Mt. Fuji’s mysterious underground vault

MJG Haikyo, Vaults, Yamanashi 35 Comments

The underground vault haikyo in the shadow of Mt. Fuji is one of the strangest abandoned structures I’ve yet explored. A double-doored double-walled walk-in safe with triple combination locks buried in a man-made mound in an unpopulated and obscure part of the Japanese countryside. Now its thick and weighty doors hang open and loose, and there’s nothing in the vault but for 5 odd logo/symbols on the wall, and no other clue as to its purpose but for the dedication in kanji on top of the dome- ‘in memory of our ancestors’.

Imposing entry hall to the vault.

I stumbled upon this bizarre spot by accident after exploring the nearby Resort Hotel. It was already getting late, the light was fading, and I almost passed the whole complex by in favor of getting an earlier train home. I’m glad I didn’t though, as buried between 2 spa/ryokan buildings and 4 mossed over tennis courts was this petite extravagance.

Visible from the nearby hotel haikyo.

At first I headed over to the tennis courts, shot through with reeds, then when heading back to look over the main buildings I saw the dome. It was fairly wide and also bearded with rushes. I stepped out on top and wondered what on earth it was. I saw a kanji dedication and figured it was just somebody’s idea of a memorial.

Above the dome.

‘To our ancestors.’

On a level with the vault.

I climbed into the nearby building and explored there- I’ll post about that next. From the roof though I could look down on the dome and see that there was actually an open entrance into it. I hurried on down.

The doorway led into the dome, down a short sheer concrete wall lichened green, with some light flowing in through the reinforced glass tiles in the ceiling. I turned the corner and was shocked to see the safe door, hanging half-open. I went to give it a tug- it was very heavy but opened smoothly as if oiled. Inside there was an empty space, and inside that another safe with thick walls. This one was open too.

The only light source.

This old thing was long dead.

Lo,  a walk-in safe.

Three dials and a huge unlocking wheel.

3 dials of 90 points each.  That’s incredibly secure.

Reverse of the locking mechanism.

Logo detail.

On the inside were 5 strange logos/symbols on the wall. I’ve since asked lots of Japanese people if they recognize any of these, but nobody does. What are they? The central design, the red suns grinning, looks like something cultish. The blue one looks like a bank’s logo. The others- the top one may be the kanji for ‘winter’, the right one says- ‘big one’, and the left one I have no idea.

Do you know? ** UPDATE at bottom**

Suicide cult?

Standing (creeping myself out with thoughts of burial alive) in the vault mouth.

Besides that there was nothing inside. I didn’t want to step too far in or linger too long out of some irrational fear that someone might slip up behind me and slam the locks to all the safes closed with me inside, then I’d be trapped in a scenario out of the Saw movies- left with some hideous choice for survival.

I didn’t linger.

I made some short video of me going in and out:


Underground Vault Haikyo from Michael John Grist on Vimeo.

** UPDATED **

We’ve since learned that the main logo belonged to a securities company called Sanyo, not the same one that produces tech. Lee of Tokyo Times unearthed a Sanyo company magazine bearing their logo in a nearby part of what was clearly their resort complex. The safe would doubtless have held important company papers, stocks, bonds, and etc.. It was probably a bit of a vanity thing to keep it themselves, in such a location, but I’m sure it impressed their investors.

Read through all the comments below to follow the investigative process.

Additionally, the red face logo (in the center) was surely put there by another haikyo explorer. I’ve seen the same thing in many haikyo all around Japan. It’s that explorer’s calling card I guess.

See more of MJG’s Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:

[album id=4 template=compact]

You can also see a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.

Comments 35

  1. It doesn’t get much weirder than an underground bunker vault in the middle of nowhere. Nice find.

    No evidence of what the bunker might have safeguarded?

    You should make a video of all haikyo locations, especially when entering tight spaces.

    Seems like this is a huge danger for the area. Anyone could get trapped in it. Seems like a place kids would love to play in.

  2. That is really strange that’s it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s makes it especially mysterious witht those symbols.

    Agreed on being scared of being locked in.

  3. Your fear of being locked in with hideous survival choices made me laugh. Not because it’s funny but because I was thinking of the same things! Must be terrifying! Maybe you should bring a partner to keep watch at the door so you can explore more 🙂

  4. Reminds me of those bunkers in the Lost TV series! Very strange to have such new-looking vault equipment abandoned. I think it would make for very good reading if you should bring a few companions along and explore it further. Those symbols are weird too…too bad there is no way to run a search based on an image.

  5. Fist off, I just wanted to say how much I thoroughly enjoy your haikyo trips. I love abandoned stuff, and love Japan even more so it’s a natural fit for me.

    Anyways, I showed the wife the seals on the wall, and after looking at it for about 5 seconds she gave up and walked away. As she was walking away, she said the center logo actually looked familiar to her. She said it is (or was) a logo for a food company. She isn’t sure which, but it’s either none of the familiar companies, or it’s from a company that no longer uses it. If she can remember more, I’ll post it.

