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 …

History of the Western Village Amusement Park, Japan

MJG Haikyo, Theme Parks, Tochigi Leave a Comment

Western Village is a quantum pocket of the Old West Disneyfied and transplanted wholesale from the American collective unconscious, replete with a $29 million replica Mount Rushmore, Western saloon, ghost house, jail, post office, shooting gallery, actual fake Rio Grande, and vast Mexican barrens. It was built in 1975 and shut down in 2007, likely due to its remote location and the pull of other nearby parks like Disneyland sucking away its tourist base. Now it’s a ruin, or haikyo, open only to urban explorers willing to take their chances clambering over the stockade wall. The car park outside the …

Cowboy haunted-house and Mexicoland, Japan

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Theme Parks, Tochigi 18 Comments

Japan’s haikyo theme park Western Village (closed in 2007) takes its cowboy conceit in some unexpected directions; most interestingly of all the Wild West ghost house. Within its silent black-velveted walls we can find all manner of creepified Western stalwarts; skeletal pistoleers, death as a frontier dentist, zombified tomahawk-wielding Indians, and of course cowboys with their pants down. Hmm? Yes. There is more than one occasion of cowboys with their pants down. Each time they are displaying long and gruddy underjohns- perhaps intended to sync up with John Wayne with his fly unzipped. Maybe you can spy some of them …

Japan’s abandoned animatronic John Wayne

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, People / Culture, Theme Parks, Tochigi 10 Comments

Japan’s abandoned wild west theme park Western Village (closed in 2007) is filled to the tip of its ten-gallon hat with animatronic cowboy dolls. A Stagecoach-era John Wayne with cyborg heart exposed stands by the park entrance, silent now that the tourists have stopped coming. Animatronic John Wayne with hair peeling back to reveal flesh-toned speakers reprises his Stagecoach (1939) role. Hidden away in the Sheriff’s office, Clint Eastwood drawls in lazy Japanese about how he ran the bad guys out of town. Down the boulevard a ways is the WESTERN SHOOTING GALLERY, filled with card-players, insouciant drunkards and brassy-lipped …

Western Village: Japan’s Abandoned Cowboy Theme Park

MJG Featured Story, Haikyo, Japan, Theme Parks, Tochigi 30 Comments

Western Village is a quantum pocket of the Old West Disneyfied and transplanted wholesale from the American collective unconscious, replete with a $29 million replica Mount Rushmore, Western saloon, ghost house, jail, post office, shooting gallery, actual fake Rio Grande, and vast Mexican barrens. It was built in 1975 and shut down in 2007, likely due to its remote location and the pull of other nearby parks like Disneyland sucking away its tourist base. Now it’s a ruin, or haikyo, open only to urban explorers willing to take their chances clambering over the stockade wall. Animatronic John Wayne, cowboy ghost …

The ruined conference center built into a cliff- Yamamoto

MJG Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Tochigi 4 Comments

The Yamamoto Grand Center is a gracefully aging architectural foible, tucked away in a quiet corner of Tochigi prefecture on a die-cut volcanic crag. Warm spring winds blow confetti cherry blossoms through its many gaping windows, fluttering with old receipts and leaflets in zephyrs around its stacked and musty furniture. In the Grand Hall, weeds grow up in molding grass tatami mats. Once a ribald conference and function space, its long abandonment has lent a solemn gravitas it could not have had in life.

The Pearl love hotel, overgrown with brambles

MJG Haikyo, Sex Industry, Tochigi 10 Comments

The Pearl Love Hotel Haikyo in Tochigi is a wreck in camouflage, deeply nested underneath a blanket of scraggy brown vines. Rooms lie in embers, grown through with ferns; once-bohemian beds, chaise longues and chandeliers lie scrapped, dropped, and despoiled with the nests of birds, spiders, and the homeless. The grand two-story executive suite still maintains some of its sordid gravitas, its sultry red round-bedded apex room as faux-regal as ever, now overlooking a graveyard of spent passion inveigled by nature’s rapacious tendrils.

Collect your free drugs from this forgotten hospital

MJG Haikyo, Hospitals, Tochigi 10 Comments

The Toyoshin Convalescent Centre is an oddity already sunk from the consciousness of the neighbouring area, something the local kids don’t even notice as they walk past it to and from school. No fences or barricades of any kind guard its door or driveways, packets and vials of medicine lie side by side with discarded medical records and X-ray equipment on its shelves, but no-one ventures inside because- why would they? The place is a shell neither ominous nor dangerous- something old men potter around inside singing enka songs while searching for scrap firewood, a non-place already fading from existence.

Relics of WW2- the Japanese station that ordered Pearl Harbour

MJG Haikyo, Military Installations, Tochigi 13 Comments

On December 2nd 1941, just 6 days before the Japanese opened hostilities in the Pacific War against the Allies by bombing Pearl Harbour, a coded signal went out from the Kemigawa Transmission Station in Tochigi to all the Empire of Japan’s military forces: 1208, or CLIMB MT. NIITAKA 1208; the order to join the war. CLIMB MT. NIITAKA referred to Niitaka mountain, the tallest in all of the then-Japanese Empire (now Taiwan). 1208 referred to the date of commencement- the 8th of December Japan time, the day the Japanese surprise-attacked Hawaii. Kemigawa front face.