground floor of the building was used briefly as a bowling alley before being completely gutted and abandoned. The open area in front become a public park while behind the building located the naval base at Yokosuka. The Negishi Grandstand will probably remain there much longer, in the same condition. Only the vegetation covering the building little by little … and the mischievous spoiling the barbwire fence every now and then…

Coldness at the Negishi

The only mystery remains of Negishi Granstand now is the military past and its underground. According to a comment from Brian on Michael John Grist’s website, the basement is composed with a maze of galleries, one of which leads to a large room with two tightly shut gigantic metal doors that refuse any curious visits to the underground. In the others galleries, Brian even found many military gadgets. However, this story happened decades ago.

Faces at the Negishi

Of course, MJG went on an adventure, and attempted to visit these galleries, which, unfortunately, all end in a cul-de-sac. I did not confirm it myself  (I do not think I have more courage than MJG anyways). But if any of you are planning an adventure there, you can go check it out. I can let you know where the entrances are, they are no far from the Negishi Grandstand.

Switch at the Negishi

The basements surely sound interesting but what about the roof? We went to the top floor of all three towers, but access to the outside is always blocked by a thick chain and padlock. My ninja friend does have a hidden talent: he is also a locksmith! After an hour of hard work, one of the locks finally gave in. Clang! The hatch door opened! We can now get on the deck! But to go out during daylight is out of the question, unless you want the police to pick you up straight away.

The Room at the Negishi

This is a good long morning spent at Negishi Grandstand. The building is large but not enough to justify more than 10 hours of photography. Now time stops and boredom arrives, the cold penetrates me slowly. I try to stay close to a window where the sun beams, but in vain. I try to play with the imagination that it is warmer in some parts of the building, a way to warm up by the force of the spirit… I look at my watch constantly … time has really stopped! When can we finally get out? I can always hear the voices, the activities outside, and I really started to dread for our departure later tonight …

I’ll try to make you experience those long hours waiting with photos and then cinemagraphs.

Cinemagraph - The Negishi Fan

A fan with a single vane…

Mono fan at the Negishi


Cinemagraph, Waiting for the Dusk

Every detail was focused…

Fuses at the Negishi

In hopes of seeing a ghost …

Cinemagraph - The Negishi Ghost

About 18:30, the sun finally started to hide. We will now be able to enjoy the view from the rooftop and then go home: this is exciting! Here we go, go directly onto the eighth floor, through the seventh …

7th Floor Lift at the Negishi

… where there is a door “DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE” which opens directly onto the military base …

Danger High Voltage at the Negishi

… and here we are. Not much to see on the way, except the elevator motors, a strange empty jar, and … a swastika. What is swastika doing there? Surely it is not a religious swastika, but it is not for fascists either. Could it be dated back to World War II,when the Japanese were still occupying the building?

The Lift Engine of the Negishi

We climbed the ladder…

Red Window at the Negishi

Ladder of the roof of the Negishi

Here we are, on the roof of Negishi Grandstand! Great joy: there are fewer people around, and the military base seems more or less asleep. Gradually, as the time passes, you feel more comfortable, and you can look around a little more freely. There are always people walking their dogs and some others jogging. We need to escape between those people. It is not safe enough yet, so we enjoyed the view… for a long time.

Night View Roof of the Negishi

There are stunning views of the Landmark Tower of Yokohama and its surroundings. Great! I would love to go to the Landmark Tower and take an opposite photo. Later, perhaps.

Yokohama Landmark Tower seen from the Negishi

We have to go now. The ninja takes care of everything perfectly, locked up the padlock, and then closed all doors… It is as if nobody ever came. What a weird day. We are now outside the building, hidden in a hole near the entrance. Over there, on the other side of the fence, there is life, something real. I long to be outside, but I am still wondering.

Negishi - Sanitary Condition

Negishi - The Exit, The End

I go first. I move slowly under the surveillance camera, I approach the barbed wire… My god, it will not be easy! I try to pull myself up, but I could only get close the damn barbed wire that is ready to slide me open any minute. I jump, trying to catch the wire without getting cut, and I rise lowly, trying to reach the top of the fence. There is just a space between the fence and barbed wire and it is the only place where I can support myself up to pass over the wire. Carefully, I attempted, but slash! I f**ked up my hands! Sh*i! This is simply  impossible! And How can I make it with this bag on your back? The blood rushes to my head, my heart beats at 100 miles an hour. And there I see an old lady in front of me,on the other side, watching me, looking bewildered. Yes, I must look like a wounded but bury animal… so I stood there, watching her for a few seconds. I just want some help. Let me out of here! But what could she do anyway?

