The Shimoda Grand looms like a listing battleship on a swell of green, doomed to eventually sink without trace, swallowed up by the knotty growth of years.
This was the third ruin on the first day of our road trip into Izu. Shimoda is famous for its gorgeous (imported) white sand beaches, and for being the lookout point where Colonel Perry was first seen chuffing towards Tokyo harbor in his black iron-clad steam ships. In the summer you can’t move on the beaches for all the people cramming their bodies onto a patch of white sand, filling up the hotels, and packing out the restaurants. In the off-season though the place is a ghost town, spelling the death knell for numerous failed hotels (I saw at least another two just by the roadside) that couldn’t take the long hibernation.
We’ve been to Izu numerous times before to camp on the beach. For a few years it became something of a tradition in my little group- make the ever-longer haul down from Tokyo in a rented car and goof about on the beach for a few days. The longest slog we ever took was 8 hours in non-stop traffic from Tokyo to Shimoda. Miserable. This time we were going before the ‘official’ opening of the beaches though, so there was hardly any traffic at all.
The Shimoda Hotel was, let’s face it, another hotel. The more of these places I go to, the harder they get to dramatize. If the exterior is interesting in some way then half the work is done for me. If the surroundings are vast, lonely and sweeping, booya. But that is rarely the case in Japan, with few lonely vistas available at any place a big hotel would be built. So we fall back on the interior, but again, let’s face it, most interiors to hotels are pretty much the same. There’s ruin, and there’s rack, and ho de hum.
Well, let’s not get defeatist. This was another place to try out my tripod, cable release, and HDR bracketing. To get some of the slower exposure shots in darker rooms I was standing there like a lemon for up to 20 seconds. I took a lot more shots than I used here, but the light really was terrible inside. For the same reason, there’s very little video.
The entrance to the place was quite filthy, and the immediate interior was filled up with stacks of futons waiting to be disposed of. They had rotted and given a very strong musty smell, more than usual. As a result JC was tentative to enter, though Mike and I shoved him through the door eventually. The place had a row of odd double-doored rooms, heavy swinging metal affairs like they were bank vaults. A little spooky. Within each was assorted musical equipment- drums, pianos, like that. We figured these heavy double doors must just be over the top sound-proofing. Shots in these rooms were all fated to fail- it was nearly pitch black.
As usual we split up, and also as usual I ended up taking the longest time, with Mike and JC done by the time I hit the roof.
From the roof the view was quite beautiful, and I felt serene just looking out over it. Lovely.
After all this we headed to our hotel, an American-style pension right next to Tatadohama beach. After driving into town for some dinner, we wandered over to the beach, where we bumped into a gang of J boys and girls having a campfire party. We joined them for a little bit of raucous fire-dancing, night-swimming, and attempts at conversation in Japanese.
As an after-thought, maybe I’ll start providing true location information to the places I go again. I did that at the start, then stopped for fear of spreading vandalism. But what the hey- I enjoy seeing other people’s pictures of the places I’ve been to, and don’t think any potential vandals are actually checking out my site. See co-ordinates in the FACTFILE below.
Location – Shimoda, Izu (34.677335,138.965356)
Entry – Fight through the clogging bamboo, then easy.
Highlights – Roof, drum rooms.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
[album id=4 template=compact]