Last on our Iwate haikyo itinerary was Osarizawa mine, and while not exactly the most exciting haikyo to look at, it certainly had the most interesting adventure attached to it.
Pulling up to the entrance, which was right out in the open, MJG and I were greeted by rain. I suppose after so many successful, uninterrupted haikyo, we'd gotten careless in our approach, cocky even. Let me point out that most haikyo, though abandoned, are still private property, and most of them have signs warning you to keep out. When you enter these places, no matter how good your intentions are, you are won't have much legal ground to stand on if you should be caught by any security guards or police, which we were, and which I will get into in more detail in a minute. MJG and I made the newbie error of parking our car right in front of the entrance. If you want to do this kind of thing incognito, do yourself a favour and park your car somewhere else, preferably out of sight.
The entrance to the mine shaft. Out of all the abandoned mines we've been to, this is the first time we found the actual mine itself. A short tunnel ended in a shaft, filled with water, going way down. We hadn't brought our scuba gear and neither of us felt like taking a dip, so we left it alone. All humour aside, you'd be taking your life into your hands going down into any abandoned mine shaft. Keep your explorations to the outside only so you can haikyo again another day.
The mines had strange, aqua blue pools in front of them, no doubt filled with chemicals not designed to slake your thirst. In fact there were double barbed wire fences surrounding both of them.
I had to borrow this photo from MJG as I didn't get a chance to take my own. Two reasons prevented me, the first was the rain; I had lost my umbrella (used to shield my camera) so decided to wait until it stopped before getting my own shot. The second was getting ejected by security, leaving me no more time for photos.
Anyway thanks to MJG who graciously allowed me to use this photo.
I had decided to head up to the top of the hill first, then get pools shots on the way down. There was one building left standing up there which was in a state of severe deterioration, and which any landslide will surely sweep away.
A shot from the roof of the building (above picture). Being up here wasn't exactly the safest place to be. But the view was grand.
The only problem with being up here is that you are very exposed to the surrounding countryside, which, including our parking job, is probably what got us caught in the end.
The buildings below were 'live' and a couple of times we saw cars pull in to it, and people get out. I was wearing a bright orange raincoat, and MJG was wearing a bright blue t-shirt, so we weren't exactly camouflaged up here. While scuttling slowly back down the steep, rocky hillside, a bus pulled into the same parking lot that we'd parked in, and three people; an older guy, a young woman and teenage boy, got out and began walking towards our general position. It was cinch that they'd seen us, but we made a futile effort to hide anyway. I sat behind a few large rocks and MJG behind a clump of bushes.
They kept on coming though, and we could hear them talking. They seemed to be laughing, and for a while we thought they were just haikyoists as well, but they kept on waiting, and waiting. Finally MJG said 'screw this' and walked down to meet them. It was pretty obvious by this time that they were waiting for us to come out. I heard snatches of conversation, while I made my own way down. MJG told them we were just taking pictures to which the older guy said 'Dame dame!' (No, not allowed!). I did hear a bit of laughter though so I thought maybe we weren't in trouble after all.
Behind the buildings in the right of the picture below is where the bus pulled in, and where we parked. You can also see the two pools in the distance, my only shot of them.
By the time I got down, the three people had already gotten back on the bus, and MJG had come up to meet me, where he promptly told me that they worked in the complex next door, and that we had to pay a fine of 1000 yen as well as get on the bus where we would be taken to some security center.
We both agreed that getting on the bus would be a bad idea, as they would have complete power over us at that point. Walking up to the bus window I asked the questions that MJG had already confirmed.
'Yes you have to get on this bus, no you can't take your car, leave it here, yes you have to come to security to answer some questions and pay a fine.'
They already knew we could both speak some Japanese so it was too late to play the dumb gaijin card. We tried to find out how long it would take to get there, how long we'd have to stay and how we'd get back to our car again, but the answers from the older security guy were gruff, vague and unsatisfactory, making me doubly afraid to get on this bus and perhaps never see our rental car again. Meanwhile the kid and woman in the back of the bus were giggling and grinning at us, making the whole scene quite surreal.
Running out of excuses, MJG then mentioned we had to be back in Morioka to catch our train, and for some reason these seemed to be the magic words as he suddenly relented, and almost looked relieved to have a decent excuse to be rid of us.
'Alright you can go but don't come back again as this place is dangerous.'
And with a quick thank you we left before he could change his mind.
Well we'd blundered, but we'd gotten away with it yet again. A lesson learned. So are the haikyo days over? Not likely. As the old saying goes, 'You can take the haikyoist out of the haikyo, but you can't take the haikyo out of the haikyoist.
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
Haikyo and Cosplay
Pearl Love Hotel
Nichitsu Ghost Town
Welcome to the Hotel Nagano
Izu Sports World
Haikyo! Ruins in Japan