Back to Sagamiko

I got up at the crack of dawn to visit Lake Sagamiko … a place I’d previously visited a few months earlier to see the Hotel Royale. Having been driven through the area on the way to Nagano in Golden Week I’d seen at least two places I knew were potentially worth a visit. After a long walk around the lake I found ‘Something’ … a snack bar which was most definitely abandoned, but not yet a ruin. 0 for 1.

The second place was the not so glorious remains of the Hotel Sagamiko. Like the last time I saw it, the doors were left wide open … what the hell? What I didn’t see the last time was a rather eager guard dog … who was very well-trained to attack & alert the neighbours about intruders.

I managed to get into the back of the hotel after scaling down a nearby mountainside and going in the rear entrance. I could see each room was cleaned out or left in a mess but hadn’t been allowed to become dilapidated. It seemed like some builders were being paid to indefinitely hotel-sit until the owner got enough money to refurbish it. Quickly after I entered, the rear door slammed shut and the dog was off again. I attempted to escape out the back, but it was too overgrown to make a hasty exit. Metres away someone’s mobile phone started chirping … so I had to make a dash for it out of the front. 0 for 2.

After making a not so subtle exit I started a long walk along the main road. I found a creepy looking set of abandoned but empty apartments, then continued a long walk off with no particular direction in mind. After 2 hours of random, mapless exploration I entered what looked like an interesting place.

“Jehovah No!” exclaimed the first of many, many signs up around the village. I couldn’t read anything else on the signs other than ‘Jehovah’ so I was intrigued as to what the hell was going on.

I’ve wasted days wandering around in search of real Haikyo discoveries so I was relieved to have at last find something. A ‘Pension’ (ペンション) house from what I’ve learned is a kind of summer house with school and or club activities. I haven’t seen this house in a book before … it was a genuine surprise to walk up the hillside and see this grand house surrounded by a mass of unfinished scaffolding. Entrance to the main building was easy. But most of the rooms had been cleared out … and a few objects aside there were few things of interest. Almost everything that was in the house had been moved outside.

Some rooms suffered from some kind of infestation, so I headed on up to the room to find a mini golf area. There was suddenly quite an increase in the passing human traffic … were they coming to see what I was doing … or was I ok? I usually get the jitters doing this alone, so I moved outside to document the stacks of abandoned objects.

I’m a light guy, so I felt confident the old scaffolding wouldn’t be a problem. Putting one foot almost immediately clean through the floor taught me otherwise. I could scramble back up, but it became clear this was genuinely trecherous. The slow trickle of passerbys however become an entire … school. What luck. There was a high school way up the on the hillside … and almost every single student walked by the house shouting “What the fuck! There’s a strange guy over there!” or words to that effect. I had more than 20 minutes of that to put up with, but the interesting collection of objects outside made up for it.

What was to become of the scaffolding adjacent to the trashed car park is a mystery. The ramps for going up and down were too weak to traverse … so I had to find alternate ways of getting around. I managed to move around without injuring myself on the day … but it has to be said this is a pretty unstable place to go exploring. Some areas outside I didn’t attempt to go to for my own safety, but I managed to take enough shots to be satisfied.

After leaving the Pension House I ventured back into the village and asked an old man about the Jehovah signs. He was a man of few words, but he explained that there were a Jehovah’s Witness’ building in their peaceful village. I know the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t popular as such but in a country that’s ok with a group like soka gakkai, are they really so bad? Japan is a pretty tolerant place … so to see signs saying “Jehovah’s GET OUT” with skulls on it is quite shocking. That was it for the day. I think I walked around 7 hours in total and my bones are still aching. Crazy I know, but you never know what surprises are in store out there.


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