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Stunning ruins of Japan’s Maya Hotel

October 4, 2010 · Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Kobe 

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!

Phew.

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.

Reception desk.

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]

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11 Responses to “Stunning ruins of Japan’s Maya Hotel
  1. lapzod says:

    I’m very jealous. Headed uphere when I was in Japan earlier this year, but couldn’t find a way to make it inside.

    Some day I’ll do it. I hope.

    • Florian says:

      Yeah, it seems like somebody is boarding up the place once in a while.
      And it’s interesting to see how the couch gets dragged around – when I was there two months earlier it stood in the middle of the room.

  2. Mike says:

    Great story Mike! I was hooked (and feeling very sorry for you) scrambling up that mountain. Props to you for not giving up. I hope you felt that special something has Maya has. I certainly did after going through my shots.

    As the the plane tire, the legend states that it fell from a plane, but according to the Japanese Wikipedia, it likely couldn’t have because the hotel was supposedly renovated after the War. Who knows though..?

    I upped a couple of new locations recently on my blog. Not new for you, but check them out if you’re bored. :)

    • MJG says:

      Mike- Cheers, glad for the sympathy. You can believe I was thinking of you two as I was going up! -”How could they do this in one hour?! How?!”

      The plane tire story, right, it seems to me like it must have dropped from a plane, because I can`t see any other way it could get there and smashed through the roof- unless someone deliberately set out to fake a tire through the roof fallen from a plane. It would be a big effort to go to even for that, and an incredible effort if their only goal was to dump a tire.

      Nice new shots of old sites ;)

  3. It is always worth it to make the effort, but yeah, that night bus before a full day of teaching sounded crazy. Hokkaido sounds like a good place to go and check out next, especially a snow-covered haikyo.

    • MJG says:

      Yup, Hokkaido will probably be it. Chiefly mines up there, which of course will look familiar, so I`m not in a big rush. Maybe the haikyo bug will bite hard as I go cold turkey for a while…

  4. Florian says:

    The Rokko Mountains are great for hiking, but not after a night at Dreamland and with a haikyo to shoot! I can’t believe you actually went there in the end… you looked half dead when we parted in Osaka! But I’m glad you liked the place – and with that kind of adventure I’m sure it’ll stick out forever.

    • MJG says:

      I felt dead, for sure. Without you encouraging me I would probably never have gone, either, so thanks again for that. And all the while I was hiking those damn mountains I was thinking about how both you and Mike had done it before me, and I couldn`t let myself stop short. Fire in the belly ;)

  5. Leni says:

    Maya is gorgeous as usual, but certainly has changed over the years (I’m used to seeing pictures of it from around 7 or so years ago)

    And that mysterious red lounge, I would love to know when it first started showing up in photos and who brought it in. There was a DVD made about the ruined Maya so that is a possibility…

    • MJG says:

      It`s a beautiful hotel, and a beautiful location, no doubt. I just wonder at the impressive efforts the couch-carriers must have gone to- the trail was not super steep but was quite overgrown. Carrying a couch up there would have been a grind.

  6. Paul says:

    I hate the Mt Maya cablecar. Kobe is meant to be #2 of the 3 great night views of Japan. Shame the sods close up shop and bugger off before sundown outside of special days. If you’re not careful, you can even get stuck stranded between the cablecar and the ropeway with nobody around and no way down apart from the hike. Y’know. Crappy, eh?

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