Hachijō Oriental Resort Hotel (八丈島)
The largest hotel on Hachijō-jima is a grand-looking structure, which tried to emulate some of the palatial glory of French Baroque architecture. It underwent several name changes over the years —the Hotel Royal, the Pricia Resort— settling on the name Hachijō Oriental Resort Hotel before finally going under in 2006.
The island itself is probably most famous as a diving spot, or for its neighbouring island Hachijō Kojima (八丈小島) which was used as the setting for Battle Royale. Hachijō-jima has been on my radar for a few years as a destination to explore. As several other explorers have made it there before me, I didn’t anticipate any surprises but was given a few unpleasant ones.
Most ruins have suffered a fair amount of vandalism: broken windows, kicked-in doorways and the like. This hotel is weather-beaten but the insides have managed to remain intact, and because of this there is almost no ventilation. In cooler seasons this probably wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but in the peak of summer it makes the ruin disgusting. Burn-your-clothes-afterward disgusting. This was a really unhealthy enclosed space with mould on a scale I never wanted to see, and some rooms so pungent I couldn’t bear to set foot in them —even with a face mask on. Despite all of these complaints, the size of the ruin gave me many areas to explore and kept me busy for several hours.
If you want to get caught or get noticed, then entering a ruin from the front gate is the easiest way to achieve that. Unfortunately, after doing a circuit of the hotel grounds by car the front gate was the best option. There were several trucks toward the rear of the grounds, in charge of security or maintenance perhaps. As the sun blazed down I made my way very openly through the overgrowth and searched for an entrance. To my surprise, all doors and all windows were tightly sealed shut. I hadn’t actually been given a challenge like this for a while. I managed to find an obscure way in, but it left me very curious how other explorers had made their way inside.
About an hour into the jaunt I peered out the window and saw exactly what I didn’t want to see, a security truck parked outside. Early Sunday afternoon wasn’t exactly a smart time to visit, but my time on the island was limited. I presumed my lucky streak of never being caught would continue, no matter where I went. Unsure if the guard was outside or already in the building and coming after me I had to think through my exit options. But with all major ground floor doors heavily sealed I had just one escape route —the front— and the security guard out front knew this. The idea of being dragged to the local police station was a considerable downer. It looked like I was finally getting my comeuppance after all these years of haikyo high jinks.
In addition, my bulky choice of footwear meant that on the hardwood flooring my footsteps could be heard throughout the building. The size of the building did have its advantages though. After 20 minutes or so had passed it seemed like no-one was on my tail, so I retreated to the upper levels of the hotel where I would be harder to find. The banquet room ‘Freesia’ had more to offer than the countless identical bedrooms, with its semi-functional piano, chandeliers and this dandy statuette. The lack of fresh air and the unrelenting heat was taking its toll on me though. I can safely say I’ve never sweated so much in my entire life.
From the higher levels I could get a better view of the statues situated to the right of the hotel, surrounded by considerable undergrowth. This is a statue of the industrious founder Eiji Yasuda and his beloved horse. The main pedestal has an inscription of Yasuda’s family tree.
An hour passed, and the security guard’s truck was still parked out front. He was obviously settled in for the day. I decided to at least get the satisfaction of making my way to the dome at the top, then leave the building and face the music. The upper levels were less than spectacular, and the coastal winds really made the ascent treacherous. The final pay-off, the inside of the dome failed to impress.
I made an uncomfortable exit, and sweated over my next move. Luckily for me the coast was inexplicably clear, and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to high tail it out of there. To avoid any more incoming vehicles I took a different path out of the grounds and safely made it back to my car.
There were several other areas left to explore and photograph, but I’d had more than enough foolhardy excitement for one day. Time to check into my hotel and have a long and thorough shower.
Alternative takes on Hachijōjima
Tomboy has an interesting and informative look at the hotel from the start of 2014.
One explorer managed to find the bust of a Roman emperor somewhere within the hotel grounds.
Yakumo’s haikyo blog explores some of the areas I didn’t make it to.