The Shin Shu Kanko Hotel in Nagano is a leviathan beast, 3 whale-sized buildings interlinked by encircling roads, interior corridors, underground passages and a long bridging escalator. The largest of the 3 is seven stories high with easily 100 rooms along its spine, with huge onsen, function rooms, izakaya and a hall. The smaller two add about another 50 rooms each, clutching up to the hill in back and spread like wings around the main complex. All of it empty, trashed, and creaking in the wind.
Shin Shu Kanko looking up.
The Shin Shu Kanko Hotel was the final stop on our third haikyo road trip- the last one we’d be able to do with Jason. He’s now back in Florida, finding an apartment and getting a job. We didn’t know what to expect. Conversation in the car on the way there, after staying overnight at a Toyoko Inn in a nearby town, was muted. The first day had been a fast rush of banter and traded insults- that was all dulled now. We each rode in our own thoughts, the music off, mulling our varied and diverging futures.
We arrived around 11am. The complex was fenced off but we navigated up the side and over the wall where it met the hill, grown over with bamboo stalks and rushes. We pushed through and faced off with the building. It was massive. We parted ways with barely a word spoken.
The sign on top reads Shin Shu Kanko Hoteru- which means: Land of Honesty Sight-Seeing Hotel. I think.
We didn’t need to talk. We’d talked enough. We’d fumbled in each other’s ways at the previous two haikyo. We’d been bound by each others desires of where to go, what to hunt for. Not this time. We made an arrangement to meet in a few hours, and then we were off.
Mike went straight in the front entrance, Jason round the side, and I flanked the front.
I always flank a building. I approach it obliquely. I almost never take the front route. I think that might be part and parcel of exploring for me. I want the unorthodox, slightly less-obvious, less well-trodden way. It explains why I haikyo in the first place.
The front facade of the building peeled away past the first pillar, revealing this large basement/car park area.
Car parking or storage. I wonder if it was once fenced-off.
The door for gnomes.
I found a door leading of to the side, up stairs and into the main building, but I let it rest for now. I wanted to strafe the whole complex first before going in.
The complex from the far right, the edge.
Small swimming pool at the edge.
Vines creeping up the side.
I meandered a time longer, wandering round the small pool, listening to people clanking around in neighbouring homes, peering in the dusty windows almost curtained-off by unchecked fir trees. I wasn’t thinking much, just relishing the moments preliminary to the full exploration. The anticipation, like the excitement of seeing the Christmas presents under the tree, but waiting for Christmas day to open them, in turn, ordered, one by one.
Then I went in.
This entrance looked a lot like the other one. It led over a patch of red carpet worn down to the concrete, left into an open plan lobby/bar area, up the stairs ahead, and to the right down a hallway.
I veered left first, my foot going through the tatami-clad wooden flooring once. Beyond was a dingy-looking hall, not so big. I turned about and headed for the corridor.
The corridor had been totally stripped- the floor and walls bare concrete. Through the open door-ways I could look out and see the small swimming pool.
Outlet torn from the wall.
At the end of the corridor were more wooden stairs, rotten through with the rain. I climbed them anyway.
View over the roof from the second floor- fir trees growing wild.
Smashed sink, no glass in the balcony sliding door.
Prepped for watching the place fall apart.
Indoor tatami decay.
I climbed again, and came to a large hall with stage and awesome view out of glass-less windows over the town and surrounding mountains. I lay down on my side to frame things just right.
After that I hit another staircase that intersected with another corridor- from a smaller intermediary fourth building. I stepped over an uncoiled fire hose, investigated a strange white L-shaped cell of a room behind a chest-high door, and took slow shutter shots of art on the wall.
Hills on the wall.
Taking the new corridor led me to this water-peeled weirdly-angled section. I think it must be shoved up against the cliff face- to be so badly damp-damaged and canted as it is. It was much darker than you see here, and the door at the end was creaking loudly.
I went through the doors jutting off to the left and found myself in a mini onsen, or sento- hot water bathing/cleaning room. One for men and one for women.
Hills on the walls, sento.
Lime-scaled ram’s head spout.
From the windows I had another great view.
Roof corner-piece, hills.
Hills, town, holes in the roof.
Around that time I got a call from Jason. It had already been nearly two hours, he was checking in. He was on the roof of the big building, behind the big letters. I took the nearest door and stairs out, popping up on the road right beneath the main complex.
Jason waves down- 6 stories above me.
We arranged to meet at the bottom- he came down, then led me back up.
Another holy roof.
