9 months ago I tried – and failed – to enter a trail of abandoned tunnels which were part of the Atami/Tokaido lines in Kanagawa. I got lost in the wilderness, wasted a rare day off, and had absolutely nothing to show for it. Lesson learned. Even with all my previous conquests, there were some challenges I just wasn’t prepared for.
On the edge of a peninsular cliff in Kanagawa lies a curious ruin of which almost nothing is known about. It’s difficult to believe that it was intended to be a barbecue restaurant, but that’s the only theory floating around at this point. What is clear is that the building was never finished, and that in the intervening years a new kind of resident has settled in. Impossible to spot with either Google Maps or Google Earth, I took a chance to venture out and see if this ruin was still standing.
‘The Hawaii of Japan’ has a nice ring to it, which is why several islands —including Hachijō-jima— have laid claim to it. Sadly Hachijō-jima has a lot more to offer urban explorers than it does your average tourist these days. I underestimated how difficult some of the ruins on this hit list would be to reach. The main circuit around the island is a comfortable drive, but turn off that road toward the coast and you’ll be forced to drive down some pretty scary roads. The Kokusai Kankō Hotel however can be seen on the horizon from miles away, and is the only multi-storey building on this part of the southern shoreline.
After the previous days’ disgusting adventure at the Hachijō Oriental Resort Hotel I really wasn’t in the mood for any more urban or rural exploration. I’d attempted to enter this place before checking in to my hotel, and had been put off by numerous cars parked around the site and a couple of guys scoping it out. It seemed like a pretty active site, and from the pictures I’d seen, another treacherous one.
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.
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.
This architectural oddity caught my eye whilst driving to a nearby onsen town along a torturously long road in the Tochigi countryside. From my split-second glimpse at it I didn’t think it was abandoned, just a local curiosity at best. On the return trip, I spotted it again and convinced my wife to pull over so I could check it out. The area was now completely dark, with the exception of a couple of bunkers with vending machines in the forecourt. Upon closer inspection of the W shaped house… the dumped sofa near the entrance, the overgrown foliage, fixtures falling off … this odd little thing was as abandoned as they come. (more…)
In the dying days of the Old West Amusement Park its Long Horn Saloon continued to host a ‘Wild West Show’ for its steadily dwindling audience. Japanese blogger Arakawa recalls the American actors putting on a horse riding, guns blazin’ performance to a crowd of twenty, in a stadium build for two hundred people. Crowds or no crowds they had to put on a show. Outlaws rode into town, captured members of the audience and were safely rescued by the heroic Sheriff (on crutches no less). The stuntmen staged bar fights and shoot-outs, with one outlaw taking a perilous fall from the top of the tower pictured above (onto the now-visible green mattress). Looking at other bloggers posts it’s amazing to see the areas I didn’t have access to: an old-time bar, barber shop, jailhouse … and a teddy bear museum with a twenty-foot tall bear!