Okawa Grand Hotel Haikyo, Izu

Mike GristHaikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Izu 13 Comments

The Okawa Grand Hotel in Izu was remarkable for the perfectly clean, skimmed and filtered swimming pool set between its two tropically ruined buildings. Shut down for at least twenty years but still plastered with signs to rent or sell, the owners clearly still have high hopes for it. In every room you can hear the lapping of the sea on the rocky beach. As we left, a gang of kids moved in to use the pool.

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The Grand Okawa was the first stop on our latest haikyo road trip, this one into Izu along the same roads Mike and I have ridden many times before en route to camping on the beaches of Shimoda. This time we didn’t have Jason with us though, instead carrying old comrade JC in his place- a 10-year veteran of Japan who’s been taking ‘time-out’ in Oz for the last year or so. Now he’s back, and within days of his return we had him packed into the car and bound for haikyo.

I learned of this place from Paul, who hunted it down on the web and from books. Paul would join us for the second day of haikyoing, taking crazily early trains down to rendezvous in Shimoda at 9am, so he was unable to explore this place he put us onto.

I was driving as we came over the rise approaching the rear of the hotel, and I immediately recognized it from the beige color of its walls. We pulled in, and set off to explore.

Mike and I were bent on shooting HDR shots. I’d recently gotten a cable shutter release (domo, SY), allowing me to more easily take 3-shot HDR brackets, so almost every shot I took was an auto-bracket from tripod. Mike did much the same but without the cable release, and on the first day without using his tripod- which he later came to regret as most of his shots in the darker locations came out poorly.

JC became bored very quickly. A little about JC: he’s the oldest of us, almost 40, and something of an inveterate womanizer. Like the rest of us he’s read ‘The Game’ by Neil Strauss and probably also ‘The Mystery Method’ by Mystery, but unlike the rest of us (being me and Mike), he actually puts the tactics in those books to practical use. Salsa dance and massage are a few of the classes he has taken seemingly to further those aims, along now with a fuller focus on his Japanese skills in a full-time course. On this trip I had the chance to see him in action, at a beach party on Saturday night that we semi-crashed. Three J-men and two J-girls plus a Colombian were drunkenly dancing in the dark, and when they called us over JC happily dived in, successfully salsa dancing, massaging, and J-talking his way to a phone number.

With that as background, perhaps it was unsurprising JC did not find haikyo as fascinating as Mike and I. About halfway through our explorations he was out front chatting to some young Japanese girls, who were hanging around while their menfolk explored within, too afraid to enter.

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One of the things I really hoped to capture in HDR was the sea through the windows. In a normal shot, dark as it is inside a haikyo, light from outside turns windows into block white squares. HDR can rescue that detail though, and give the place the proper flavor.

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Another aspect I hoped to capture is the extent of tropical island decay. Izu is semi-tropical, littered with palm trees, sandy beaches, and blessed with tremendous hot weather when the clouds clear away, and being a promontory has many of the characteristics of an island. In that environment decay is altered. The salt of the sea gets into everything and destroys things quickly, in more vibrant colors. The heat warps wood, bows structures, and fuels rampant growth of moss and lichen. The obvious shot is the external one, with the peeling beige walls surrounded by palm trees. The less obvious one shows the change inside, as decay through color.

okawa 7002

We bandied about the idea of swiming in the pool, but as this was our first stop and we had many still to go we all passed.


In the coming weeks I’ll be posting about the Small-Pox Isolation Ward, The Shimoda Hotel, The Seminar House, The Gold Mine, and a triumphant HDR return to Sports World. Stay tuned 🙂

As ever, the video is a simple walk-through. Actually, the order of it is all out of whack, don’t know why, but I can’t fix it due to upload limits on vimeo. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

Okawa Grand from Michael John Grist on Vimeo.

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Location – Izu.

Entry – Easy, straight in.

Highlights – Clean pool, other haikyoists wandering it, ocean, decayed staircases.


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

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Comments 13

  1. Yep, learned my lesson not using a tripod. Just laziness not bringing it with me to every location. Will have to step up and get a remote release next!
    Good write up and good shots, like the top one best I think.
    JC, any reaction?

  2. Can, you have something even better than a remote release, a wireless remote!! Why are you not using that??

    I liked how the pool was pristine and seemingly still being used by local punks for their own recreational purposes! You should host a big end of summer bash there.

    Use the polarization filter in Color Efex Pro 3 to really make water pop in photos.

    The video walk through was good.

  3. Fantastic! It looked like that place was huge and the pool was really clean? Maybe the local community keeps it like that so everyone can use it or maybe the owners think it might help them sell the place? Anyway great stuff and I loved the extra long video. I look forward to seeing the other Haikyo in your latest trip. Keep up the great work.

  4. I’ll definitely be making a trip back to see the Okawa properly, it’s a great looking ruin. The surrounding dark clouds in your shots give the hotel a real gloominess … it’ll be interesting to see how this place looks on a brighter day. And I might go for a swim if no one’s around 🙂

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    Can Mike- Tripod! Learned my lesson maybe the haikyo before. Cheers for props.

    Jason- The pool was a bit of a mystery yeah, very out of place. Trying to make the water pop- I’m sure it would, but wasn’t really my focus for this post. Maybe for a dilapidated pool I’d look into it.

    Leongsoon- Thanks, always good to get specific feedback!

    Adam- I think you must be right- the local community keeps it going. Somebody obviously maintains it, and with no fences and kids wandering in to swim, must just be open to all. Thought about swimming myself- but didn’t have the time.

    Paul- Yeah you should, I liked it. Dark clouds are mainly an artifact of HDR- without that the skies would just look white, which is much as they looked to the naked eye.

  6. Please don’t use too much HDR; its use substantially detracts from the natural beauty of the ruins.

    HDR is to photography what Photoshop is to celebrities.

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  8. I don’t remember how I came across your website, but I just wanted you to know that I find your videos and photos truly fascinating. It is like being told a story of what once was, I really enjoy your site. Thank you.

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      Hi Jojo, that`s so great you`ve enjoyed the site, thanks for letting me know. It`s wonderful to know other people can enjoy these explores and old places along with me. Do you have a favorite?

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