On Maya mountain in central Japan there’s an old hotel famous in the haikyo scene for one particular setting- a silent corner room with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a desk and chair, the walls are brown and peeling, and the windows let in delicious warm light through the overgrown mountain forest outside. Photos of it can be found in many haikyo books and magazines.
Of course I wanted to get that photograph. Any completionist haikyoist in Japan needs it to round out his/her collection. So I went to get it:
3 shot HDR bracket with d90 and Tokina 11-16mm, with selective colorization in Photoshop.
2 weeks ago I was in Kansai for haikyo. I met up with Florian of the abandonedkansai blog and together we did a night explore of Nara Dreamland. It was awesome, and as you can imagine I was pretty tired after walking round the park all night. Anyone who goes clubbing and dances the night away will know what it’s like to have your energy levels crash afterwards. The best thing is to crawl into your bed and sleep.
I did crawl into a ride at Nara Dreamland for a 20 minute nap while Florian paced endlessly around. After that we were rushing about to shoot by dawn. Then we were out, both starving and thirsty, and headed for the train station. I was feeling totally haikyo-ed out and just wanted to go home. I’d scheduled myself for a night bus home, which was crazy- leaving Kobe at 10pm and getting into Tokyo at 8am. I had classes that day starting at 10am and going through to 9pm. I couldn’t face it, so I began to flip-flop, and think about foreshortening my trip and just heading home there and then.
“Is Maya really worth it?” I asked Florian, sincerely hoping he would say no and give me an out.
But he didn’t. He insisted it was worth it, that I had come this far, I should go just a bit further and I’d reap the benefit.
Well, phew, he was right. I managed to change my bus tickets to a shinkansen leaving at 6pm for not too much more expense, and already began to feel better. Little did I know the ordeals I’d yet have to face.
Selective coloring and crazy angle. Most shots in this set have a window in them.
So to the ordeals. Florian gave me the lay of the land. Go to the rope-way, climb over two dams, climb up a very steep trail, and you’ll be there. Don’t take the rope-way because it overlooks the Maya hotel and the guards will see you if you try to hop the fence. The hike will take about an hour going up.
OK, that sounds pretty easy. But I managed to stuff it up not once, not twice, but three times before I finally made it.
I got into Kobe around 9. I walked towards the ropeway for about 30 minutes. I found what I thought was the dam, and climbed over it. In this case I had to actually climb over it, but since Florian said it wasn’t easy, I thought I was on the right track. There was no trail but I kept on climbing up a dry and overgrown riverbed anyway. There was another damn, with a knotted rope hanging down over it, which I shimmied up. Harder than I expected with a pack on my back. Then I was at the back-end of a high-school grounds.
Hmm. I began to think I must be going the wrong way, but decided to just bull through. I walked round the side of the grounds and scrambled up another cliffy hill. At the top I finally found a path. Yahoo! I walked it for 20 minutes, only to discover it went in a loop around the school and led me nowhere. Ouch. I found the road going back down and set off to find another dam to climb. I’d already used up about 90 minutes of scrabbling and hiking energy, and was feeling beat.
The second attempt was more minor, but likewise strenuous. I found another dam, much taller, but could see no trail heading up. AgainI thought this was the hard bit that Florian had described, so looked for a way to climb it. It was next to a graveyard, where lots of Japanese folks were milling because it was a national day for visiting dead relatives (or something close to that). I walked to the edge of the graveyard and scrambled up a bit of scrappy ground, ignoring the eyes on my, and managed to heave myself over the dam.
Well, it was the right dam, and there was a trail leading up the mountain, but by taking that route up the dam I never saw the actual trail I should have taken. So instead of taking the fairly short hike up to the Maya hotel, I took a nearly two hour hike up the wrong mountain. About halfway up I began to have real respect for Florian and Mike who had come here before me. They called this a one hour hike?
By the top I was totally exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and my legs were shaking. So I had some sandwiches, a pineapple soft cream, and continued on.
It was another 30 minutes walking to cross to the peak of the correct mountain; Maya. From there I took the cable-car down halfway and sighted Maya.
Through the rope-way gondola, the Maya with Kobe behind.
Maya’s rooftop, looking down from the cable-car station. The hole in the red roof was made by a huge tire which, for a while was embedded there. Now it’s fallen through. What the heck would a tire be doing out there? I read (on Gakuranman’s blog) that it fell from a B-39 plane. Very cool.
There were ropeway workers everywhere though. I began to wonder if I would have to go all the way down and start over. Instead I took my heart in my mouth and ducked out through a bush, went down a scree slope, circumvented the ropeway station, and clambered up another scree slope, to be greeted by success, the Maya hotel!
I was shattered, but feeling good. I had had a real adventure, going totally off the reservation, but finding my own unique way to the place. That’s one of the best things about haikyo adventure- one that I’ve often felt going by car simply bypasses. Making your way there is a huge part of it, even if half the time you were going the wrong way (see the Izu Small Pox Isolation Ward for another excellent misadventure).
So, I unpacked my camera and took my shots.
Minus the HDR.
Plastic chair, still classy in this setting.
I feel these windows are like a cinema screen, and we’re the audience.
Bridge heading up to the rope-way.
I wandered around in a fog of sweat and mosquitoes, at times popping my head out to peer up at the roof. I didn’t head up though, not wanting to be spotted from the rope-way.
Avenue along the big hall.
This red couch is also a popular shot, sitting in the big hall. It’s very out of place. A model photographer must have had a group of friends help him haul it up here. Or perhaps it was for a TV show?
Every window is overgrown. This is the mini onsen on the ground floor.
One exterior shot, taken with the body of the hotel sheltering me from the rope-way above.
Phew, and that’s it. I feel exhausted just to recount the story. And now, where next? I don’t know, it seems I’ve covered all the haikyo I wanted to, except of course for Gunkanjima, and perhaps some mines in Hokkaido and some crazy hotel on Okinawa. Hopefully some more ruins will pop up their heads while I work on getting out to those most far-flung of places.
See more ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:[album id=4 template=compact]