|Haikyo! (Searching for Ruins in Japan)||(Entered Jan. 04, 2008)
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:
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.
An old cafeteria dining hall.
No forgotten bills squirreled away here unfortunately...
The wave pool hasn't been working for a while...
Please don't turn the water back on! (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)
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.
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.
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 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.
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....
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)
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)
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.
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.)
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)
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)
Here's an empty classroom with an artistic touch to it, yet something vaguely disturbing as well.... (Photo courtesy of Jason Collin)
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.
If You Build It, They Will Leave...