Apartments behind the barricade- abandoned

Mike GristHaikyo, Residential, Tokyo-to 11 Comments

The Osawa Apartments Haikyo in Sagamihara is a high-walled preserve for the recent past, shuttered in behind a plate-metal security fence 15 feet high. Outside the fence traffic races by on a highway slip road, and elementary school children play baseball in their school yard. Inside those sounds are deadened, and nothing moves but for the steady slow creep of vines, spreading like a green blanket over the cracked car parks and up the dusty building’s sides. Around the complex bicycles lie rusted in fallen racks, tangled through with weeds, and 6-mat rooms rest empty behind locked screen doors, their tatami mat floors slowly bleaching white in the pale autumn sun.

This is another haikyo I’ve been to before, several years ago when I used to work as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Junior High and Elementary Schools. I didn’t like the job much, but it did afford me a great deal of free time every day, which I generally used to wander around the surrounding area and explore. These abandoned apartments were just down the road from one of the many schools I taught at, and back then were only guarded by a ramshackle barbed wire fence.

That first time I went over I managed to get my suit pants caught on the wire, ripping them- probably because I was so nervous to be going in at all that I rushed it and wasn’t careful. I wandered into the complex in awe of its large size- 2 big apartment blocks 4 and 5 stories high respectively, with somewhere around 60 LDK apartments in total. I climbed the larger of the two buildings up the outside, though was unable to find a room to go into. I was able to climb up through an access ladder to the roof though- where I stood and surveyed the domain.

This time around, the worn down old wire fence had been replaced with a plate metal metal too high to climb. I went with Su Young, and we circumnavigated the new wall, looking for a decent access point. At the far corner we found a spot where it abutted the grounds of a private elementary school, which had a chain-link fence we could climb, with razor wire discouragement at the top- but possible to work around.

I would have taken more time sizing up the operation, checking for any kind of surveillance, but Su Young threw herself at the fence and was almost over before I realized what was happening. I followed, and we were both halfway over when some guy from inside the private school’s grounds stopped by and said “What are you doing?”

It was a strange moment, me looking down at him, him up at us. I put on a cheery smile and said hello in a loud and confident voice. He didn’t reply. I followed up with – “It’s OK, we’re magazine reporters, we’re going to take photos on the inside.”

He looked at us a while longer, both of us now smiling. Su Young said- “we won’t be long”, then continued climbing over the fence, and the moment was over. I can only imagine the guy shrugged and went on about his business.

This will be my cover for future haikyo I think. It appeals to a nebulous kind of authority that suggests we’ve got permission, but is uncheckable really, while also asserting we’re harmless and temporary. Either way, it worked this time and no police came to dig us out- though I did worry a little every time I heard nearby sirens.

We meandered through the tall reed underbrush, to the main car park area at the back which was half-coated in creeping vines, then up the side of the building.

Walking along the side.

The vine-carpeted car park.

Vines tangle in a bike shed.

We found a room which was open, but there was nothing at all to see inside- just empty space and the mildewed smell of old tatami mats. Up again, and again, and then there was the chute through to the roof. I remembered it being a tight squeeze for me last time, but this time I could only just worm my way through after taking off my bag.

Su Young climbs to the ladder.

Looking down on the chute.

On top, we lay down on the warm roof-liner and looked up at the cloudless blue sky. Planes flew by overhead. It was very peaceful and quiet, one remove away from the world.

Su young dances on the roof.

The other apartment block seen from the roof.

After that we packed up and rolled out.


Location – Sagamihara, Tokyo

Entry – Not easy- over a plate metal fence in full view.

Highlights – Claiming to be journalists unchallenged, dancing on the roof, squeezing through the roof-chute.


You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:

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Comments 11

  1. No pics of inside the rooms? Were the doors too tough to kick down? Where’s Jason and his ‘ya-ping!’ when you need him eh?

    Nice look to the place though, and doesn’t really look too overgrown. Must be a fairly fresh haikyo as haikyos go?