    BTW, I never am in the habit in following comments so if you ….. hold up I got news….

    Ok, check out http://www.kyuboshi.co.jp/gaiyo.html

    This is the company from the top seal as you can see from the header of the web page. They sell かりんとう which is a type of snack (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karinto).

    The center logo is still puzzling my wife so as I said earlier, if I hear something from her, I’ll post. Very odd place for a vault that’s for sure. The blue logo doesn’t even look familiar to the wife and that’s odd since it has such prominence. BTW, she said that you were right that the kanji mentions that it is in memorial of someone who’s name I’ve since forgotten. Oddly enough the last kanji at the top is no longer used she says….

    Anyways, my email is docsnavely [at] gmail [dot] com if you need any more info or such. Sorry I have a bad habit of not following comments……

  6. I have to compliment you on all of your haikyo explorer posts, they’re absolutely riveting! I’ve been “lurking” since last year, but this article spurred me on to comment. Those pictures legitimately gave me an uncomfortable feeling (the “heebie jeebies” if you will), especially since the rock portions look so ruinous, but the metal parts like the logo and the vaults look semi-shiny and new still. The logo on the lefthand side looks like there’s some tarnished or bloody set of fingerprints on it… Thinking of taking a trip back there at any point? Get one of those bomb squad robots with the camera on it and send it in as a scout. They have to sell something like that in Akiba. ~_^

  7. Tis is one of the most bizarre and coolest haikyo finds you have found yet. I also noticed how clean and shiny the logos were which is odd. As if someone regularly cleans and polishes them.

  8. Awesome find Michael! Those logos are most likely company logos, but I’ve no idea what the safe would be used for. Really curious it being out where you found it!

  9. Great site! My wife does not recognize the other symbols but thinks it might have been a wealthy family or company vault or kura during the bubble days of Japan.

  10. Another great haikyo. I am now itching to make my next Japan trip almost entirely haikyo based, with a quick trip down to Hashima Island (I see you linked it on another page), though now that is open, disappointed. I’d heard about it a decade ago, but not time then to take a few days trip out there. Then completely forgot about it on the next two trips through that region.

    To pireze: There are search engines that are based on images, most are still in beta or experimental mode and the databases rather small, around a billion or two images, which is relatively small. I did run the image, cropped for each logo, and did not find a single similar image, but as said, those databases are small and largely North American based and may not currently include many Japanese images.

    A call to the local police would, or could, clarify who owned the vault. If you dare. Less dangerous than going back alone. haha

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    Jason- What was inside, well, it’s guesswork really. Gold! I don’t know. If it was a cult it could be any kind of weird stuff. If it was a hatch out of LOST, perhaps a button to save the world? Videos, right- I try these days to have a little video at least, for atmosphere.

    Miki- No doubt, some bizarre and untraceable symbols indeed.

    David Meyer- Good thinking, this kind of set-up, a very simple going slowly mad in the darkness kind of thing, is right up my alley. Did you ever read ‘House of Leaves’? That is one haunting and awesome book.

    Leongsoon- I was chuckling at myself for being paranoid at the time, but, well, it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you, right? As for further explorations, I think I saw it all really- just a box. If I thought there was more- like an entrance to hidden catacombs!- I’d be back in a flash.

    Pireze- Exactly! That is one thing that has always made be love LOST- that sense of exploration of ruins both modern and ancient. There’s the hatches, and now the temple and 4-toed statue. I love that stuff. Image Search, definitely- I did what I could through Google key words and Image Search, but it’s hardly the same thing, and still nothing came up anyway.

    Josh- Thanks for the comment, and the great research. Could it have been an underground vault filled with snacks? Or perhaps the secret recipe to make the snacks? Perhaps. But then would it have the bit about in memory of our ancestors? One would think not. It’s just, odd. Thanks for your input 😉

    Karasu- Thanks for commenting! That’s awesome you enjoy the explorations, and good spot on some possible death-prints on the left symbol, I’ll have to take a closer look 😉 As for going back with a bomb-robot, I think I already saw all there was to see- really just an underground safe box. Unless, when you get locked inside, an elevator kicks in and takes you down like 100 floors into a secret lair? Hmm. It could happen…
    Panawave right- I don’t know if they’re operating in that specific area, but it could be hey.

    Tornadoes- Well, I must confess, I gave a quick polish to the door myself, on my way out 😉

    Mike- That was my thinking also, but how strange then that nobody recognizes any of them?

    P3- That sounds a good suggestion, most likely Bubble-era, perhaps these are family crests of some type?

    Richard- Thanks, and thanks also for the info on Image Search Engines, sounds like a very useful but also very difficult think to make work. Like voice identification programs, there’s so much variety in the small details that it’s very difficult for a computer algorithm to spot the patterns clearly.
    As for calling the local police, or perhaps doing research in the library- if my Japanese skills were up to it I’d probably give it a try. Maybe an incentive to up my study time 😉

  12. The blue wavey logo looks like the old Sanyo Securties logo. Sanyo Securities was a smallish securities firm that went bust just before Yamaichi did back in the late nineties (around 1997 I think). As a securities firm, them having a vault is not surpising, but not the most obvious location.

