My old gym shoes were pretty much rotten, so I decided to buy some new ones. I wandered the streets of Ikebukuro for some time trying to find a decent priced decent looking shoe. I was on the cusp of giving up when I saw the Climacool Adiprene:
It only cost about 8,000 yen, and though that was higher than I wanted to pay, the cool white and silver of the shoe won me over. Plus it has great aeration abilities and is really light. For style as well as substance it’s the perfect gym shoe.
Watch out though, these shoes make me a furious bad-ass.
Beer and beans go hand in hand in Japan. In bean season (spring) you can’t go to an izakaya (bar/restaurant) without having eidamame (spring beans) thrust upon you along with your nama beeru (fresh beer). It’s no burden however, because chilled half-boiled lightly salted beans go very well with beer, the one complementing the other.
So why not make snacks that equally complement each other, available not only in the spring, but year round? Or at least for as long as the product life-cycle in Japan’s fast-paced novelty foods market.
With that in mind, Glico brings us Beer Pretz (els)-
The Sports World haikyo occupies an idyllic position at the crown of the Izu peninsula, overlooking a wide swathe of richly forested mountains and valleys. In its heyday it was a sports and relaxation haven, featuring tennis courts, miniature golf, a dive pool, restaurants, a hotel, a huge wave pool, a spa, and a gym. It was abandoned in 1993 as the economic bubble burst, and has lain untended for 15 years. Now its many tennis courts are visited only by skateboarders and grafitti artists, up-turned cars line its once broad thoroughfares, its wave pool is coated with red rust and algae and its golf course is a jungle of overgrown palm trees.
Sports World Hotel.
I went to Sports World at night, intending to camp overnight and explore the following day. I arrived at nearby Izunagaoka station around 10pm, then spent over an hour walking. I had decided not to use taxis, on the off-chance the driver realized I was intending to trespass and notified the police. Also- because the long approach of walking serves to better sever me from normal reality, readying me to plunge into the depths of the ruins more fully alone.
Arriving at the old Sports World it was very dark. I easily slipped through the first barricade and walked along the moon-swept empty car park. At the ticket gates there were barbed wires strung across the front, but I could easily slip underneath them even in the dark.
Approaching the ticket booths.
Rust, and silence.
Bus stop chairs being digested by the jungle.
Once people waited in line under these ‘canopies’.
The view of Izu’s beautiful mountains they enjoyed.
Inside the gates looking out.
The entrance to the Games Center was veiled in darkness. There were stars visible in the sky, which never happens in Tokyo. I meandered around the front for a time, trying to decide the best entrance option. I wanted to head for the mini-golf course, thinking it would be a good open place to camp. I walked by graffiti-covered walls, ruined cars, one flipped on its roof, and down a long open road covered over with grass and weeds. To my left the golf course, completely overgrown.
I experimented with my flash-light. I wore it on my head, but this too severely limited my vision to only where I was looking, the brightness dimming out any peripheral sense I might have. Also I worried that a flashlight would only draw attention to me. I never worry about ghosts or monsters when in a haikyo. I only worry about meeting mad people. Why would anybody be in a place like that at a time like that? Either they’re a tourist like me, or those kind of places are their natural habitat, as a murderer or madman. So I turned the flashlight off for the most part, and went back to holding it in one hand, so I was better able to distance myself from it’s light and retain some peripheral vision when it was on.
There was light enough from the moon to get by. I reached the bottom of the park, the big wave pools, and decided to head up to check out the hotel. The path was completely overgrown, so I had to push my way through. At times I thought I heard voices, and froze. At other times there was a strange pig-like grunting noise coming from the end of the biggest wave-pool. I hurried on.
At the top I came into another parking lot, and headed into the first hotel room I saw. I didn’t leave again. It had a chain bolt and I put it on immediately, then went through the room, about 30 square meters, immaculate, clean, and checked the glass screen door. It had been smashed at the lock, to gain entry in the first place I surmised, but was still able to slide closed and lock.
I was amazed at how well-preserved the room was. Apart from some shards of glass by the screen door and a few dead cockroaches, it looked exactly as it must have 15 years ago, when it was left behind. The bathroom was sparkling, the toilet paper in a neat triangle, the toilet with a paper welcome sign on it, the complimentary toothbrushes and shampoos all in place. In the main room the TV sat with its remote controls neatly aligned beside it.
I enjoyed the wonderful moon-lit view of distant mountains, the complex’s central lake, and the ghostly silhouettes of the other hotel blocks around me for some time. Slowly though, as I spent more time inside with the light on, more time silent, unmoving, and alone, the stillness of the place crept into me. There was some fear, prompting me to bolt the screen door, draw the curtains, and drag chairs and tables in front of the entrances. But there was mostly sadness, that the place was empty, and also sadness that I was there alone, as if the place wanted more people, more life, more color. I was just a single tourist though.
I went to sleep, and dreamed of my room being broken into by people I knew, and our adventures in the ruins.
The next day dawned glorious. I opened my curtains wide to a spectacular mountain view and the overgrown jungle of old golf course, lake, and hotel, all bathed in bright hot sunlight. I stepped out onto the balcony with my tripod to take photos and film of the place.
As I panned across though, I spotted a man in a blue uniform and cap striding along on the far side. (opening photo is a shot from my room). I immediately thought- the place is alive, he’s a security guard and he’ll come kick me out. I stared at him for a moment, unsure of what to do and not wishing to draw attention to myself by retreating back into my room. Eventually I ducked, and watched him walk away through a hole in the rail.