Alien snakes shudder outside the frosted glass, nobody watches.
And then we emerged onto the roof. Being behind the letters was as awesome as I thought it would be.
We heard a sound from the far side of the roof. Nothing there. We heard it again, then saw Mike jeering at us, hanging a corded phone out of a window.
Mike in the window.
Jason and I decided to climb the rusted ladder on the left. It doesn’t look so high, but it was flimsy, and since we were already about 8 stories up, it felt very high and pecarious. My heart was in my mouth going over the edge.
Looking down at Jason.
Mike videoing the sign.
I came down, and things were winding up. I told them I’d seen a lot of rooms and a mini-onsen. They told me they’d seen a big onsen, and lots of rooms. I trailed behind them back down the stairs, hunting for the onsen.
Mirrors and shower-heads for bathing. The little plastic bucket seats are missing.
Along the wall.
The onsen. The dropped section in the middle would be full of water, for lounging.
Stone picnic table across the way, for more lounging.
The other two were now gone again, and I did a quick exploration of the main complex.
At one point around now I was taking photos in a fourth floor lobby area, when I was shocked rigid to find somebody by the wall staring at me. Of course, it was only Mike. He said he’d been standing there for a while, and I’d looked right past him a few times. Wow. I was intent on the photography I suppose- it’s a good thing he wasn’t a psycho out to kill.
He led me down to the escalator bridging shaft, and we walked down alongside it together.
Escalator of its track.
At the bottom.
Leading up into darkness.
And then we were in the main lobby, the same one Mike had walked into first. I’d been through the whole complex. The main lobby still had its boxish chandelier, but all the carpeting had been torn up, and the walls were splashed with graffiti.
A lone seat on the bare cement.
Tags of some prior English-speaking haikyoists. Poor taste, fellas.
Much-ornamented (and stolen from) lobby entrance.
Stairs sunk into the floor at the side of the lobby led down to the car-park area I started out at. I didn’t linger there though, and went out to the front to wait for the others to emerge. Jason was stuck on a lower floor of the main building, below the level of the bridging escalator and so unable to find a way out.
In the end he popped out of a loading door and jumped down to the road.
And that was that. We rolled out with daylight left, looking for an abandoned mine, which was to be our final destination. We hit snow going into the mountains though- snow which dumped suddenly and thick over the road. Going up the first steep hill coated with ice our little rental car just couldn’t get any grip, and we came to a stand-still.
We took about 4 more tries at it, with long run-ups, both Jason and Mike having a crack. But it was no good. It seemed to be the only road to the remote location we were headed to, so we accepted our fate and gave up.
So ended our final haikyo together.
How do I feel about it? It’s a real mix. Discovering haikyo over the last year, getting into photography, taking road trips with friends, firing up this blog and finding readers and like-minded people- it’s been a great trip. Prior to it I’d in some ways given up on finding adventure, in finding daring and exciting things to do and places to explore.
In my first year in Japan I used up all the things I could think of, all the things I wanted to look at, the sites I wanted to visit. The A-dome at Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, Osaka, Kamakura, Saipan, Nikko. Following Japan I had planned to English-teach my way around the world, but I gave that up to stay 3 months longer in Japan for a girl. At the end of that 3 months I left anyway, for a round-the-world cycle trip, temporary enough that I could come back to be with the girl. But on the day of setting out on my fully-loaded and geared-up bike, it felt like the wrong step. It seemed pointless when I could do the same trip by car or motorbike (like Ewan McGregor and friend) in one twentieth the time. It felt ridiculous to consign myself to being mostly alone for such a long time, with no real plan waiting at the end, and no future source of income. So I quit. But I wasn’t quite ready to quit on adventure completely until I took a back-packing trip to India, where I hung around Dehli and environs for about two weeks completely torn about what to do, the adventure of back-packing feeling nothing like an adventure I wanted. Then I quit all the way.
I came back here and sat on my butt for close to three years. I didn’t know what else to do. I had a miserable job, felt isolated living way out in the middle of nowhere, felt like a failure and a loser, the relationship I’d come back to ‘save’ wasn’t the same thing I thought it had been, and I didn’t know what to do to fix any of it. Adventure hadn’t seemed to work, the job wasn’t working, the girl wasn’t working, I knew I didn’t want to go home to England and make a life there, so I went round and round in circles in my own mind trying to figure out where my life had gone wrong.
I played frisbee every weekend- the only real social contact I had- and re-watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, played Civilization 3, went jogging, tried to write fiction, and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. Anyone who has read my blog from that time will know what I’m talking about.
