The Cosplay Factory Haikyo in Ibaraki is like a series of jewels bevelled so well within a crown of thorns that you wouldn’t even know they were there. Snuggled up inside a bamboo jungle and locked behind at least two sets of fences, it keeps its treasures safe- and what treasures: a NASA rocket ship boiler circa 1950, two enormous bread kilns not for baking bread, and a gaggle of Final Fantasy warriors posing for their daguerrotypes to be etched. Glorious.
It’s rare to meet other people while exploring abandonments- by definition they should be empty, like dried-out rice husks blown in the wind. However from time to time it happens, and you may run up against an old man inexplicably stripping wood from fallen paper screens, a family of hikers dropping in to enjoy the shade and have a wander, or a gang of High School kids noisily playing truant. Sometimes you’ll see security, or young photographers and models on a shoot. Perhaps the apex meeting by chance would be to see people who really ‘belong’ there, and I don’t mean homeless, or other haikyoists. I mean really belong.
I guess I’m talking about spirits here. Ghosts of some sort, remnants of people and memories lingering like a dawn mist.
I don’t see ghosts, though. I’d like to, but I’m afraid I don’t really believe in them. I wish there was a veil separating us in this world from them in their world by only the most gossamer of divisions. How exciting to think there might be other realms to explore, other worlds to find your way into. But I don’t believe that. In my view, when you die you’re gone, like turning off a light bulb.
Still, I wonder if there’s any way I can bring this sort of element into my explorations more. I’m not talking about hunting for orbs or looking for ethereal faces in cobwebs like Jesus’ face in burnt toast. I mean take them seriously. Now I roll up to a location with a group of friends and wander in irreverently, look around, take photos, and generally think the whole thing is a little ‘blah’. Hospitals are much alike, as are apartments and stock-rooms and cellars and power hubs and etc.
I’m wondering how to inject the thrill back into the thing. My explorations alone of the Keishin Hospital and Izu Sports World perhaps stand as some of the most exciting haikyo I’ve done. They were both solitary, done by night, pre-supposed with long and lonely walks from the nearest train station.
Rolling up in a car right to the door in broad daylight begins to seem disrespectful. Fitting in 3 or 4 haikyo in a day seems not to give the place its true weight. We hurry in, start thinking about what angles to take the photos at, where to shoot, etc.. Perhaps entry by night is the thing to aim at. Alone. To explore properly, before even thinking about taking any video or photography.
Well, we’ll see.
This was the last haikyo that Mike and I went to on our Tochigi/Ibaraki haikyo road trip. We saw it from the roof of the Bird School and beat our path through a low bamboo jungle, swarmed by fat red mosquitoes, to get there. When we arrived, I was blown away by the ‘rocket ship’ white boiler in the first ‘hanger’.
The photos don’t quite do justice to how regal it looked, ministerially over-looking its domain of broken televisions and fallen roof-slats. I got up close to really appreciate it, and this resulted in about 5 photos of its various parts making it into the gallery below.
Alongside the rocket were the huge bread-kilns (not for baking bread), two of them side by side in matching rust-brown. Very fetching. I took photos from beside, below, and above- climbing up onto their convex roofs to dance a jig and generally wow Mike with my climbing prowess.
In the second hanger over were the cosplayers. Mike was lagging a bit behind (gosh he is slow sometimes), and I popped my head round the corner and there were two girls in full-on Fighting Fantasy regalia, with a chubby little fellow in grey camo T-shirt snapping their angelic/demonic poses. I think at first I was a bit surprised and just said something like- “uh, hi”, to which I don’t recall they said anything in return.
Then I went away from the door and sort of milled about for a while. Mike was exceedingly slow to catch up to me, and I made a show of not being perturbed to enter the hanger by exploring some little electric rabbit-hutch breaker room. When Mike arrived I filled him in, I think he hadn’t heard my mumbled greeting to the ladies, and we had a quick confabulation as to what to do. We didn’t come to any proper conclusion, so instead just marched on in with a sunny “Hello!” and intrigued questions about what they were doing.
They turned out to be very friendly and accomodating, answering our questions and asking a few back. They were in fact on a photo-shoot for a Final Fantasy game; I imagine not directly for Square Enix but perhaps a fan-made RPG thing. They had made all their own gear, or so they claimed, including the swords- though possibly there was a misunderstanding here and they just meant they’d put their costume together from bought parts- not actually sewed and dyed the leather. Hmm.
As we rolled further in they seemed eager to leave- but I arrested them by asking if it was OK to take photos. They gestured it was fine, go ahead, so I clarified I wanted photos of them, and they gladly agreed. Sadly most of my shots were pretty feeble; I was so excited to take some shots quickly and not inconvenience them too much that I didn’t think about camera settings, and so didn’t realize I’d need a fill-flash, and so ended up with a lot of shadowy pictures of cosplayers that weren’t even looking at me (they were looking at Mike, confound him!).
Well, one or two came out alright. This was an example of stumbling across people in a haikyo that got me started with those whole entry in atypical fashion, and ended up going into ghostly territory. Well- it all started with cosplayers.
Stay tuned- next week we explore the lovely bones of the (official tourist version) Paris Catacombs!!
Mwaa ha haa (laughed in a menacing tone).
Location – Ibaraki.
Entry – Through some fences, walk straight in.
Highlights – The white-rocket room and everything in it, the cos-players.
Alternate– Mike’s take on the whole thing.
RUINS / HAIKYO
You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here.