The haunting ruins of Sports World

June 3, 2008 · Haikyo, Izu, Theme Parks 

The Sports World haikyo occupies an idyllic position at the crown of the Izu peninsula, overlooking a wide swathe of richly forested mountains and valleys. In its heyday it was a sports and relaxation haven, featuring tennis courts, miniature golf, a dive pool, restaurants, a hotel, a huge wave pool, a spa, and a gym. It was abandoned in 1993 as the economic bubble burst, and has lain untended for 15 years. Now its many tennis courts are visited only by skateboarders and grafitti artists, up-turned cars line its once broad thoroughfares, its wave pool is coated with red rust and algae and its golf course is a jungle of overgrown palm trees.

Sports World Hotel.

I went to Sports World at night, intending to camp overnight and explore the following day. I arrived at nearby Izunagaoka station around 10pm, then spent over an hour walking. I had decided not to use taxis, on the off-chance the driver realized I was intending to trespass and notified the police. Also- because the long approach of walking serves to better sever me from normal reality, readying me to plunge into the depths of the ruins more fully alone.

Arriving at the old Sports World it was very dark. I easily slipped through the first barricade and walked along the moon-swept empty car park. At the ticket gates there were barbed wires strung across the front, but I could easily slip underneath them even in the dark.

Approaching the ticket booths.

Rust, and silence.

Bus stop chairs being digested by the jungle.

Once people waited in line under these ‘canopies’.

The view of Izu’s beautiful mountains they enjoyed.

Inside the gates looking out.

The entrance to the Games Center was veiled in darkness. There were stars visible in the sky, which never happens in Tokyo. I meandered around the front for a time, trying to decide the best entrance option. I wanted to head for the mini-golf course, thinking it would be a good open place to camp. I walked by graffiti-covered walls, ruined cars, one flipped on its roof, and down a long open road covered over with grass and weeds. To my left the golf course, completely overgrown.

I experimented with my flash-light. I wore it on my head, but this too severely limited my vision to only where I was looking, the brightness dimming out any peripheral sense I might have. Also I worried that a flashlight would only draw attention to me. I never worry about ghosts or monsters when in a haikyo. I only worry about meeting mad people. Why would anybody be in a place like that at a time like that? Either they’re a tourist like me, or those kind of places are their natural habitat, as a murderer or madman. So I turned the flashlight off for the most part, and went back to holding it in one hand, so I was better able to distance myself from it’s light and retain some peripheral vision when it was on.

There was light enough from the moon to get by. I reached the bottom of the park, the big wave pools, and decided to head up to check out the hotel. The path was completely overgrown, so I had to push my way through. At times I thought I heard voices, and froze. At other times there was a strange pig-like grunting noise coming from the end of the biggest wave-pool. I hurried on.

At the top I came into another parking lot, and headed into the first hotel room I saw. I didn’t leave again. It had a chain bolt and I put it on immediately, then went through the room, about 30 square meters, immaculate, clean, and checked the glass screen door. It had been smashed at the lock, to gain entry in the first place I surmised, but was still able to slide closed and lock.

I was amazed at how well-preserved the room was. Apart from some shards of glass by the screen door and a few dead cockroaches, it looked exactly as it must have 15 years ago, when it was left behind. The bathroom was sparkling, the toilet paper in a neat triangle, the toilet with a paper welcome sign on it, the complimentary toothbrushes and shampoos all in place. In the main room the TV sat with its remote controls neatly aligned beside it.

I enjoyed the wonderful moon-lit view of distant mountains, the complex’s central lake, and the ghostly silhouettes of the other hotel blocks around me for some time. Slowly though, as I spent more time inside with the light on, more time silent, unmoving, and alone, the stillness of the place crept into me. There was some fear, prompting me to bolt the screen door, draw the curtains, and drag chairs and tables in front of the entrances. But there was mostly sadness, that the place was empty, and also sadness that I was there alone, as if the place wanted more people, more life, more color. I was just a single tourist though.

I went to sleep, and dreamed of my room being broken into by people I knew, and our adventures in the ruins.

The next day dawned glorious. I opened my curtains wide to a spectacular mountain view and the overgrown jungle of old golf course, lake, and hotel, all bathed in bright hot sunlight. I stepped out onto the balcony with my tripod to take photos and film of the place.

