Haunting Haikyo: 7 Abandoned Wonders of Japan

Haikyo is the Japanese term for ‘ruins’ and intimates infiltration and exploration of the country’s abandoned places, of which there are many. The economic highs and lows of the past century have produced abandonments that are every bit as colorful and fascinating as the nation’s culture, from love hotels with genitalia-shaped rock gardens and ghost clinics full of human body parts in jars to a concrete tower deemed the world’s most perfect anti-zombie fortress.

Not So Sexy: Abandoned Love Hotels

Japan is famous for its ‘love hotels,’ places where busy parents, people carrying out illicit affairs and anyone who’s just plain curious can pay by the hour for bizarre themed rooms, which might feature anything from a real Japanese bridge to a carousel or a human-sized cage. But inevitably, some of these hundreds of hotels are going to go under – and what’s left behind can be eye-popping. Take, for example, Fuurin Motel in the small town of Chiba. Documented (along with many other fascinating Japanese abandonments) by Haikyo.org, this ten-room love hotel is still strewn with beds shaped like carriages, statues of knights, gold-painted bath tubs and zen gardens full of penis-shaped rocks.

Human Organs in Jars at the Nichitsu Clinic

Nichitsu is a former mining village in Saitama Prefecture that was once home to 3,000 people in the 1960s, and is now completely abandoned, tucked away in a valley that’s often shrouded in fog, making its yawning, deteriorating architecture even more eerie. While the entire town is worth a look, it’s within the wooden walls of a relatively unassuming-looking clinic that real horrors can be found. The entire place is strewn not only with debris, furniture, x-rays and arcane-looking doctor’s tools, but jars of human body parts – including the ear seen above, tucked away under a fern leaf just outside. Urban explorers like French photography Jordy Meow, who took these photos, report that these jars are disappearing, apparently taken home by tourists as macabre souvenirs.

Meme-Worthy ‘Zombie Fortress’ Shime Tower

Looming above the landscape in all its ugly concrete glory, its face stained and its legs often covered in ivy, the abandoned Shime Tower has so much character, it’s become the subject of countless memes. It’s all that’s left of the abandoned Shime coal mine and has been decaying for the last half-century. The wisdom of The Internet has deemed it the greatest anti-zombie fortress ever and thus made it the subject of one amazing photoshopped image after the other, depicting it as a Transformer, an AT-AT and the last thing standing on the beach after the Planet of the Apes apocalypse. In reality, the tower completely dominates the entire town of Shime, but the citizens don’t seem to mind. They erected a playground at its base and even installed uplighting so it glows like some kind of dystopian castle after nightfall.

The Ghost ‘Battleship’ Island of Gunkanjima

It looks like a military warship from afar, but bring your boat a little closer and you’ll see that this decrepit collection of concrete off the coast of Nagasaki is actually an island. Gunkanjima, or ‘Battleship Island,’ is the nickname for Hashima Island, a dense abandoned metropolis once packed with 5,259 people. It started as a small reef, but when coal was discovered there in the 1800s, it was quickly developed and expanded. It was used as a mine from 1887 to 1974 and its concrete architecture was designed to withstand typhoons. The switch from coal to petroleum in Japan led the mine to close, and for decades, accessing it was forbidden. The public is now allowed to explore a limited range of the island as part of an official tour.

Gulliver’s Kingdom Abandoned Theme Park

A monumental statue painted in sun-bleached pastels reclines in the grass at the foot of Mount Fuji, its face covered in graffiti, in photos captured during the brief existence of Gulliver’s Kingdom. This theme park, located adjacent to Japan’s famous ‘suicide forest’ which reportedly has the world’s highest suicide rate after San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, opened in 1997 as part of an economic stimulus for the region. The park aimed to take advantage of the millions of tourists who visit Mount Fuji each year and seek other activities in the area.
The $350 million complex had financial troubles from the start, but it was the shadow cast by another unpleasant neighbor that might have ultimately led to the park’s closure in 2001. The nearby village of Kamikuishiki was the location of the nerve gas production facility used by the cult Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out deadly gas attacks on Tokyo subways and other locations in 1995. Locals complained, during the time that Gulliver’s Kingdom was in operation, that they could still smell the chemicals in the air. The park, along with its iconic 45-meter statue of a prone Gulliver, was totally demolished in 2007.

Hints of Future Human Ruins: Osarizawa Mine

The vaulted structures of the Osarizawa Mine give it the appearance of ancient ruins, and the pools of crystal-clear blue-green water seem temptingly refreshing. But you probably don’t want to dip your hand in. Those pools are almost certainly filled with run-off of toxic chemicals, the legacy of a gold and copper mine and smelting facility that closed down in 1978. The blue color comes from traces of malachite. The site is now owned by Mitsubishi, with guards that will apparently try to railroad anyone caught loitering into paying 1,000 yen to go on a bus tour, but there’s a good reason for that – the structures here are so damaged, they’re really quite dangerous. Osarizawa is just one of a number of abandoned mines in the Matsuo mountains of northeast Japan.

More Like Nightmares: Nara Dreamland Theme Park

Another abandoned theme park in Japan features an incredible wooden roller coaster that’s half-overgrown with ivy. Modeled on Disneyland and Coney Island, Nara Dreamland opened in 1961 and operated for decades, but the early enthusiasm of visitors began to fade, and by the time it closed in 2006 it had already been a virtual ghost town for quite some time. The park has been given over to nature, its future unclear. Guards patrol the grounds and extract heavy fines from any explorers they catch trespassing, and beyond that, there are cameras, sensors and alarms. But some photographers get through anyway.

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