On December 2nd 1941, just 6 days before the Japanese opened hostilities in the Pacific War against the Allies by bombing Pearl Harbour, a coded signal went out from the Kemigawa Transmission Station in Tochigi to all the Empire of Japan’s military forces: 1208, or CLIMB MT. NIITAKA 1208; the order to join the war. CLIMB MT. NIITAKA referred to Niitaka mountain, the tallest in all of the then-Japanese Empire (now Taiwan). 1208 referred to the date of commencement- the 8th of December Japan time, the day the Japanese surprise-attacked Hawaii.
Kemigawa front face.
This was the most impenetrable haikyo I’ve yet encountered, with every single potentially accessible opening bolted up behind rusted metal bulwarks welded fast with iron rebars. I went with an old friend Brady who was visiting Japan after living back in Canada for over 2 years. He had first arrived in Japan around the same time as me- about 6 years ago- and we joined the Tokyo pick-up frisbee group on the same day. We had a lot to catch up on.
We arrived in Kemigawa around 3pm, and made short work of the walk over to the Transmission station. It became quickly apparent that it was sealed up tighter than a drum. I had seen photos on the net of some of the panels peeled off, and even some of the windows at an earlier time un-barred at all- but not any longer.
We did a slow lap of the Station’s block, a wide swathe of weedy wasteland partially under re-development. There were several workmen in or near the Station’s vicinity, some of them piling up dirt as prep for foundations, others installing fresh security gates. We didn’t want to enter the fenced-off grounds with them watching, nor did we want to linger too long outside the fence and draw attention to ourselves, so we decided to go off for some dinner and a beer, to come back when the workers had left and it was getting dark.
So, we wandered around looking for some udon (thick noodles) for Brady. We talked about his course of study as a TV journalist back in Vancouver, and the potential internship he’d applied for with the CBC. He told me about chasing up leads and following stories, going to interview people and how taking the step to that kind of interaction was one of the harder parts of the course- cold-calling people looking for opinions, asking nicely if he could come and catch their words on film.
After walking around for nearly two hours we found a small restaurant by the tracks and ate and drank a beer. We talked more about frisbee. Soon we finished up our beers and headed back to the Station. The workmen were now gone and we hopped the fence to get a closer look.
Near the main building was a small shed, not barred up, so we went inside.
Inside there were concrete slats on the ground which I guessed might be covering a secret entrance to underground chambers. We hoisted a few and peeked under, quickly realizing it was just a mechanic’s pit for getting at the underside of cars.
We walked a tight circumference several times looking for a potential access point, coming up with only two possibilities: a few windows several meters high that looked to be barred from the inside, plus this tiny ventilation hole 3 meters up the wall:
Small and high, reached with a make-shift ladder.
We didn’t want to make our attempt while it was still light, concerned about the noise the ladders would make as we shunted them around drawing attention to ourselves. So we went back to pacing around the wide circumference waiting for dark proper.
We talked more, about Brady’s crazy life in Europe, about hopes for the future. It was a great way to catch up.
When it was dark enough, we bent to the hole. We had two ladders and we set them both up, one person steadying at the bottom and the other climbing. We were both able to get a foot in the hole on our turn, but after that were stuck for what to do. How could we get through? Even if we got a whole leg through, what then? How would we get our bodies and heads through with nothing to hold onto? How would we get down on the other side? How would we get out if there was no ladder on the other side?
I think even if this hole were on ground level we’d have a lot of trouble squeezing through. The only way my shoulder would go is if I put them through on the diagonal and shuffled like a worm.
So, we gave up.
We moved round to the potentially un-barred windows, but were daunted by how high they were. With the ladder at its steepest height and me standing on almost the top rung, I could just reach the bottom of the window sill. I was able by stretching to tap the window’s boarding, which turned out to be soft cardboard. I could have lifted myself up and scrabbled through I think, but Brady was counseling no from below, and I did feel very exposed and unsafe. How would I get back down?How would Brady get up with no-one to steady the ladder?
So, we gave up. Instead we settled on climbing the odd tower and standing on top, surveying the surrounding area. To finish off with, I climbed the ladder again and took this shot with flash through the hole:
Through the ventilation hole.
I’ve since found a site that has low-res photos of the interior, I can see now that it’s quite empty and rather unimpressive, so don’t feel like I missed out. You can see it here. It was more fun trying to get in and chatting around the outside than a successful quick in and out would have been.
This is Brady.
After all that, we went back to play Rock Band at my house.
Location – Tochigi.
Entry – Impossible, unless you can squeeze through a small ventilation hole 3 meters up the wall, then somehow get down on the other side without breaking your neck.
Highlights – Hanging with Brady, shooting through the hole into the darkness with flash, climbing the watch-tower.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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