The ruins of Murakashi mine trail up the verdant Tochigi mountainside like a Studio Ghibli dreamscape, scattered about with the rusted-stiff robot arms of cranes that guard its approach like frozen heroes in Medusa’s cave.
Zoom out and the blaring red canopy roofs of this rustic industrial graveyard begin to look like the shiny spilled guts of a snake, slithering languidly out of the mountain’s clean-cut grey-granite belly.
Murakashi mine drilled limestone and dolomite out of the Japanese mountainside topsoil for 50 years, closing down some 30 years ago. Now it’s a relic of a bygone age, when Japan actually had natural resources to mine. I visited with Rob and Jan after seeing the Western Village cowboy theme park.
We drove up the half-rubbled road to an old chemical dump, now sandy car-park, and surveyed the beast before us.
“Do we climb?”
“Looks like it.”
Rob took off his shoes, because that is the kind of thing Rob’s (much like Tiggers) do, and we climbed up the mini-ridge you see below.
A scrabbly, tumbley affair.
The mountain god’s red viscera bared for us to see, like the kraken’s eye.
Rob leapt into the rusting framework with glee, clambering quickly up shaky stanchions and within the rotted-concrete scaffold, soon peeking his head out for a wave and a grin. Jan wandered off to the side, and I shot the beast head in, unafraid of its glimmery crimson eye.
Yellow tanks. These contained chemicals, or coal. I believe this was a mountain-top coal mine.
With their bloody red innards scattered at their feet.
A second giant arm watches over the lush overgrowth. Imagine Medusa standing before this, as though on holidays to crete ,with her flailing snake hair blasting it to stone.
Pieces of vital importance once; now just grist for the rag and bone man’s mill.
Beyond the first row of vast yellow tubs, a second row latticed with intertwining gantries.
A great concrete pipe narrows my gaze onto a workman’s control cab.
Rob and Jan off on their own, I dived head-first into the ruins like a mole in the dirt, wriggling my way amidst these looming stacks of red iron rebar and through the grasping brown fingers of twisty vines.
Inside was hallowed, like a temple built out of broken toys and blessed by the sun.
A path I could take, if I so chose.
I rabbled and rubbled about some, hopping from cross-walk to gantry as the iron underfloor netting gave out, as the snarls of vinery grew too thick, passing all manner of strange mechanical thingimibobs that watched me as I went by.
At times my head would peek clear of the ever-present red and green to spy a familiar face and glimpse of the place as a whole.
A shoeless Rob grins at me.
I look over the rows of coal-scuttle chutes.
I look down on the tumbled bits of factory furniture.
One of the chute-heads, just above a yellow vat.
A nervous system of chutes and ladders as complex as any board-game, even Game of Life.
At last I emerged atop the vats, and was free to walk about as though a Lord of the Morning. For a while all sign of Rob and Jan was absent, and I stood there and cried out-
“I’m the King of the World!”
Though not really.
Many things, on a field of green.
Soon after I ventured inwards, to investigate the rumblings of that still steel beast. Did it’s heart yet beat? Did the wagglings of its tongue still jostle avalanches an dearth-slides? Up the mountain, up countless ragged staircases I beat my path.
Here are various cables I considered making into jump-ropes, you know, for kids.
An interior cross-walk.
The knobbled side of some sleeping grey behemoth, that obviously thought it could hide away from the ravages of time indoors. Still, his skin flakes away.
An inner square. I imagine the Village People standing around this scene singing YMCA.
Conveyor belt for new life. Begins at conception?
Funnels and chutes.
Towards the top the air was rarefied. Excitement filled us all. What great treasures would await inside the beast’s dying brain?
A long axon ending in a dendrite of control.
Looking down the thing’s polished blue bib.
At the top was the mouth, facing back towards the mountain as though it had twisted upon itself like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. Climbing up its oesophagus and taking pause in the roof of its mouth, we studied the chains it used for teeth, the tongue bed that conveyed rocks down, down, to be crushed in the belly.
Above the stomach pit (the first of many, like a cow), looking up to the mouth.
A ray-gun, for blasting rocks apart.
A side-room, for enjoying a game of cards and the breeze of a fan.
Peeking out of one of the eye-holes.
Rob poses, shoeless as ever, atop the things inner gum-line.
Rows of razor-sharp teeth.
Down it’s neck side. We clambered the final stretch up a stretch of twiney vine- hair
Nice wig on that hut.
From above, looking down its gullet and maw.
What it has been eating. Chomp chomp. Good bye mountain.
Rob and Jan in the mouth.
Here they would tip everything into the digestary tract to be processed, cracked open, and all the goodness sucked from within.
At the last, we walk down a very easy path, pack up into the car, and say goodbye to that dead snake-god squatting on the hill.
Here is video of the quest:
Explore more Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:[album id=4 template=compact]
See a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.
You can also read my SF & Fantasy stories inspired by ruins.