  2. Yeah, this place hardly looks like a haikyo. Maybe it could be opened up agin some day if someone mows the lawn?

    Were there any personal items left in the apartments like we saw in Gunma or the Russian Village?

    SY is really bold and brave, respect!

  3. Post

    Can- We went inside one room- already opened, but it was really very bland, just some rooms with faintly discolored wall-paper, not an interesting photo at all. Like you say- not such an old haikyo, so not too much decay/overgrowth.

    Jason- I know right- re-opening, I suppose that’s possible, but would be a heck of a lot of re-fitting, probably would be cheaper to tear it down and start from scratch. Nothing was left behind that I saw, other than the bicycles in the sheds.

  4. Did it ever occur to you the reason why there is a fence around it is because it’s private property? I can’t believe you just scaled the fence and went over, even when you were caught.

    Despite being what you call a “haikyo”, it’s still someone’s private property.

  5. Great pics again. The magazine reporter story is a good one. I still feel the main reason these Haikyo places exist is due to Japan’s declining population.

    And, Su Young is pretty cute.

  6. Post

    Kelly- You make a fair point, the fence is there for a reason, though I don’t think it’s exactly private property any more. Most likely the company went bankrupt, and either local banks or local government picked up the tab. I think the fence is less to protect what’s inside than it is to protect people from going in and hurting themselves.

    All that aside though, yeah, this whole trespassing thing is a problem.

    Tornadoes- Thanks bud, the declining population is a fair bet, certainly for the haikyo out in the country areas. City center space is super-valuable and turns over fast, but country-side stuff just has less value, especially if there’s a high cost to demolish/rebuild. BTW- Su Young says thanks :).

  7. Hi Michael. Thanks for responding. What i find amazing is that Japanese people don’t seem to keen to go raiding around for other’s leftover junk. In other countries they would be in there looting everything possible, especially with tatami mats sitting around on the floors! Do you think it’s some kind of unspoken rule amonst Japanese people that you just don’t go taking other’s things? Or are Japanese people not interested in second-hand stuff preferring new…

  8. Post

    Hi Kelly, no worries, you raise similar concerns I’ve had myself over the hobby of haikyoing. As for not getting raided, well- most of the junk in these places is just that, junk, and pretty worthless. The tatami in these apartments was all old tatami, and since everyone who could want new tatami already has old tatami to be replaced- there’s no need.

    Some of the places, like Sports World or the Russian Village have stuff like TV’s, but the effort to take a truck up, carry them out, drive them to the city, then pawn them- you’d make some money, but really not that much- because what is a dated CRT TV worth 2nd hand, really? Not that much.

  9. Hey there Michael,

    I have followed your Haikyo adventures keenly since finding your site earlier this year from a link on Japanprobe. I must say I have enjoyed them a lot. Both the wonderful pictures and your excellent observations and commentary. I lived in Japan for a few years but while I saw lots of buildings such as the ones you post here, taking a look inside never really occurred to me. I think when I go back to Japan in the future I will have to take a look around some of the ones I remember from last time.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more of your adventures!

    – Adam

  10. Post

    Hi Adam- thanks a lot for your comment, I’m glad you enjoy the site. As for me and going into ruined buildings- it’s been kind of a life-long thing, with going in as the ultimate goal, though I was only ever an opportunist, going in when and if I stumbled across one. It’s only recently that I started to actively pursue the hobby and hunt down the places to enter.

    When you come back, if I’m still around, I’ll be happy to hook you up with maps to any of the haikyo I know. Can you provide any tips to the locations you remember? I’m always on the look-out for some new spots to explore.


  11. I will have to have a think but off the top of my head I can think of at least one that I passed and even got a picture of but never had the chance to visit. (An abandoned cable car but not the same one was featured recently on Tokyo Times) It was in the north of Saitama off the top of my head but I’m sure my wife would remember better than I.

    I will see if I can’t dig out the picture and a link to it’s location on Googlemaps for you.

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