The Negishi Racecourse Grandstand in Yokohama looms like an ancient 3-headed Titan over the Negishi Plateau. It once drew crowds of thousands to cheer the racing horses from its elaborate bleachers, to wander its long hallways and admire its extravagant architecture, but that was over 80 years ago, before it was surrendered to the US military after World War Two. Now its racecourse is a floodlit naval base, its bleachers are fenced off and overgrown with ivy, its innards rest silent and dark but for the steady drip of rain-water leaking through its rotting concrete skin.
The Negishi Grandstand was built by the prolific American architect J.H. Morgan, who also designed churches, movie theaters, homes, and office towers around Yokohama and other Japanese cities. It stands an order of magnitude older and more interesting architecturally than any other haikyo Iâ€™ve explored in Japan so far, though it was also far more central and more difficult to gain access to. I arrived with my friend Mike at around 11pm, armed with googlemaps and gear for sleeping over. I thought we were well-prepared, but upon arrival we were shocked at how bright and proximal the Navy Base was, how tall the plate metal fence was, and how frequent the parade of passersby was. We umm-ed and ahh-ed for a long time, waiting for the surrounding park to clear of dog-walkers and kissing couples (until past 1am), then for the sailors on base to clear away from the entrance to their bar (past 2am). We made a few forays over the exterior fence, and finally I went over the interior plate metal fence. It stood about 8 feet high, too high to jump and grab the lip of, but happily there was a pipe nearby I could brace against and work my way up. Getting Mike over the fence was a little troublesome, but as a team we got him up and over. We left our bags with all our camping gear down by the fence, realizing there was no way we would sleep there then try to leave in full daylight. On the other side of the fence the bleachers were a jungle, completely overgrown with creepers and bushes and tangled vines. We pushed through, checking every potential entrance to the grandstand complex, but they were all boarded up securely but for the final one, which had had a hole smashed into it. It was almost completely black inside, but for a few shreds of orange base floodlight filtering through the chinks in the boarding covering all windows and doors. This meant only flash photography, which means some sterile photos. Also, the whole place had been gutted a long time ago, so almost all furniture was missing, leaving us with a lot of empty rooms and long empty hallways. Both Mike and I took video, it’s very dark, but it gives a good feel for the place. Here it is:
This was the most interesting room, with some color on the walls, some furniture, and some weird scribbles:
This room had a lot of sinks:
We ascended to the top of the middle tower, the 8th floor, and took some night shots- this is looking back to Yokohama:
That’s the west tower.
And the east. After taking multiple shots from the roof, the dawn started to break through the cloudy skies, it was around 4:30am, and we decided to hurry down and out. We came down different stairs than we went up, got ourselves turned around, but finally came to a newly built exit that we’d seen from the outside, but that had been locked. We turned the lock and exited out into the dawn air, completely by-passing the plate-metal fence climb-down neither of us had been looking forward to. And then we were out! I took pictures of the grandstand’s exterior.
This is the pipe and metal fence we had to negotiate to gain entry. You can see how overgrown it is:
2 exhausted explorers, feeling like we’d been out all night in a night-club, ready to go home.
As a haikyo, this place was good for its age and the sense of history upon it, but being completely gutted on the inside and so difficult to gain daylight entry to made it less than I’d hoped for. Here’s a gallery of all the photos:
Location– Yokohama. Entry – Difficult, over several fences. Highlights– Waiting all night for the coast to be supremely clear, the darkness inside, owning the place from the roof.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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