The Shin Shu Kanko Hotel in Nagano is a leviathan beast, 3 whale-sized buildings interlinked by encircling roads, interior corridors, underground passages and a long bridging escalator. The largest of the 3 is seven stories high with easily 100 rooms along its spine, with huge onsen, function rooms, izakaya and a hall. The smaller two add about another 50 rooms each, clutching up to the hill in back and spread like wings around the main complex. All of it empty, trashed, and creaking in the wind.
Shin Shu Kanko looking up.
The Shin Shu Kanko Hotel was the final stop on our third haikyo road trip- the last one we’d be able to do with Jason. He’s now back in Florida, finding an apartment and getting a job. We didn’t know what to expect. Conversation in the car on the way there, after staying overnight at a Toyoko Inn in a nearby town, was muted. The first day had been a fast rush of banter and traded insults- that was all dulled now. We each rode in our own thoughts, the music off, mulling our varied and diverging futures.
We arrived around 11am. The complex was fenced off but we navigated up the side and over the wall where it met the hill, grown over with bamboo stalks and rushes. We pushed through and faced off with the building. It was massive. We parted ways with barely a word spoken.
The sign on top reads Shin Shu Kanko Hoteru- which means: Land of Honesty Sight-Seeing Hotel. I think.
We didn’t need to talk. We’d talked enough. We’d fumbled in each other’s ways at the previous two haikyo. We’d been bound by each others desires of where to go, what to hunt for. Not this time. We made an arrangement to meet in a few hours, and then we were off.
Mike went straight in the front entrance, Jason round the side, and I flanked the front.
I always flank a building. I approach it obliquely. I almost never take the front route. I think that might be part and parcel of exploring for me. I want the unorthodox, slightly less-obvious, less well-trodden way. It explains why I haikyo in the first place.
The front facade of the building peeled away past the first pillar, revealing this large basement/car park area.
Car parking or storage. I wonder if it was once fenced-off.
The door for gnomes.
I found a door leading of to the side, up stairs and into the main building, but I let it rest for now. I wanted to strafe the whole complex first before going in.
The complex from the far right, the edge.
Small swimming pool at the edge.
Vines creeping up the side.
I meandered a time longer, wandering round the small pool, listening to people clanking around in neighbouring homes, peering in the dusty windows almost curtained-off by unchecked fir trees. I wasn’t thinking much, just relishing the moments preliminary to the full exploration. The anticipation, like the excitement of seeing the Christmas presents under the tree, but waiting for Christmas day to open them, in turn, ordered, one by one.
Then I went in.
This entrance looked a lot like the other one. It led over a patch of red carpet worn down to the concrete, left into an open plan lobby/bar area, up the stairs ahead, and to the right down a hallway.
I veered left first, my foot going through the tatami-clad wooden flooring once. Beyond was a dingy-looking hall, not so big. I turned about and headed for the corridor.
The corridor had been totally stripped- the floor and walls bare concrete. Through the open door-ways I could look out and see the small swimming pool.
Outlet torn from the wall.
At the end of the corridor were more wooden stairs, rotten through with the rain. I climbed them anyway.
View over the roof from the second floor- fir trees growing wild.
Smashed sink, no glass in the balcony sliding door.
Prepped for watching the place fall apart.
Indoor tatami decay.
I climbed again, and came to a large hall with stage and awesome view out of glass-less windows over the town and surrounding mountains. I lay down on my side to frame things just right.
After that I hit another staircase that intersected with another corridor- from a smaller intermediary fourth building. I stepped over an uncoiled fire hose, investigated a strange white L-shaped cell of a room behind a chest-high door, and took slow shutter shots of art on the wall.
Hills on the wall.
Taking the new corridor led me to this water-peeled weirdly-angled section. I think it must be shoved up against the cliff face- to be so badly damp-damaged and canted as it is. It was much darker than you see here, and the door at the end was creaking loudly.
I went through the doors jutting off to the left and found myself in a mini onsen, or sento- hot water bathing/cleaning room. One for men and one for women.
Hills on the walls, sento.
Lime-scaled ram’s head spout.
Roof corner-piece, hills.
Hills, town, holes in the roof.
Around that time I got a call from Jason. It had already been nearly two hours, he was checking in. He was on the roof of the big building, behind the big letters. I took the nearest door and stairs out, popping up on the road right beneath the main complex.
Jason waves down- 6 stories above me.
We arranged to meet at the bottom- he came down, then led me back up.
Another holy roof.
Alien snakes shudder outside the frosted glass, nobody watches.
And then we emerged onto the roof. Being behind the letters was as awesome as I thought it would be.
We heard a sound from the far side of the roof. Nothing there. We heard it again, then saw Mike jeering at us, hanging a corded phone out of a window.
Mike in the window.
Jason and I decided to climb the rusted ladder on the left. It doesn’t look so high, but it was flimsy, and since we were already about 8 stories up, it felt very high and pecarious. My heart was in my mouth going over the edge.