I didn’t see him again, but I laid low after that for a while. I ate my breakfast, then left the hotel room.
I fought my way back down the tangled paths. At the wave pools I dallied and looked around the creeper-covered restaurants.
One tangled path.
Wave pool sign, over a sea of green.
In a corner of the complex where the outer fence met a small road, a girl came in through a hole cut in the fence. I had my tripod set up to take a photo of a solitary cash register. She crept through the hole with a camera in her hand. I smiled and said ‘hello’ in Japanese. She said hello back, then asked me if it was ok to come in and take some photos. I said- sure. She went on past me.
After that, my fear of the security guard issue went away. If she was here, and so bold to enter right before my eyes, there was clearly no problem with security.
I walked up the main thoroughfare, stopping to look into the dive pool on the right. Back up at the Games Center back-lot I saw the girl again, on some kind of modeling photo shoot with 3 friends. It was strange, we didn’t say anything to each other, just regarded each other curiously then moved on.
I went through the offices, over the tipped-up car, through the game center, and into the sheltered BBQ area, which was beautifully overgrown inside.
Checking out directions on the main thoroughfare.
Grafitti courtyard, once a spot for golf carts to idle.
Nearby was a tipped-up golf-cart, its innards exposed to the sky. For some reason I didn’t take a photo of that though.
Instead I took a picture of this smashed phone.
Just to the left of the golf-carts were the three ravaged cars. How did the far one come to be flipped? I have no idea. It’s an impossible place to get the speed up to flip it by turning. Someone must have done it manually, presumably a group. Rebelling employyes, angry at being sacked, perhaps?
The jungle wants to drive.
Heavily sealed-off office.
I entered through the smashed window at left.
A lone chair speaks to memory, says, ‘oh yes, I hated sitting in the office doing accounting too.’
Many lone chairs say, ‘and meetings too, what a time suck.’
Connected to the office is the Game Center, wholly empty inside.
Another derelict car, this time at the front, back at the ticket gates.
Main entrance, ticket gates right, game center just beyond.
At left, the BBQ garden.
Cane chairs being inched back amongst their brethren.
A BBQ hall fit for the elves.
I returned to the main car park and swung round and back towards the hotel main entrance. On top was a restaurant with a wonderful view of the whole hotel complex. Underneath I found the gym and fitness center with working weights machines, the restaurant, and I walked the roof where the ‘security guard’ had been.
Atop the restaurant, looking back at the hotel rooms.
The abandoned Nichitsu Mining Town sits cramped into a narrow valley at the head of a long and buckled road in the mountainous western edge of Saitama. It was once a thriving company town with hundreds of families, the women staying at home in their rickety timber apartments, the children at the large wooden high school, and the men down in the mines digging for tin. But that was at least 20 years ago- since then the town has been relentlessly pounded by avalanches and ravaged by decay. All around the buildings stand with their roofs and walls caved in, reeds shot through floorboards and decking, swingsets and see-saws over-awed by brambles and flurries of fallen leaves.
Up in the mountainous north-west corner of snowy Gunma prefecture, at the foot of the once-active volcano Mt. Asama, lies a beautifully weathered abandoned volcano museum. Ruptured by avalanche scree and scoured by the harsh winter winds rushing down the valley, it stands as a lone sentinel guarding the jagged granite slopes leading up to the volcano’s cone. Its paintwork has all flaked away revealing the white bone of plaster and the black of slate-brick, its windows and railings lie in broken shards at its feet, dislodged in the earthquake tremors shot out by the great dormant volcano it rests upon.
The Kappa Pia Theme Park in Saitama prefecture was in the process of being demolished when I went to see it. The grand rusted roller-coasters, creaking tea-cup rides, teddy bear-winning sideshows and themed restaurants I’d hoped to see were all gone, leaving nothing but troughs of rumpled mud and occasionally a bare concrete platform with rust-pocked rivet marks where a ride had once been tied down. Now, any record of the park’s existence at all must be gone. I only wish I’d gone there sooner to see it in all its faded glory.
The other day I took a stroll over to Zoshigaya Cemetary, one stop down the Arakawa street-car line from where I live. I meant to only shoot photos, but soon realized that photos couldn’t do the scale of the place any justice, so I decided to take some footage as well:
After the success of our Arakawa River Ride, both Jason and I were chomping at the bit to get out and cycle-camp some more. Jason was keen to hit up the Arakawa again, whereas I wanted to try something new: the Tama river.
My buddy Canadian Mike painted this- after many attempts to capture the mood of Jack vs. the Last Bunnyman. It’s from the opening scene of my story Killin Jack the Malakite, recently published in the zine Atomjack.
Jack is the ape-like guy on the right. The Bunny is in the middle of the graves, just finished burying the last Bunny child, now leaping for Jack.
I love it. It’s dark, but the colors are silvered out by the pale moon-light. I love Jack’s bulk, and the Bunnyman’s dynamic flight. Mike’s a great painter- we’ve talked some about turning Jack into a graphic novel. I’d love to see that, and of course work on it.
Check out Mike’s site for more of his paintings. Maybe one day he’ll put up a link where you can buy them, or prints, online.
Feel free to comment on his rendering of Jack vs. the Bunnyman here. Was it what you expected?
There’s a giant head in my living room. It’s made of grey clay, and it sings through the night.
It sings songs about America. Sometimes boogie-woogie or the Big Bopper. It sings Buddy Holly. It sings about the plane that crashed and sometimes the song about the crash. It sings about whiskey and rye.
I don’t know why the head sings. I don’t know why the head is in my room, or why I let it stay.