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Haikyo / Ruins Haikyo! (Searching for Ruins in Japan)
(Entered Jan. 04, 2008)
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This is an idea that's been tossed around for years now but last weekend UK Mike, Jason and I finally made all the talk a reality with our first 'haikyo' adventure. What is haikyo? It translates to 'ruins' in Japanese but we use it like a verb, and think of it more in terms of 'searching and exploring abandoned places and buildings'. For example:
'What did you do last weekend?'
Oh, I went haikyoing around Gunma and Saitama.'

Mike and the hand statue in Kappa Pier

I've always been fascinated by old, abandoned buildings. I guess it started when I was a kid and my friend John and I found some abandoned old shacks out in the middle of the woods near his cottage. Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. This trip would never have happened if it wasn't for UK Mike. He was the one who really talked it up the most and a week or so ago, he went out and bought a haikyo book which listed the top 200 haikyo spots in Japan, along with (not so detailed) maps and information. Again the trip still might not have happened if it wasn't for Jason, who went out and rented a car for us, and drove us there and back, something which Mike and I have no real experience doing.
Day 1
With limited time available to us, we chose a number of spots within a day's drive of Tokyo and headed out early Friday morning. Jason and Mike went and picked up the car while I sacrificed 40 minutes of my life to get a box of 12 Krispy Kreme doughnuts to make the trip more comfortable. We made pretty good time on the roads and reached our first destination in Gumna, an abandoned theme park called Kappa Pier, about 2 hours later. Although it didn't say exactly when, Mike's haikyo book warned us that the park was slated for demolition sometime in the future, so we headed there hoping for the best. Sure enough when we arrived the park was fenced off, with a small construction crew digging holes, clearing junk away, etc. However we didn't drive all that way just to be deterred so easily. Without hesitating, we drove through the entrance in the fence, past the construction crew, parked the car near the only building still standing (some abandoned resthouse), and got out for a look around. At first we tried to hide from the demolition guys, but as it became clear that they seemed to be ignoring us, we became bolder, walking wherever the hell we pleased. Unfortunately for us though, the coolest stuff like the rollercoaster and haunted house were all torn down. We had a good time exploring the stuff that was left though.
The bridge to nowhere, from nowhere.

The bridge to and from nowhere

An old cafeteria dining hall.

abandoned cafeteria hall

No forgotten bills squirreled away here unfortunately...

old cash register

The wave pool hasn't been working for a while...

abandoned wavepool

Please don't turn the water back on! (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)

Me, Mike and Jason in wavepool jail

After a while though our luck ran out. Suddenly one of the crew came up to us and told us (fairly politely) that we'd have to leave. Having seen everything there was to see, we didn't really mind and headed back to the entrance only to find that the gate we had entered through was closed. Meanwhile the guy who told us to leave had scuttled off, most likely not wanting to associate with a bunch of foreigners who had no business being there, so we weren't really sure what to do next. Had they called the police and were keeping us inside? Did we have to go and talk to the foreman and apologize or something? Mike and I decided to do just that and while Jason kept the car running, we knocked and opened the door of their shack/office trailer. Mike took the lead; apologizing for coming in, trying to explain that we were university students making a documentary (only half true) and please could we leave? The foreman, a crusty old bald guy, shouted at us to shut up, and (something something) which I couldn't quite get, but it was pretty obvious that help wouldn't be coming anytime soon. Not knowing quite what to do we shut the door, returned to the car and pulled up to the closed gate thinking we'd try to open it ourselves. Suddenly the gate was opened from the outside by some worker coming on duty. As we drove by, the puzzled, slackjawed look on the guy's face as he tried to reason out why three foreigners would be driving out of his construction site was beyond priceless.
It was still early afternoon so we got back on the road and headed to the next location on our list, an abandoned volcano museum deep in Northeastern Gunma. The drive took us through a lot of winding mountain roads and by chance, we happened upon an abandoned tunnel.

endless tunnel

This being a haikyo trip we naturally stopped for a better look. Its purpose, if it ever had one, was unclear. Their was no road, only a dirt path that stretched on into the darkness and had no visible ending. There was also a box of rotting apples at the entrance which lent to the overall strangeness of the scene. Of course we had to walk down a bit to see where it went. Mike took the lead, then Jason, then me, hanging back a bit nervously as the tunnel was so black it sucked up the light of our flashlights, especially my puny little Maglite.
Here's Mike and Jason ahead of me, walking into utter blackness.