She is scared. She turns and walks away as fast as she can. I hope she will not go to the koban (police station). It is better to hurry! Immediately, without hesitation, I swing my bag over the fence and start climbing the barbed wire as fast as I can, by pure instinct. It is impossible to do it the ‘right’ way now. My jeans and my jacket are caught on the barbwire, ripped open, the feathers inside the down jacket is flying around… I found one of my legs caught in wire as well, the other leg was free .. but what am I doing here!?!? Hung like a beast!?!? I use force to free myself, and my jeans tear open completely. I fall to the ground head first, my hands covering my heads. Bravo! What a happy ending! My hands, arms and legs all covered in blood and feathers, my jeans shreded!

I returned quickly to help my ninja friend, who look all these bags. He tossed those bags over the fence, I had to receive them with my injured hands. Then he started climb, almost with ease… in any case without injury… incredible. I should have let him go first to fetch a ladder.

Negishi - Yokohama Matrix

We return to the car, and immediately drove to a local pharmacy. I show my hands to the pharmacist to explain that I want something to disinfect them. I did not venture to show my arms and legs as well. Astonished, she asks me: “But what did you do?” I answered simply by “fixing my car!” I left the store with half of my jeans dragging on the floor… the lady was still staring at me in shock. What a victory! Going back for another visit? Out of the question! Tomorrow, I will go take the vaccinations against tetanus again. Sayonara, Negishi-san.

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  • great photos- love the swinging fan- never heard of cinemagraphs before, but a neat idea to give life to haikyo. sounds like a real infiltration too- harder even and more security than when I went

    • I’ve only heard about cinemagraphs recently, from a friend; he told me that I should really try with haikyo, which I did. I’m quite happy with whole proces and the results, even though it takes time and the gif quality is not very satisfying.

      At the time you went, was it the same annoying barbed fence all around? It seems the second barrier was way more hassle for you… but for me it was definitely the contrary. Climbing this spiky fence in an area with so many people passing by was my most difficult (and painful) haikyo experience. I wouldn’t even do it every once in a while, for sure…

  • OK this is your best one yet by far.  Superb composition and color, great photographs.  Looks like a great place.

    • Thanks a lot Ikumi! Please go there someday. But I don’t know if it worth it. It’s dangerous, and not many things to see inside… if you go, please take a ladder 🙂

  • I can’t believe, you really got inside the fence! But I enjoyed the photos very much. I wanted to see the inside of the grandstand. I heard that Yokohama was considering about making use of the building but I’m sure it’ll take some time. Thanks for the photos. Merci.

    • I was with the craziest explorer ever (the only one who went to Gunkanjima with his own little boat without knowing what is was facing…) and I didn’t have much choice but to get inside 😉 Yes, they should really use this building but meanwhile, it’s a fantastic landmark for the public park. I’m sure they will take care of it very well 🙂

  • hi mate, i`m designing a website for a lift company and i found your pictures very inspiring and i was just wondering if i can use some of them in my project. please contact me

  • super cool pics and post. grew up playing at the grandstand. 1969-78. we have many pics of us running around the stairs and inside. i never knew how old it was but we loved it there and appreciated the grandeur of the building. what a majestic piece made by humans! i wish i could raise the funds to restore it to become a museum. thanks for the beautiful pictures and fun read.

    • Hello Josephine! Thanks a lot for visiting this page, and I imagine you’ve seen the other one as well. Somebody else was really interested in this article and lived next to this building before. We talked and decided to create a Facebook Page about it… but time passed and I didn’t do anything. Your comment today reminded me that I had to do it! You can find the page here: https://www.facebook.com/negishi.racecourse. Would you like to contribute with your old photos? That would be really awesome…

  • Wow, I love the old Grandstand. It is such an amazing building! I was awestruck the first time I saw it. I wanted to know the history. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Best story ever!!! And awesome pictures as well! ^.^ I even felt your desperation in your narration while exiting the place! What an adventure! I don’t think I would’ve dared to go in there myself nor to climb-up such dangerous fence! Glad you got the vaccine and great pictures; you’ll have may adventures to tell in your life! ^.~