As I panned across though, I spotted a man in a blue uniform and cap striding along on the far side. (opening photo is a shot from my room).  I immediately thought- the place is alive, he’s a security guard and he’ll come kick me out. I stared at him for a moment, unsure of what to do and not wishing to draw attention to myself by retreating back into my room. Eventually I ducked, and watched him walk away through a hole in the rail.

I didn’t see him again, but I laid low after that for a while. I ate my breakfast, then left the hotel room.

I fought my way back down the tangled paths. At the wave pools I dallied and looked around the creeper-covered restaurants.

One tangled path.

Wave pool sign, over a sea of green.

In a corner of the complex where the outer fence met a small road, a girl came in through a hole cut in the fence.  I had my tripod set up to take a photo of a solitary cash register. She crept through the hole with a camera in her hand. I smiled and said ‘hello’ in Japanese. She said hello back, then asked me if it was ok to come in and take some photos. I said- sure. She went on past me.

After that, my fear of the security guard issue went away. If she was here, and so bold to enter right before my eyes, there was clearly no problem with security.

I walked up the main thoroughfare, stopping to look into the dive pool on the right. Back up at the Games Center back-lot I saw the girl again, on some kind of modeling photo shoot with 3 friends. It was strange, we didn’t say anything to each other, just regarded each other curiously then moved on.

I went through the offices, over the tipped-up car, through the game center, and into the sheltered BBQ area, which was beautifully overgrown inside.

Checking out directions on the main thoroughfare.

Grafitti courtyard, once a spot for golf carts to idle.

Nearby was a tipped-up golf-cart, its innards exposed to the sky. For some reason I didn’t take a photo of that though.

Instead I took a picture of this smashed phone.

Just to the left of the golf-carts were the three ravaged cars. How did the far one come to be flipped? I have no idea. It’s an impossible place to get the speed up to flip it by turning. Someone must have done it manually, presumably a group. Rebelling employyes, angry at being sacked, perhaps?

Flip.

The jungle wants to drive.

Heavily sealed-off office.

I entered through the smashed window at left.

A lone chair speaks to memory, says, ‘oh yes, I hated sitting in the office doing accounting too.’

Many lone chairs say, ‘and meetings too, what a time suck.’

Connected to the office is the Game Center, wholly empty inside.

Another derelict car, this time at the front, back at the ticket gates.

Main entrance, ticket gates right, game center just beyond.

At left, the BBQ garden.

Cane chairs being inched back amongst their brethren.

A BBQ hall fit for the elves.

I returned to the main car park and swung round and back towards the hotel main entrance. On top was a restaurant with a wonderful view of the whole hotel complex. Underneath I found the gym and fitness center with working weights machines, the restaurant, and I walked the roof where the ‘security guard’ had been.

Atop the restaurant, looking back at the hotel rooms.

Looking right to the mountains.

Inside the gym.? Someone?s been writing on the mirrors. These bikes are definitely out of order so it might be time to use those Medifast coupons and Medifast coupon codes

Filthy pec-deck.

As I leave, looking out over the rusted lamps that once lit the car park.

And the mountains of Izu, now all that remains here after Sports World was destroyed.

Then I was finished. I left the place with a feeling of relief and also mixed sadness, that I wouldn’t be able to stay any longer.  I made a sad video of a walk-through of some of the ruins here:

I also made a cheerier video of out-takes:

And a video-story inspired by the emptiness I felt while staying overnight:

Status – Demolished

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Comments:
42 Responses to “The haunting ruins of Sports World
  1. Can says:

    Hey,
    Not a bad vid! I liked the music, but only until the guy started talking. By itself, the background humming lent a fairly scary atmosphere to it, kind of like a horror movie or something. Good effect! The talking though didn’t fit I thought.

    Kumi and I both laughed at the part where you were running in slow motion! hehe.

  2. MJG says:

    Hey, thanks Mike. That music, especially the talking, I’ve always wanted to see overlaid over post-apocalypse type imagery. I was thinking about doing my own voice-over too, maybe next time.

  3. tornadoes28 says:

    Great pics. I love your Haikyo posts. Lots of pictures and storylines. Is that Haikyo guidebook in english and where can you get it?

