The Yamanakako Resort Hotel at the foot of Mt. Fuji is another Bubble-era dead-end, a half-built extravagance that freezes in time the moment the crash occurred. Its rooms lie fallow and bare, uncarpeted and unpainted, with no furnishings but for dusty bath-tubs still in their vinyl casts, yet to be plumbed into the pipe-stalks jutting from the rough cement floors. Pyramidal heaps of wall-paper slowly mildew in the wind-swept hallways, alongside racks of wooden drywall frames with workers’ sawhorses standing ready for use, all of it written off and forgotten about when the economy collapsed.
This was the first haikyo I’d visited solo for quite some time, as for the previous 10 or so I’d always been with friends or SY. With friends you tend to match each other’s pace, for exploring and photographing, you don’t really sit back and contemplate a shot with as much depth- so I was keen to make the most of this opportunity.
I’d been thinking more about how I wanted to shoot these places anyway, and what I wanted to focus on. From the beginning I knew that simply images of dusty rooms and old garbage crumpled up with the burnt porn and half-full milk cartons of homeless people were not what I wanted to shoot. Nor was I keen to capture my own grinning face with thumbs up in front of some rusty old piece of junk (though I have done and do still do that sometimes).
I posted about Miru Kim‘s work recently- she’s a Korean urban explorer living in New York City who takes tasteful shots of herself naked in various haikyo locations. She talks about her desire to populate the place with a character, a notion I can well understand as I’ve often wanted to do the same myself. As a writer of fiction, I’m always interested in the story of a place- and the places without characters are just still paintings; add people though and you have a narrative, or at least the beginning of one.
Her being naked is a further choice beyond that, but one that makes a kind of elegant sense. She says it’s because any clothes she wears will date the shot to a certain culture and time, a thought I generally agree with; it’s only one step away from the grinning tourist shot. By stripping away her clothes I feel she brings something new to the location- this lonely place with now this tender but vibrantly alive presence.
Of course I’m well aware I’m no Miru Kim. The few photos I took with myself partly in the frame can’t claim to ‘bring life’ to the place- in fact I imagine they do quite the reverse.
This one is simple- there’s another in the gallery below.
So, exploring! Well, the effort of getting to this place has put me off several times before- since no trains run to Yamanaka lake, the only way is by road. This time however I got on the net and put my rusty J-skills to work and found that actually, a highway bus goes straight from Shinjuku (very near me) direct to a terminus station very near to the Resort Hotel, in only about 90 minutes. I hopped on board.
I arrive at the lake mid-afternoon and was greeted by Mt. Fuji, resplendent:
It was a short walk to the Resort Hotel, which I easily recognised from photos of prior explorers- namely Japanese Eye who came here several months ago. In a sign of my new boldness, rather than skirting the place and casing it for some time, I just walked straight up the drive of the nearby house and hopped over the low fence. Easy, I was in. There weren’t even any signs.
I walked past a big turret that had blown off its moorings and lay on its side next its pedestal. I walked past the ladder J-eye used to climb in, round to the back where there was some kind of drainage building with deep concrete wells and concrete walkways. I walked round the back to find an easy entrance through a window, and I was in. From there I took video- you can see that at the bottom of the post. The video is quite long but has some good moments in it, particularly a point I nearly curse out of shock/fear at a strange and sudden noise.
My first thought for something interesting to shoot was a creative interaction with the ruins. I mentioned in the introduction there were heaps of wall-paper rolls- I decided to hoist a few of these across a walkway and roll down the paper to the ground like pennants:
Of course I took shots of this from the ground but it didn’t look good, far too cluttered and blown-out with the light behind it either way.
After that I continued to roam. Most of the rooms were bare and empty, though most had their prefab bathrooms already in place but not installed. From one I had the idea to haul a bath-tub, which I did and set it in the middle of the bare floor. Then I decided to get in- that’s the other shot in the gallery.
Background blur plus an object in focus in the foreground has made interesting haikyo photos before- so I took this lone blue light-bulb:
It turned out much better than I thought it would.
After that I searched for a route to the roof, but there weren’t any. I wandered around and got some great new graffitis, then headed out. I thought I was going home then, it was already 4pm, but on the walk back to the station I found about 3 more haikyo in a clump- ones I hadn’t known about before- so I decided to explore. One of them was a big underground walk-in vault with a double-safe door and triple combination locks like a gold vault. I’ll post about that next Friday.
In the mean-time, here’s the video:
Yamanakako Resort Hotel Haikyo from Michael John Grist on Vimeo.
Location – Yamanashi.
Entry – Very easy, straight up a neighbors drive and over the fence- no signs.
Highlights – Trying out new types of shots, interacting creatively, being shocked by the banging door.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here.
The blue light bulb photo is very good.
The arm photo looks like a dead body. Maybe your specialty could be “Dead Body Haikyo” photos.
Thanks for the link, your photos suddenly have suddenly got a lot better, really like this set, the bath tub and arm shots are particularly good , I always imagine as I enter a room in haikyo that a body will be hanging from the ceiling, hopefully i wont walk into a room one day and find you naked in a bathtub either!
There is an surreliast photographer on flickr that does similar kinds of shots to for further inspiration her name is brooke shaden
Cool photos the bathtub and arm you might wana check this out for composition ideas/inspiration.
I agree with theJapaneseeye too, it’s nice to see more surrealism in your photos. the butterfly and broomstick shot are cool too.
Nice photos as always Michael! I can really identify with the feeling of walking empty corridors like you were in the video now having done a few of these myself! I always get startled by flapping curtains or banging windows caused by the wind – it’s quite unnerving!
Btw, I wanted to ask you. Do you wear any protection from asbestos? I recently bought particle filter masks as many of the places I end up going to are closed because they have been gutted for asbestos.
Love the pics mike you have such a good eye. The body parts are superb, very eerie and moving. x
Just a heads-up:
They came back to finish it! I visited Yamanakako on Sunday, and the hotel is now freshly fenced-off, cleaned up and crawling with workmen. Looks like it’s being turned into luxury apartments.
Still plenty of other Haikyo to be found around Yamanakako, though I noticed signs for the same company that’s taken control of the hotel outside some of them – how much longer they’ll remain accessible isn’t clear.
Happily, the bank vault and neighbouring spa hotel don’t appear to be slated for redevelopment just yet.
Photos of them (and a few from an old ryokan up the road from the hotel) here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cousinmacho/sets/72157622494411643/
I quite enjoy all you explorers of modern and contemporary archeology. The one thing missing, though, from most is that very few sites give us much historical perspective on why buildings were abandoned and why so many, especially the larger structures and such, aren’t razed or aren’t repurposed.
I’d like to think this one here at Yamanaka-ko has a happy ending.