Odaiba Cannonades

MJG Haikyo, Military Installations, Tokyo-to 3 Comments

160 years ago, Japan and America looked at each other down the barrels of cannon. Japan was in isolation, and America (the whole world, really), wanted in. Five island forts stuffed with cannon (‘daiba’) were built across Tokyo Bay to repel foreign invasion. They were never used. The foreign invasion came, and Japan opened its doors to the world. Now three of those islands are gone, incorporated into recent land developments. Two remain, one preserved, the other conserved as a habitat for birds. But why were they built at all? Why was Japan so afraid of letting foreigners in to …

Mizune Freighter Tracks

MJG Bridges / Roads, Haikyo, Tokyo-to 6 Comments

60 years ago the Mizune freighter line built one of the biggest dams in Japan. The line was specially constructed in the 1940s, with some 20 tunnels and bridges snaking through the west Tokyo mountains, to ferry supplies from the sleepy hiker’s village of Okutama to the construction site for the Ogochi dam on Okutama lake. It must have cost millions to blast those tunnels and build all those bridges. Still, the line was abandoned after completion, and now remains high above the still-operational road to the dam, like a hidden super-highway for local fauna. A concrete bridge along the …

The ancient glare of Angkor Thom

MJG Haikyo, World Ruins Leave a Comment

Angkor Thom is a behemothic ruin, 9 square kilometers of temples, lakes, terraces, and dusty faded glory all bound in by a ten-foot wall. Much of it now is paved with roads built by the South Koreans, the Chinese, the Indians. Our guide happily explained the times and dates each country came along and chipped in their bit to keep this grand testament to ancient Khmer wealth in a visitable condition. And visitable it most certainly is, from the hydra-headed temple of Bayon to the seemingly endless codices of ‘forgotten temples’ across from the palace’s elephant terrace. The heads of …

The sun-bleached ruin of Angkor Wat

MJG Cambodia, Haikyo, World Ruins 1 Comment

Angkor Wat is the last, greatest remnant of the ancient Khmer empire, a sprawling citadel and temple complex built nearly 1000 years ago, now resplendent in ruins. Doubtless you’ve heard of it. It’s the biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia, with thousands of visitors parading through its grand porticoes every day, clad in day-glo Crocs and local-bought elephant-pattern pants, mooning over this relic of the Khmer’s grand vision. A few weeks back my wife SY and I went to moon right alongside them. Angkor Wat beyond the boundary moat. We went to Angkor Wat as part of a whirlwind 9-day tour …

Ruins of the Russian Village Revisited

MJG Haikyo, Niigata, Ruins / Haikyo 22 Comments

4 years ago I went to the Russian Village– one of the grandest failed theme parks in Japan, abandoned 20 years ago and left to fend for itself. On that first trip I camped overnight in a still-pristine hotel room, admired the mint-condition giant mammoth sculptures, and was even able to loot a few tatty matroska dolls from a (mostly already looted-out) gift shop. Now, 4 years later, I returned to see how the old Village was faring. Not well, it turned out. Modeled after the Kremlin, I believe. Its poor condition was not obvious to see from the outside, …

Fuchu US Airbase Heyday

MJG Haikyo, Military Installations, Tokyo-to 203 Comments

Since publishing my 2008 explore and photos of the abandoned US Air Force base in Fuchu, Japan, it’s been one of the most popular pages on this site. See it here. It has attracted hundreds of veteran airmen from the 50’s onwards to comment and reconnect with old friends and colleagues- some of whom at times sent me photos from the Base’s heyday to include in a heyday page. This is that page. Thanks to 4 airmen in particular- Carl Lindberg, Cliff Cockerill, Bill Lambert, Dale Lingenfelter, and Donn Paris for taking the trouble to scan and send the photos …

Nara Dreamland Heyday

MJG Haikyo, Heyday, Nara, Theme Parks 9 Comments

Nara Dreamland, Japan, was Asia’s first Disneyland clone- opened in 1961 and continuing operation until as recently as 2006. Over that 45-year span millions of people were entranced by its mimicked delights- the Matterhorn mountain, the fairytale castle, Main Street, etc… Even now many thousands are still entranced by Dreamland abandoned, as its rides grow dusty and weeds shoot up through its empty concrete boulevards. Some of those thousands have left comments on my main Dreamland page– sharing their memories, including several veterans who passed through US bases in Japan in the 60’s and went to Dreamland on R & …

After the conflagration: a ruined Tokyo dormitory

MJG Haikyo, Residential, Tokyo-to 21 Comments

In 2007 the Seika Dormitory in central Tokyo went up in flames. The roof was burnt away and flames roared up the building’s old stairways and licked at rooms full of possessions, melting and burning some unrecognizably, leaving others coated in a thick mask of sticky black ash. Skeletal roof girders remain. Did anyone die in the Dormitory fire? I don’t know. I hope not, but so many of the rooms were left with so much stuff that seemed still in good-ish condition (heaps of books, vinyl records, clothes, diaries, photo albums) that I have to wonder. The dormitory was …

Murakashi Derelict Industrial Ruin

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Mines / Factories, Tochigi 6 Comments

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. Guardian arms. 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 …

Exploring Japan’s deserted Mount Rushmore

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Statues / Monuments, Theme Parks, Tochigi 6 Comments

Disneyland has the grand pink Sleeping Beauty castle. The wizarding world of Harry Potter has Hogwarts. Japan’s abandoned Western Village theme park has a 1/3rd scale replica of Mount Rushmore. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln- Japan Outside Mount Rushmore As grand-central-structures-that-pull-their-thematic-landscapes-together go, it’s an odd one. First off, you can hardly even see it from within the park. Instead it fronts the nearby highway and bullet train tracks boldly, like a grand welcome sign that turns its back on you as soon as you enter. Second, it doesn’t fit all that well with the park’s cowboy theme. Did cowboys wage shoot-outs …