Then- I moved to the city. I ended the old relationship. I quit my job and got a new one. I started going to haikyo. I bought a bike and took weekend cycle-camping trips. I had friends round for poker and games. I got a new girlfriend.
What’s this for? Why am I talking about this? Perhaps self-indulgence. Perhaps also- a weird thank-you to Jason. He didn’t exactly pull me out of the rut I was in but he did throw a lot of life-lines down, beginning with simple things like getting an i-pod, teaching me how to download movies and current TV shows, getting the ball actually rolling on our first haikyo trip by renting the car, getting me into cycling and photography, and always being available to talk about life stuff and women stuff and whatever. Being a good friend, basically- and for that I’m grateful.
Location – Nagano.
Entry – Up the side of a fence, over a low-wall.
Highlights – Onsens, creaking corridors, exploring solo, the roof, and being behind the letters.
Extra– You can see Mike’s awesome eerie video of his exploration here.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:
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Good stuff Mike. Your new(-ish) camera certainly gives a new depth to your haikyo posts.
As this place place was stripped bare for the most part, how did it compare to the likes of Sports World or Nichitsu?
Ahhh i wondered if Su Young was your gf but i didn’t want to ask because it’s not my business.
I love the “alien snakes”, what exactly are they? I also love the mosaic-ing in the bathroom, what a shame to leave such beautiful artwork behind, but thanks for showing us!
I’m glad you found your niche in the world Michael. I’ve really loved reading all your posts about haikyoing, i’ve often felt like i was there too thanks to your beautiful photos and descriptions. If you ever find any more haikyo’s (i know of a great one in tokachi, hokkaido) i’d love to see them!
Good description of the mental states we had on our final group haikyo trip.
I really was lost in that hotel at the end. Felt like I was in the hidden forest in the Legend of Zelda with always returning to the same spot no matter which hallway I took leading out of it. Like you said, had to follow your voice at the end and bust out of the building physically to escape!
Thanks for the kind words at the end. The feelings are mutual.
Now get on that U.S. immigrant visa!
More good haikyo. These places all have so many mysteries. Why they failed? What were they like at their peak? Why did someone put those holes in the roof?
Are you going to continue your haikyo adventures? How long will you stay in Japan?
It is amazing how much potential hiakyo are visible just along the streets and roads. On my recent trip to Tochigi, I saw many places that looked like haikyo right near the road. Then again, a lot of occupied Japanese homes and businesses look abandoned anyways so it is hard to tell.
Love your work here. I lived near Tokyo for three years, 94-97: just another JET. Understand your state of mind described. Never did haikyo, here (Toronto) or there, but did a lot of cycling and hiking in the mountains. Seems like haikyo gets you there.
I’ll tell you this, going home will f’up your head, esp if going back to a middling city like Toronto from Tokyo.
Excellent post, this looks like a really amazing haikyo, your photos have started to get a lot better, different perspectives and great lighting, keep it up, am inspired to get out and shoot more haikyo, just need the time (and a drivers license)
Lee- Cheers, think I’m starting to understand the d90 better. Compared to Sports World or Nichitsu, well, I wouldn’t recommend a trip just for this place, whereas I would for the other two. But for what it was, and since we were in the neighbourhood anyway, I was very satisfied. First large size haikyo onsen for me – nice.
Kelly- No worries- SY’s my gf yeah 🙂
Alien snakes- I don’t really know. Black pipes, ventilation I guess, they must have fallen down from the roof.
I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed these posts- and for sure there’ll be more coming. I can draw a straight line through my life of a fascination with these kinds of places- and I don’t doubt it’ll continue. At the same time, I’ll be shooting for other things in similar veins- we’ll see if those pan out. Hokkaido onsen- thanks, but let’s keep that one in reserve for now 😉
Jason- Couldn’t believe you were really lost! Strange layout to that place. Were those hotel rooms you were walking around- or service stuff? Strange you’d have to go up to go back down and get out.
Mental state, right. It struck me as very different from the first day. Visa- under consideration…
Tornadoes- Cheers, and the usual questions ne- the ones that keep us intrigued and coming back for more. You were in Tochigi recently, would’ve been great if you’d been able to get over to Ashio. That place is quite spectacular. As for my haikyo plans- probably yes, on into the future, and as for my plans to stay in Japan- I don’t have strong plans either way, I’ll stay until I can think of another place to be that’ll suit me better. For now Japan is cutting it OK.
