The Osawa Apartments Haikyo in Sagamihara is a high-walled preserve for the recent past, shuttered in behind a plate-metal security fence 15 feet high. Outside the fence traffic races by on a highway slip road, and elementary school children play baseball in their school yard. Inside those sounds are deadened, and nothing moves but for the steady slow creep of vines, spreading like a green blanket over the cracked car parks and up the dusty building’s sides. Around the complex bicycles lie rusted in fallen racks, tangled through with weeds, and 6-mat rooms rest empty behind locked screen doors, their tatami mat floors slowly bleaching white in the pale autumn sun.
This is another haikyo I’ve been to before, several years ago when I used to work as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Junior High and Elementary Schools. I didn’t like the job much, but it did afford me a great deal of free time every day, which I generally used to wander around the surrounding area and explore. These abandoned apartments were just down the road from one of the many schools I taught at, and back then were only guarded by a ramshackle barbed wire fence.
That first time I went over I managed to get my suit pants caught on the wire, ripping them- probably because I was so nervous to be going in at all that I rushed it and wasn’t careful. I wandered into the complex in awe of its large size- 2 big apartment blocks 4 and 5 stories high respectively, with somewhere around 60 LDK apartments in total. I climbed the larger of the two buildings up the outside, though was unable to find a room to go into. I was able to climb up through an access ladder to the roof though- where I stood and surveyed the domain.
This time around, the worn down old wire fence had been replaced with a plate metal metal too high to climb. I went with Su Young, and we circumnavigated the new wall, looking for a decent access point. At the far corner we found a spot where it abutted the grounds of a private elementary school, which had a chain-link fence we could climb, with razor wire discouragement at the top- but possible to work around.
I would have taken more time sizing up the operation, checking for any kind of surveillance, but Su Young threw herself at the fence and was almost over before I realized what was happening. I followed, and we were both halfway over when some guy from inside the private school’s grounds stopped by and said “What are you doing?”
It was a strange moment, me looking down at him, him up at us. I put on a cheery smile and said hello in a loud and confident voice. He didn’t reply. I followed up with – “It’s OK, we’re magazine reporters, we’re going to take photos on the inside.”
He looked at us a while longer, both of us now smiling. Su Young said- “we won’t be long”, then continued climbing over the fence, and the moment was over. I can only imagine the guy shrugged and went on about his business.
This will be my cover for future haikyo I think. It appeals to a nebulous kind of authority that suggests we’ve got permission, but is uncheckable really, while also asserting we’re harmless and temporary. Either way, it worked this time and no police came to dig us out- though I did worry a little every time I heard nearby sirens.
We meandered through the tall reed underbrush, to the main car park area at the back which was half-coated in creeping vines, then up the side of the building.
Walking along the side.
The vine-carpeted car park.
Vines tangle in a bike shed.
We found a room which was open, but there was nothing at all to see inside- just empty space and the mildewed smell of old tatami mats. Up again, and again, and then there was the chute through to the roof. I remembered it being a tight squeeze for me last time, but this time I could only just worm my way through after taking off my bag.
Su Young climbs to the ladder.
Looking down on the chute.
On top, we lay down on the warm roof-liner and looked up at the cloudless blue sky. Planes flew by overhead. It was very peaceful and quiet, one remove away from the world.
Su young dances on the roof.
The other apartment block seen from the roof.
After that we packed up and rolled out.
Location – Sagamihara, Tokyo
Entry – Not easy- over a plate metal fence in full view.
Highlights – Claiming to be journalists unchallenged, dancing on the roof, squeezing through the roof-chute.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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