  4. tornadoes28 says:

    I just finished reading this post. What a great description. You explained exactly the way I feel these haikyo places are so interesting, because of the strange sadness of their forgotten state and the thought of how they used to be when they were full of people years ago. The places are very eerie due to the state they were left in, with so much stuff still there as if the people just up and left one day leaving everything behind.

    I suspected the reason so much stuff is left behind and my wife confirmed it that Japanese people don’t really like to buy used stuff. So all the used furniture and fictures and other stuff are just left there. In America, when a business goes bust, a bank or the owner will sell all the used stuff, a clearence sale. All the furniture, fixtures, etc. would be sold. American’s love bargaiuns like that.

    I would be freaked out a little too if I stayed there over night by myself. Where in Japan is Izunagaoka?

  5. MJG says:

    Hey Jon (tornadoes)- thanks for the comments, I’m glad the post resonated with you. It’s an interesting theory about why the stuff was just left behind. To add another idea into it- the reason the land hasn’t been bought back up and redeveloped- after the economic Bubble burst everybody was going bankrupt, all expansion stopped, and pie-in-the-sky projects like the Sports World were just left by the wayside as untenable, and too expensive to redevelop.

    The haikyo book is a great guidebook, with 100′s of haikyo including photos and maps, but sadly is only in Japanese. I only speak/read a little Japanese, so can’t get the full benefit of the book, just the basic information.

    Izunagaoka is in the top-left corner of Izu, the peninsula of land south-west of Tokyo. You can see it on Wikipedia here.

  6. Tom F says:

    I love this post. Inspirational

  7. Vince says:

    Where are the pictures of the models? I would have been totally distracted. Way to stay focused!

  8. Michael says:

    Love the blog. Loved the Sports Park it looks beautiful. Only found out about Haikyo late last year and have been wanting to explore a number of places here in Ibaraki, but I guess I’m just a little apprehensive to do it on my own. However, you mentioned a guide book. I was wondering the name of it and where I could buy it.

  9. MJG says:

    Vince- Ha! There was only one model though, and it would’ve been a bit creepy for them if I’d been snapping photos of them. I’m sure they were a bit worried/weirded out by me being there with my big camping bag anyway.

    Michael- Thanks a lot for the comment, the Sports World really was beautiful, especially the view you can briefly see in the video when I draw the curtains and there’s forested mountains all around, wide blue skies, and the abandoned park spread below me. That was a great moment- really took me by surprise as of course I hadn’t seen it the previous night, it was too dark.

    As for Haikyo in Ibaraki, did you see the Soapland I went to a few weeks back, in Mito: http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/2008/08/queen-chateau-soapland-haikyo-ibaraki

    The guidebook yes, I bought it in Junkudo, here’s a link to cover and ISBN info: http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/2007/11/nippon-no-haikyo-guidebook/

    If you find any other good haikyo in Ibaraki- please let me know!

  10. Joel says:

    I’ve been coming to your blog for months to look at these pictures and I’ve been meaning to comment and thank you for sharing them. They reignited my passion for exploring abandoned places but unfortunately, there is little in the way of abandoned buildings where I live( suburb of toronto in canada) as they’ve all been torn down. The image from the room you stayed in looking out over the overgrown bushes and trees sticks in my head, I would love to visit one of those places when i visit Japan. Please keep posting pictures of Haikyo you visit in the future! and thanks again!

  11. MJG says:

    Joel- Thanks for the great comment- that’s a shame you can’t find ruined stuff near where you live. I’ll definitely keep on posting haikyo though, so you can get your fix here. In fact- I’m going back to the Izu Sports World this Sunday, so will probably put up new photos after that, including a water park area that I missed the first time around.

  12. Jason says:

    I love this stuff man, very quality! Any idea when this place was abandoned? I’ve always had this love for abandoned places and the strange lonely feeling that comes over you when you enter them. I think that finding these gems is a way for us to remember the past and to relive it in a way. If I ever get the chance to go to Japan, this seems like the best thing to do with my time!

  13. MJG says:

    Jason- Thanks, I think it was abandoned either in 1993 or 1988- and I definitely share your feeling as entering these places, it’s a very powerful kind of emotion. Definitely check out Sports World yes if you come over.