James Mallon- Thanks, glad you can understand where I was coming from. Cycling is one of my hobbies too- looking forward to busting out the bike now as the weather starts to warm up. F my head up, in good way or bad? I’ll guess bad- but interested to hear more…
J-eye- Thanks, been trying to shoot in ways that interest me. As I think you know- a lot of trashed rooms tend to look the same. Got to pick out the best bits and home in. Lot of good material at this place for sure- old enough to have nature damage, young enough to still have some furnishings and not be totally trashed. Driver’s license- just got mine. Unstoppable now!
Nice post as usual ^^. It was cool to read about your thoughts at the end and how you’ve progressed in Japan, made friends and got a life for yourself! You guys have been inspiring doing your haikyo trips and photography (I’m on the verge of moving up cameras myself, but don’t want the bulk..)
I’ve always wondered though, this is your personal site, with your name on all the pictures and such. Do you not worry about getting itno trouble for doing this sort of thing? It’s the only thing worrying me about posting pictures of the haiyo I’ve been doing recently on my own site…
Amazing. . . at first I mused that some day the current glut of unsold glass condo towers here in NYC will yield the same sort of pictures now that our RE bubble has burst, but on second thought I don’t think they’d ever have the same poignancy as abandoned sento stalls or buckling tatami mats. Our haikyo will have a different flavor.
Thanks for sharing, as well as the comments on your personal life. You have already made a difference in the world and need never feel lonely or disconnected. Although that’s an inevitable part of the human condition anyway. . . 🙂
Aw geez bro I feel so proud of you. I’m glad you are happy. Being in your twenties is a testing ground for life, I reckon, and you happen to have tested yourself more extremely than most. Especially with the isolation you seem to have put yourself in. It’s like you went on some native inspired shamanic style walkabout on your lonesome and spanning the globe. You have come back wiser and with a new zest for life, it’s impressive, and what you have done and are doing is clearly inspirational to people – hence all your readers above!!!!
I see your mate Jason is asking about US Visas, I wish you would move there – it’s closer for big sis to visit!!!
Mike- Cheers, and yeah I worried some about how I present the photos, how they link to me, whether I’m providing ammo for someone who might want to prosecute something. I used to have more photos of me in the ruins, with more video- but I took a lot of that stuff down. I still tell the story of how I enter the locations, which may be incriminating- but it’s hardly evidence. I suppose it boils down to- I don’t think anyone wants to prosecute this. That’s another reason I didn’t enter the US Air Base in Fuchu; the US Air Force may well have prosecuted.
Velo- Thanks, this comment made my day. I have already made a difference- now I can sit back and play Civ 4 until I die 🙂 About the future ruins of NYC- well, those are some of the most intriguing visions of the apocalypse: I am Legend, The Day after Tomorrow, Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes, and so on. Of course they have a very different character from rural Japan haikyos.
Alice- Thanks Al, I definitely appreciate that. I’m glad that that time is far enough away that I can now draw a line through it, straight through from the time before to the time now, and even into the future. When I was stuck in those doldrums had no idea how any of it connected. Has it made me wiser- I suppose so, though not how I expected 🙂
USA, right, pops into my head every now and then. Would have to train to do something I think. Perhaps I could go back to the summer camp I worked at in Boston? Hmm..
Thanks for sharing your stories and pics with everyone. I really loved the mosaic pic. I might copy the idea in the future if I ever get to design a bathroom large enough 😀 By the way, I like it that you are not in every shot 🙂 It would ruin the experience when someone is reading because this way it feels like I was there and not like I’m just looking at your pics.
Umelma- Hi, and my pleasure to share, I’m glad you’re liking it, and perhaps even drawing inspiration from some of the haikyo 🙂 . Me not in every shot, I totally understand- I want it to be about the location and the exploration first. Stuff about me sometimes gets added in, but that’s usually because I feel it adds to the atmosphere.
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Hey there! Thanks to you, I’m a huge fan of Haikyo and Urbex. I want to go to one of the places you’ve shared with us all one day.
But more imortantly, I was wondering if you’d allow me to use some of your photographs in my art, if I give you credit for them, and leave your watermark on them? I’m no good with backgrounds yet, and I find your Haikyo photos to be so dramatically inspiring. <3
Oops, meant to say “importantly”, sorry about that, this keyboard isn’t the best.
Sadly the sign on the roof was removed some time before June 2012, when Google Streetview drove past it.
I remember seeing this back when I was in japan at night truly creeped me out it felt like a horror movie I have been looking for what it was called and am happy to have finally found it thank you