Like the Rekio Hotel and Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel I visited some years back this building was another casualty of the Okinawa Expo construction boom. The structure was built on a previously uninhabited island, known to the locals as ‘Dolphin Island’. Several decades of weathering have taken their toll on the structure, washing away almost everything that could be used to identify it. Nobody seems to remember the name of the building either; the only scraps of information remaining are a fragment of an address (2319), and the rumour that the building was never completed. So what kind of business could they have built on a tiny island like this? I could only rule out one possibly, it definitely wasn’t a hotel …
The reliably unreliable weather forecast predicted several inches of snow and temperatures as low as -8 degrees for my little excursion out into the mountainous countryside. Traveling far afield purely to document ruins feels a little redundant these days —hence the long absence— but the prospect of a weekend enjoying hot springs in a sleepy countryside town was very attractive. And I had the feeling that there might be a couple of ruins to explore somewhere along the way. What I did find, strolling around the city centre was an abundance of snack bars. In case you don’t know, Japanese snack bars are cheaply decorated box rooms made for even cheaper thrills; conversation with an aging beauty over an overpriced beverage. Unlike hotels, abandoned snack bars are always firmly locked up, with very few exceptions. So despite having found dozens of deserted bars over the years, I’d never actually made my way inside.
This is the final adventure from my Tochigi road trip last January, a pair of love hotels in such bad condition that they’re both sinking into the ground and falling to pieces at the same time. I really had to watch my step. It was a lucky day for discoveries. The long drive home from Tochigi saw us making several unexpected stops as we stumbled upon a cluster of abandoned buildings.
The BE Laboratory was a good chance to show a curious friend around his first ruin, and for me to get back into the swing of things after six months of jishuku. Visiting the ruins of a laboratory in Japan is a potentially awe-inspiring prospect. I’ll have to go further afield to find one though, as Atami’s BE Laboratory is a misleading misnomer. The lab is actually a rather plain lodge, the likes of which have been found in ruins in many different prefectures throughout Japan. The ‘Basic Encounter Training’ lab —to give its full name— has quite an interesting history though, one which is often glazed over, as the ruin itself is nothing special.
Months before the quake, and weeks before Tokyo saw its first snowfall of the season we began our Tochigi road trip. Innocently driving through the countryside and enjoying the most minor tourist attractions imaginable. One of which, a viewing platform halfway up a mountain gave us a chance to stop for a while and take in the expansive view of the surrounding area. Just over the hill, as the snow started to come down in earnest I spotted what would be my first ‘stumble upon’ ruin of the trip.