  14. Lara says:

    Okay, I was reading through your archives – I love the idea of urban exploration and wish that there was more available where I live. I love your pictures and the stories that go with them…it truly makes me feel as if I were there! BUT you aren’t allowed to talk about a pristine bathroom and toilet paper that is folded into a triangle without posting pictures of it! :)

  15. Nicole says:

    How weird and strange. Almost like entering another world.

    I’ve been sitting here nearly all day looking at all of the haikyos you’ve been to. Amazing. I currently live in Japan, and I’d love to go exploring sometime. If only I weren’t such a coward ;)

    Thanks for this!

  16. [...] to capture some great shots of the water tubes, a whole side of the park I didn’t see on my first trip [...]

  17. Dave says:

    I’ve just found myself pouring over google maps hoping to find this place, with no luck.

    Ah well, I will find it.

  18. Harm says:

    Hi Michael,

    I really am fascinated by the ruins as I lived in Japan for almost five years. Especially the themeparks spark my interest. I heard that themepark ‘Holland Village’ in Nagasaki Prefecture is now also a haikyo. I went there a couple of times in the mid-eighties with my family. I thought I’d share this info with you. Good luck in finding it if your interested.

    Keep up the spectacular photos

  19. Florian says:

    Hi Harm,
    the official homepage looks pretty active to me:
    http://english.huistenbosch.co.jp/

  20. MJG says:

    Lara- Very good point, I only didn`t take a photo because I figured there was nothing ruined about it, so people might think I`d just dropped in a regular photo of a ryokan hotel or something. Anyway, next time I will :)

    Nicole- If I was in the Uk or US I`d feel a bit more trepidation about going to these places, due to junkies hanging out, truanting kids, etc.., but I feel there`s a lot less to worry about over here. That said, going with other people is generally the smart thing to do. Glad you`ve enjoyed perusing the site.

    Dave- Buy the book Nippon no Haikyo (from my link on sidebar!!) and find out.

    Harm & Florian- Yep, I went past Huis ten Bosch myself on a train a few months back, and it was definitely still alive. Maybe in a few years though it`ll go bankrupt, as I hear they`re just not getting enough people through the doors. The ticket prices go down, down, down.

  21. Harm says:

    Hi Michael and Florian.

    Huis ten Bosch and Holland Village are two separate theme parks. Huis ten Bosch is definitely still alive. Holland Village is dead. I saw it on a Dutch show:
    http://www.avro.nl/tv/programmas_a-z/wie_is_de_mol/opdrachten/opdr2_afl2_2010.aspx

    In the (dutch) description it says Holland Village is approx. 45 minutes drive from Huis ten Bosch. It went bankrupt in 2001.

    One other link with a map (sorry also in Dutch): http://ifarm.nl/demol/2010/01/15/afl-2-holland-village/
    Scroll down to where it says ‘Google Street View: Holland Village’.

    Video from 19 min onwards: http://www.avro.nl/Pages/player.aspx?maid=tcm:8-211699

    It would really be somethin to visit this place.

    Cheers and good luck hunting!

    Harm

  22. Harm says:

    And its even on Youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnIKHxDwLDs&NR=1

    I can’t seem to find how accesible it is.

  23. matthias says:

    must have been a really great time. i’d love to go there.
    thanks for sharing!

  24. harm says:

    Hi Michael,

    Any progress on Holland Village? Keep up the good work on haikyo! Checked out your Keishin Hospital Model Shoot. I especially like the ones where the model is in color and the rest still black and white

    Sayonara

    Harm

  25. Florian says:

    Thanks for the information, Harm! The problem is that Nagasaki Prefecture is quite far away, for Mike even further than for me. If I go for another Kyushu trip I will definitely visit the place – seems to be an awesome location!

  26. MJG says:

    Harm- I had no idea about that, thanks for the information! It does look cool. Perhaps I’ll be able to get out there some time, but as Florian says- it is pretty far away from me. If/when I get out to Gunkanjima I’ll put it on the list. Glad also you liked the Hospital shoot, kind of a whole new thing for me.

    Florian- Agreed, awesome spot.

