Demolished remnants of the Tai-Hei-Yo Cement Plant

MJG Haikyo, Mines / Factories, Saitama 6 Comments

The Tai-Hei-Yo Cement Plant Haikyo in Chichibu, Saitama, was once one of Japan’s biggest producers of concrete, a massive complex woven through with miles of piping, studded with huge firing kilns, silos, 30-story smoke-stacks and immense clinker vats. Throughout its 50 year plus history it stripped the mountains around it bald of limestone, filled the skies with thousands of kilograms of CO2 from its furnaces, and helped drive Japan into the 21st century. Now it’s a half-demolished scrapyard, strewn with piles of twisted metal wreckage, yellow chemical pools, bulldozers and cranes.

I went to this haikyo with fellow explorer Mike, after a false-start the weekend before. I’d read lots of rumors about the place from Japanese haikyo sites- that there was a security guard at the front gate, that there was a sensor in the middle of the grounds that would notify the police when it saw intruders, that several people had died from falling through rusted walkways and consequently the police were extra vigilant, so we went up there fore-warned, not entirely expecting to gain access.

Arriving at Chichibu station, we saw posters on the walls advertising a local steam train service that ran on the line, which we figured we may as well wait for, even though we only had one station to go, and 20 minutes for the train to arrive. Well, it arrived, but of course it wasn’t a steam train. I suppose they use that only in the summer. We need to up our kanj-reading skills I suppose.

Anyway, the second we got off the train at the right station, it started to rain. Awesome. Happily I had an umbrella and Mike had a raincoat, so it was only a nuisance when it came to photography. As it turned out though, there wasn’t so much to shoot- they were tearing the place down. In fact that should be past tense- it was mostly all gone already. There was a security fence around the complex, but we were able to drop into a small gulley beside it, and poke our heads and cameras up through the gap for a few interior shots.

The only 3 remaining support struts of a once grand structure, and oil-skinned pool.

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One of the three remaining structures, the others being a similar building and a big smokestack just to the right. You can see earth-moving equipment to left and right.

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Some kinds of engines. Lots of piles of trash were sorted into like types, with piles of wire netting, piles of silver stuff, piles of cogs, etc…

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Could this be a gypsum-stained pool? Perhaps. The ground must be sodden with this stuff- I doubt anything will grow there for a long time.

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Wall-E eat your heart out.

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A ton of wreckage beneath a structure that climbed up the hillside- we later climbed down it- filled with trolley-runs a d funnels for I suppose mined limestone, before it was smashed and fired.

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Switches in a warehouse building.

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Rocket engine. To infinity, and beyond!

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After we had our fill of being ultra-exposed with our heads popped up through the fence, we decided to try and hike the hill behind the plant, see if we could get a view down over it, and also explore the hill-tower. We walked around, in the cold and steady grey rain, until we came to a conveni, where we ate junk sandwiches and Mike wondered if the whole thing was a ‘fail’. I guess since I had already sufficiently lowered my expectations, I was happy just to see anything, and glad to have made it there before everything was gone for good.

After two egg sandwiches (I was sure I’d bought one egg and one tuna, darn it!) and juice, I was ready to hike up the path to a seeming temple. It didn’t take long, and almost at the top a faint trail presented itself, winding through the trees, through a cut-through fence, and out onto the top-level of the factory.

This small shrine was the first thing we saw. In the photo there’s an altar of some sort, with a wooden fence broken around it. Fallen yellow ginko leaves look pretty on the ground.

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This is the complex from above, all scaffolded over and being slowly parasitized. Of course there were no little hard-hat wearing antmen there when we went- it was a national holiday, so we had the run of the place.

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In the hill-tower, a control center. Many dials and switches.

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Lovely switches all in a row.

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A dial for the kilns, for the coolants, for the silos, and for the kettle. Teas up!

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Art shot of switches with the site in ‘bokeh’ behind it. This word ‘bokeh’ means purposefully out of focus. It looks cool, no?

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Another art shot- springs.

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And that brings me to the end. Mike and I meandered around the top level for a while in the rain, not feeling bad since the fence hadn’t been a fence and there weren’t even any signs. I took a lot more photos, but in the rain and bad grey light conditions, few of them look any good. Mostly they are of brightly colored tubes. It seems a factory haikyo is a different class of haikyo from the others. The others, a large part of the beauty is the way Nature interacts with things once the exclusive domain of man. In the grounds of a factory, that just doesn’t seem to happen. The earth has been scorched by decades of acids and alkalis, pounded rock-hard by the movements of massive machinery, and there’s no chance of any weeds springing up.

So- it’s good they’re demolishing this place. While it’s nested pipes and industrial turrets would be wonderful to see in full glory, they’re also a thing of the past, and now nothing but an eye-sore and a reminder of heady days of mass pollution. Hopefully they’ll do something to rehabilitate the land. I can’t imagine though who’d want to live there, with who knows what poisons seeping up from the soil.

FACTFILE

Location – Chichibu, Saitama

Entry – Easy, down and under a plate metal fence, and round the back through a cut fence.

Highlights – The Wall-E landscape, the switch-board in the control tower, the gloomy cold rain.

RUINS / HAIKYO

You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:

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Comments 6

  1. When Aya and I were hiking in Chichibu we heard the steam engine train, but could not see it, so it was still running at least as of November.

    Wall-E, indeed, would have a good day’s work to clean up that place.

    The thing you called a rocket engine actually does look a bit like the rocket engines I saw on display at Kennedy Space Center.

  2. Post
    Author

    Jason- Really? We guessed it must only be summer. Perhaps it was still running when we were there too- but only on a select schedule? Either way, it was exciting for a time.

    Jei- True, it did. Still, I’d have been happy with blue skies.

    Freedommv- Cheers, thanks for commenting!

  3. Nice to see a different perspective (photos) from the ones I took.
    Have to agree that the weather does fit the photos. A rainy haikyo actually makes them look better in my opinion.

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