The abandoned Nichitsu Mining Town sits cramped into a narrow valley at the head of a long and buckled road in the mountainous western edge of Saitama. It was once a thriving company town with hundreds of families, the women staying at home in their rickety timber apartments, the children at the large wooden high school, and the men down in the mines digging for tin. But that was at least 20 years ago- since then the town has been relentlessly pounded by avalanches and ravaged by decay. All around the buildings stand with their roofs and walls caved in, reeds shot through floorboards and decking, swingsets and see-saws over-awed by brambles and flurries of fallen leaves.
Up in the mountainous north-west corner of snowy Gunma prefecture, at the foot of the once-active volcano Mt. Asama, lies a beautifully weathered abandoned volcano museum. Ruptured by avalanche scree and scoured by the harsh winter winds rushing down the valley, it stands as a lone sentinel guarding the jagged granite slopes leading up to the volcano’s cone. Its paintwork has all flaked away revealing the white bone of plaster and the black of slate-brick, its windows and railings lie in broken shards at its feet, dislodged in the earthquake tremors shot out by the great dormant volcano it rests upon.
The Kappa Pia Theme Park in Saitama prefecture was in the process of being demolished when I went to see it. The grand rusted roller-coasters, creaking tea-cup rides, teddy bear-winning sideshows and themed restaurants I’d hoped to see were all gone, leaving nothing but troughs of rumpled mud and occasionally a bare concrete platform with rust-pocked rivet marks where a ride had once been tied down. Now, any record of the park’s existence at all must be gone. I only wish I’d gone there sooner to see it in all its faded glory.
The other day I took a stroll over to Zoshigaya Cemetary, one stop down the Arakawa street-car line from where I live. I meant to only shoot photos, but soon realized that photos couldn’t do the scale of the place any justice, so I decided to take some footage instead.
After the success of our Arakawa River Ride, both Jason and I were chomping at the bit to get out and cycle-camp some more. Jason was keen to hit up the Arakawa again, whereas I wanted to try something new: the Tama river.