    Matthias- I love that place, yeah, is always great to go. Am glad you enjoyed it :)

  27. chronos says:

    R.I.P Sportsworld… The company, AND the haikyo. Went out for a revisit yesterday (Oct 2010) – devastatingly it’s now mostly dirt, and full of workers. Part of the bar/gym is still there, and a little bit of the hotel. Everything else is cleared and leveled. I couldn’t believe it…

    • MJG says:

      That`s sad news chronos- but thanks a lot for sharing. Sports World was probably my favorite place in Japan. Now I need to find a new one…

  28. TigrouMeow says:

    That’s terribly sad. It was still standing in June 2010 (http://www.meow.fr/haikyo_sports_world)… it was not only my first haikyo, but also my first shoots using a DSLR… I had a great time there and it will not be forgotten. RIP!

    • MJG says:

      Thanks for sharing your photos Tigroumeow- I see they`d already started in on demolishing it in June- knocking holes in walls and clear-cutting the jungle that once covered the whole forecourt area. I guess the rest of it came down shortly after you were there.

  29. chronos says:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marktronics/5079971367/

    above is a link showing what was previously the waterslide/tube/steep slide area. including a van cranking around, just to stick it to me, peering in from the fenceline.

  30. TigrouMeow says:

    Great update! It’s “refreshing” to see these pictures… of about a place that is now gone forever…
    Also, something just struck me: when I went in June 2010, it was really different from your pictures. For example, I actually took the same picture as you did (“looking back at the hotel rooms”), but mine doesn’t have any palm-trees anymore! They were already demolishing it…

  31. Harm says:

    Hi Michael,

    Best wishes for 2011!!!!

    I was wondering if the fact that Holland Village (see the info I posted earlier) is a haikyo is known in the haikyo-community? Until now I seem to be the only one who has found information about it.

    Any haikyo trips planned in the future? I think your guest-haikyo pages are wonderful!

    Thanks

    Harm

  32. Chris says:

    Nice Pictures ;D! It’s really sad that this place got abandoned, it looks like a really nice place to spend a vacation. If only I knew what it looked like back then.

    I really loved your description about the “Hotel Room”, I wish you took pictures of the inside. But anyway’s thank’s for sharing I wish I was there >_<!

    • MJG says:

      Thanks Chris! Maybe I actually have some photos of the interior, perhaps I’ll put them up if I update this post in the future. Though to be honest they probably look a lot like any other traditional Japanese hotel room, since they were in such normal condition.
      I too wish I had more shots of how it looked in its heyday.

  33. Adam says:

    I think I’m in love with you. I am very much into haikyo, especially water parks, theme parks and swimming pools. I’m still very inexperienced but i hope to some day visit a site as magnificent as Sports World once was. Thank you very much for the photos and videos. :) Sports World Still lives on.

    • MJG says:

      I’m flattered, thanks Adam! And so glad Sports World lives on with you as well as with me. I’m always hopeful to have a haikyo experience as great as going to Sports World the first time was. There haven’t been many.

  34. g2 says:

    how are you able to traverse through the hotel complex at night eventually reaching your hotel room, especially pitch black without feeling some sort of fear?? If I were to enter a dark building, pitch black, I’d be scared like crazy. You must have alot of guts to do that

    • MJG says:

      Ha, well, I did feel fear! The weird sounds, like a pig (I think it was some kind of bird, actually), reminded me of the ‘monster’ in LOST. And once I got into the hotel room and blocked it off I went a little crazy, guessing about what kinds of predators were coming for me.
      It was creepy, yup. But thanks for thinking I’m so brave!

      • g2 says:

        it also must have been scary walk inside the hotel complex (especially no power on) turn one corner and get caught or ambushed by a security guard. For me, whenever i’m in that kind of situation, pitch black, no power, dead quiet, I think of two things, either something is about to happen or it already happened. Once again i congradulate you on your bravery, not many people can do what you do

  35. T says:

    Harm et. al. -

    Holland Village is indeed a Haikyo!

    I was reading this blog earlier today – which is where I first heard of Holland Village. I’ve driven down that area several times and noticed it – assuming it was part of Huis Ten Bosch (which is, in fact, very alive and active with it’s new ownership).

    And although I’m new to the Haikyo world, I would say that Holland Village is one of the greatest theme parks abandoned yet! Complete with decrepit Dutch shops, boardwalk with rotting wood and holes (creepy as the wood squeaks and cracks under each footstep – nothing but water beneath), defunct windmill rides, escalators consumed by forest overgrowth, and a generally creepy ghost town look.

    I went after sunset, but I plan on returning during daylight hours to snap some good shots.

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