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    Gavin- Right, same place, he just shot it differently.

    Nick- Well spotted, yeah another explorer, link in comment above, found that out too from a magazine at the place. Doesn’t explain the other icons, but maybe that’ll come.

  14. Your website is really cool! I’m glad I stumbled across it.

    While pondering the images you found in the structure, it is an interesting puzzle. However, I feel that my lack of full understanding of Japanese culture and life does not allow me to interpret this.

    The Kanji that looks like the Kanji for winter at the top is interesting. Maybe this is a symbol of when the vault was built or who knows what?

    There is surely a simple and less imaginative explanation for this structure than myself and others might believe. Unfortunately, we may never know what it is, which makes it so much more interesting!

    I get the strange feeling that some Sanyo Securities executives simply wanted to devote a vault in honor of their families. My guess is that the 3 crests going left to right are some kind of family crests. If stock certificates,bonds, or other such were the things kept here I would also not be surprised. Once Sanyo Securities closed its doors the ones who had kept this thing going got all their valuables (or not-so-valuables, as the case may have been) and moved on.

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    David- I was near here recently actually, cycling around the lake. It was freezing cold so I didn`t linger, but I think the whole complex may have been demolished. Anyone can confirm?

    Michael- For that I`d go to the G-CANS I think. http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/2009/04/g-cans-underground-temple-saitama/

    northernfist- Hey, thanks a lot, and I think you`ve probably got it right about the executives having a safe/monument to family. On the top the inscription said something like that. Thanks for your input!

    Jonathan- Sweet, thanks!

  16. I don’t think it’s a monument type structure at all. I would think that is was just a secure document/data storage area.

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    Paul- I think it might`ve been both, or at least served both functions. The top of it, the dome, was too ornamental to be purely functional. And the inscription about ancestors suggests monument-status.

    Brian- Ha, cool idea! Down to a secret base. I wish. If I`m out there again I`ll double check :).

  18. i Dont really know much about this stuff! but just from looking at the comments it seems that it was a safe installed by the sanyo securities (that someone produced a stock photo for) for that Kyuboshi business =/ I think you need to get a decent flashlight, a couple of friends (maybe one to stand guard outside!) and go back down there man! waaaaaaaay to interesting not to!

  19. We have an… unusual… update here!

    It seems the Japanese community have somewhat concurrently picked up on this as it has appeared in a recent publication. Turns out its 75% haunted. PRECISELY SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT… go figure hey.

    Heres the kicker though, not only did the author show direct fear of the door locking, they wrote a freaking manga about it. WITH ZOMBIES! Im not joking. Its only 8 pages so when I can be arsed Ill consider maybe scanlating the exceprt (Im not sure, is 8 out of a couple of hundred pages legal fair use?) and popping up the ISBN/cover and shit so anyone curious can also track it down for purchase.

    Ironically, I havent actually visited this particular location yet myself, but it may be on the to do list now after such an amusing find.

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    Connor- I would, but to be honest I had a pretty good look at it the first time. It’s really just one small vault, no doors or anything leading out of it. Wish there was more, but…

    Paul- Excellent update, thanks! 75%, well, who knew. And I guess that fear of being locked in must be hard-wired, especially when you see the size and weight of the door. If it was shut, you’re done.

    For sure, would be keen to see the manga. Make the effort and scan it! 8 pages scanned, what are they gonna do? They won’t even know it’s there…

  21. Wow, this is such an amazing find! I’ve actually spent an hour or so researching ghost towns. I’ve come across some really interesting places, but this is by far the most interesting. I’d love to know the story behind it.

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      Hi general, yes it is a very odd one. The story behind it seems to have been uncovered in the comments above- it belonged to a Securities firm called Sanyo that went bankrupt. There may well be more to it than that- about it being dedicated to ancestors and the like- but perhaps that we’ll never know…

  22. MJG, what a very good thing to do in his life to visit this place, very nice man. You are a lucky. I found a new exotic spot where to go and visit after tchernobyl..

    I have a question
    Is it possible to ask questions and informations about this place and this vault to an autority like a mayor of a lord of the city, idk how to say.

    NICE

  23. My brother-in-law worked for Sanyo. He learned of their collapse on the news one Friday night and had no job the next Monday. They used to have an office between the station and my workplace; I passed it every day, and had I stumbled across this earlier, I could have been of help with the logo. Sorry not to have seen it in time.

    I’ll ask him if he knows anything about the vault.

    I’ll ask him if he recognizes any of the logos, too. They look more to me like corporate logos than family crests. Affiliates/clients, perhaps?

  24. The picture with (the what looks like) intercom and the locked door seems suspicious if the door was locked some one might be in there but some one did destroy the intercom maybe the president of the company is in there

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