utter blackness

We walked on for about 5 minutes until the light at our end was just a dot. Still nothing inside and no sign of any exit. Suddenly Mike shouted something, 'run' I think it was, and we all started running for the entrance. I knew he was just having a laugh, but I wasn't about to let either of them get ahead of me so I ran as well. However just before the entrance the adrenaline of the moment overcame me. I tripped and fell in a pile of leaves, and wondered if, like in a bad horror movie, this was the part where a big tentacle would reach out from the darkness and proceed to dismember me. Guess it didn't as I'm writing this now.
We calmed down and got back on the road again for the museum, and arrived there around 3pm. There it is in the middle with the volcano in the background. Besides some great abandoned places the trip also gave us some amazing scenery.

Abandoned museum and volcano

We tried to walk to the museum from a temple down the road, but the path that we thought would lead us there ended up going off somewhere into the mountains. Driving up to a better walking point, we were dismayed to once again find people working around a regular, non-abandoned building just below the museum. Once again we weren't going to be put off though, and this time we weren't interrupted.
Here I am, about to cross the barrier to what would be, at least in my mind, the pinnacle of our first haikyo trip.

Mike and abandoned museum

Deep in the mountains in winter, in an abandoned building, it is absolutely silent. What is fascinating in the daytime would definitely be unnerving at night....

Lots of broken glass

Along with some interesting artwork pictured below, the museum had a large storage room filled with interesting stuff, just left behind and forgotten.... (Photo courtest of Jason Collin)

Volcano art

The museum had four floors and an observation deck. Here we are posing for a shot with the mountains framed behind us. (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)


Suddenly we found ourselves topless! (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)


Real men don't need shirts in the winter. (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)

Real men don't wear shirst in the winter

Hungry and a bit tired from our day of adventuring, we headed for the comforts of the Toyoko Inn in Takasaki to recharge ourselves for the next day where we planned to head to an abandoned mining town in Saitama.
Day 2
Rain, snow, roads closed due to avalanches, and a malfunctioning car navigator all tried their best to keep us from our destination, but we were not to be denied. We reached the abandoned mining town in the middle of the afternoon after a good 4-5 hour drive and the first thing we saw was a fenced off old school over an old rusty bridge. Haikyoing doesn't get much better than this!

abandoned school over and old rusty bridge

A little bit of basketball amid the leaves and refuse anyone? (My camera battery died soon after this shot leaving me to rely on Jason's pics from here on.)

Abandoned basketball

The school was massive for being in the middle of nowhere. This mining town must've had a serious population when the mine was running as there were at least 20 classrooms, a lot of them filled with books, paper, toys and various other educational-like junk. Did everyone just up and leave at the same time or did they drift away slowly? Here I am signing my name on a blackboard filled with what seemed to be earlier haikyoer's graffiti. (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)

abandoned school graffiti

There were a few pianos scattered around the school, and most of the keys still worked. Anyone know how to play this song? (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)

Abandoned piano

Here's an empty classroom with an artistic touch to it, yet something vaguely disturbing as well.... (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)

Disturbing empty classroom

Like I said before there was a whole town that had been abandoned, but for some reason photographic evidence petered out after the school. Before it got dark we managed to search through a whole slew of abandoned apartment buildings, each one filled with a huge assortment of personal belongings. It's pretty bizarre actually when you think about it. Why wouldn't people take their stuff with them when they leave? We found blankets, books, kitchen utensils, in fact pretty much everything a person would need to live (except money). So what happened? It's easy to imagine something bizarre and frightening like a mass suicide or alien abduction when you're standing there. Unfortunately we didn't have time to take in the whole town. Apparently the highlight of the place is an abandoned doctor's office complete with medical samples, syringes, scissors, etc. However due to tiredness, flagging interest and gradually failing daylight, we decided to head back to Tokyo.
And so ends our first great haikyo adventure.



Gankutsu Rock Hotel
Queen Chateau Soapland
Abandoned Ski Lodge
Colour and Concrete
Mt. Asama's Volcano Museum
Fined in the Mine
If You Build It, They Will Leave
The Haikyo of Living Precariously
Seikoshi Gold Mine
Sports World Redux
BE Labs
Haikyo and Cosplay
Pearl Love Hotel
Nichitsu Ghost Town
Welcome to the Hotel Nagano
Cement Factory
Russian Village
Izu Sports World
Free Entertainment!
Haikyo! Ruins in Japan
All Entries

Tripbase Blog Awards 2009
Tripbase Blog Awards 2009


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