Looking down at Jason.
Mike videoing the sign.
I came down, and things were winding up. I told them I’d seen a lot of rooms and a mini-onsen. They told me they’d seen a big onsen, and lots of rooms. I trailed behind them back down the stairs, hunting for the onsen.
Mirrors and shower-heads for bathing. The little plastic bucket seats are missing.
Along the wall.
The onsen. The dropped section in the middle would be full of water, for lounging.
Stone picnic table across the way, for more lounging.
The other two were now gone again, and I did a quick exploration of the main complex.
At one point around now I was taking photos in a fourth floor lobby area, when I was shocked rigid to find somebody by the wall staring at me. Of course, it was only Mike. He said he’d been standing there for a while, and I’d looked right past him a few times. Wow. I was intent on the photography I suppose- it’s a good thing he wasn’t a psycho out to kill.
He led me down to the escalator bridging shaft, and we walked down alongside it together.
Escalator of its track.
At the bottom.
Leading up into darkness.
And then we were in the main lobby, the same one Mike had walked into first. I’d been through the whole complex. The main lobby still had its boxish chandelier, but all the carpeting had been torn up, and the walls were splashed with graffiti.
A lone seat on the bare cement.
Tags of some prior English-speaking haikyoists. Poor taste, fellas.
Much-ornamented (and stolen from) lobby entrance.
Stairs sunk into the floor at the side of the lobby led down to the car-park area I started out at. I didn’t linger there though, and went out to the front to wait for the others to emerge. Jason was stuck on a lower floor of the main building, below the level of the bridging escalator and so unable to find a way out.
In the end he popped out of a loading door and jumped down to the road.
And that was that. We rolled out with daylight left, looking for an abandoned mine, which was to be our final destination. We hit snow going into the mountains though- snow which dumped suddenly and thick over the road. Going up the first steep hill coated with ice our little rental car just couldn’t get any grip, and we came to a stand-still.
We took about 4 more tries at it, with long run-ups, both Jason and Mike having a crack. But it was no good. It seemed to be the only road to the remote location we were headed to, so we accepted our fate and gave up.
So ended our final haikyo together.
How do I feel about it? It’s a real mix. Discovering haikyo over the last year, getting into photography, taking road trips with friends, firing up this blog and finding readers and like-minded people- it’s been a great trip. Prior to it I’d in some ways given up on finding adventure, in finding daring and exciting things to do and places to explore.
In my first year in Japan I used up all the things I could think of, all the things I wanted to look at, the sites I wanted to visit. The A-dome at Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, Osaka, Kamakura, Saipan, Nikko. Following Japan I had planned to English-teach my way around the world, but I gave that up to stay 3 months longer in Japan for a girl. At the end of that 3 months I left anyway, for a round-the-world cycle trip, temporary enough that I could come back to be with the girl. But on the day of setting out on my fully-loaded and geared-up bike, it felt like the wrong step. It seemed pointless when I could do the same trip by car or motorbike (like Ewan McGregor and friend) in one twentieth the time. It felt ridiculous to consign myself to being mostly alone for such a long time, with no real plan waiting at the end, and no future source of income. So I quit. But I wasn’t quite ready to quit on adventure completely until I took a back-packing trip to India, where I hung around Dehli and environs for about two weeks completely torn about what to do, the adventure of back-packing feeling nothing like an adventure I wanted. Then I quit all the way.
I came back here and sat on my butt for close to three years. I didn’t know what else to do. I had a miserable job, felt isolated living way out in the middle of nowhere, felt like a failure and a loser, the relationship I’d come back to ‘save’ wasn’t the same thing I thought it had been, and I didn’t know what to do to fix any of it. Adventure hadn’t seemed to work, the job wasn’t working, the girl wasn’t working, I knew I didn’t want to go home to England and make a life there, so I went round and round in circles in my own mind trying to figure out where my life had gone wrong.
I played frisbee every weekend- the only real social contact I had- and re-watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, played Civilization 3, went jogging, tried to write fiction, and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. Anyone who has read my blog from that time will know what I’m talking about.
Then- I moved to the city. I ended the old relationship. I quit my job and got a new one. I started going to haikyo. I bought a bike and took weekend cycle-camping trips. I had friends round for poker and games. I got a new girlfriend.
What’s this for? Why am I talking about this? Perhaps self-indulgence. Perhaps also- a weird thank-you to Jason. He didn’t exactly pull me out of the rut I was in but he did throw a lot of life-lines down, beginning with simple things like getting an i-pod, teaching me how to download movies and current TV shows, getting the ball actually rolling on our first haikyo trip by renting the car, getting me into cycling and photography, and always being available to talk about life stuff and women stuff and whatever. Being a good friend, basically- and for that I’m grateful.
Location – Nagano.
Entry – Up the side of a fence, over a low-wall.
Highlights – Onsens, creaking corridors, exploring solo, the roof, and being behind the letters.
Extra– You can see Mike’s awesome eerie video of his exploration here.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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