The great machine hall of Taro mine

Mike Grist Haikyo, Iwate, Mines / Factories 19 Comments

The derelict Taro mine lies at a generational crossing point- once a place where raw sulfides were dug from the earth, now it functions as a cosmic ray laboratory for a nearby University, capturing electrons from outer space in several large heavily wired pools. It was the first of four mines on our Iwate shopping list, ranked number 3 in all of East Japan.

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Down on the Great Hall, from the third tier.

From the outside Taro looked like a live site. There were new signs for Meisei University, and several new-ish buildings. We parked on the verge outside and wandered in, gawking at the huge ray-vats with their arrays of jacketed transformers.

The Grand Hall was breath-taking, just as I’d hoped.

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Great Hall, from the second tier.

On the second tier Mike whisper-shouted to me.

“Mike! There’s something moving down there!”

Immediately I thought it might be security.

“Is it security?”

“I don’t know.”

I padded over and stared down into the weird bollard lines. Something was moving, but what?

“It’s a pig!”

“Is it a pig?”

“It’s a giant pig!”

“Or it’s a goat. Maybe it’s a deer?”

The goat-deer-pig thing looked right up at us, and we looked right down at it. Nobody moved. Then I gallivanted off to get a zoomier lens, and it raced back the way it had come.

Mike identified it later as a kamoshika/serow, a goat-like antelope, apparently very rare.

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On the second tier.

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Fuses without a spark.

At the top tier Mike looked to a rusty walkway and declared his intention to climb it.

“I’m going to climb it.”

“You must be mad.”

I messed around trying to film a cluster of twittering bats while he shifted chunks of metal-work around to get to the stairs. Eventually I followed him- the stairs proved quite sturdy.
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Ar the top we could cross a rickety bridge, look around the control room, and see down into an adjoining hall.
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A side hall.

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There were a lot of other abandoned buildings nearby, but these days we’re less interested in penny-ante ruins. One exception was the community centre.

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Listen up, you!

Where will we go next? For ruins as striking as this latest set, we’ll have to go even further afield. Osaka area is feasible, perhaps even beyond. If you know of any great locations- please let me know.

People who follow this website will probably know I get most of my location information from one book- Nippon no Haikyo. This is really an excellent book, with 200 ruins locations listed with maps, subdivided into 2 top 100 lists for East and West Japan.

In East Japan the top 6 slots look like this:

1- Ashiodozan Mining Town (went to with SY, very big)

2- Kamaishi Mining Town (went to with Mike, demolished!)

3- Taro Mining Town (this post, with Mike)

4- Osarizawa Mine (chemical pools, went to with Mike)

5- Negishi Grandstand (next to US base, went to with Mike)

6- Matsuo Mine Apartments (awesomely misty, went to with Mike)

Five of the top 6 are mines, four of which are in Tohoku area (Northern Japan). After this trip, I’m able to cross them all of my list.

The rest of the top 10:

7- Kappa Pia Theme Park (went to with Mike and Jason, while it was being demolished)

8- Habaro Coal Mine (Hokkaido, not been there yet)

9- Horunai Coal Mine (Hokkaido, not been there yet)

10- Russian Village Theme Park (went to with Mike, Jason, and Scott)

At some point I’ll have to get up to Hokkaido to see what they have to offer.

You can see more haikyo explorations here:

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Comments 19

  1. Spectacular photos. It looks like a steam-punk cathedral.

    Maybe the creature you saw was Al Gore’s dreaded ManBearPig.

    If you make it to Osaka, let me know and maybe we can have a drink together.

  2. Glad to see some different shots and angles than my pics.

    Your goat shot came out better than mine, was why I didn’t bother to post it. Was that with the Tokina? Oh and apparently it isn’t so rare, just not common.

  3. I wish one of you had made an attempt to capture the creature, or at least communicate non-verbally with it.

    This place looks like it has more of a grand scale than most others.

    I like the multiple staircase shot and the occult look chairs and logo shot because they were show from below eye level.

    Next time make the Can RUN across those flimsy walkways and staircases.

  4. Post

    Tornadoes- The goat scared the heck out of us at first.

    David- Osaka drinks, for sure, I may be out there in a few months. I’ll keep you posted.

    Can- It was with the Tokina yeah, but zoomed, sharpened, blurred, etc.

    Jason- Only way to catch it would have been to shoot it with a catapult or something. It was skittish, and bolted quickly. Grand scale, right, the main reason we went to Iwate, a bit tired of humdrum ruins. Now seem to have set the bar very high- these last were 3 of the best ruins in Japan I think. Glad the varied angles are working for you. As for making the Can run, well, he’s quite willful, but we’ll see what we can come up with.

  5. The 5th & 7th shots are so very cool! Your new camera is awesome! The pics are so clear. I’ve seen pics of the auditorium on the internet before but can’t remember what website. Still cool to see yours, though.

  6. Remains themselves are not my concerns. However, I have huge curiosity about the people who pay attention to such abandoned buildings. They are not just eccentric savvies but intellectuals such as Shota Shumpute, rakugoka (comic storyteller sitting on a zabuton at stage), who is a freak of old castle remains. I’m wondering these days what urges them to visit desert places? When I visit your HP, your retouched photographs reminding me post-production stuffs. And I imagine the difference between their professional jobs and the best works of creators’ jobs. — A piece of self-satisfaction works are like a journal. On the other hand, works giving satisfaction to many people are like arts.– I’m wondering if there were transmitters who could share their exciting feelings with ordinary people through pictures, stories, paintings, melodies, songs, lyrics and poems, insensitive people’s life would be flavored. Great transmitters are called geniuses or artists, so to speak. Wait a sec. Only geniuses or artists can convert their feelings into tangible forms and transmit their notions to the general people? I don’t think so. Mediocre person like me eager to perceive different cutting edge of surroundings through other people’s perception. Are there any back stories related to remains? I’m wondering if there were worth stories to hear or exciting feelings to share or curious imaginations to admire, I’ll become addicted to visit your HP. Thanks anyway. I like your photograph from the third tier.

  7. this stuff is amazing! my boyfriend and i are both subscribed and always wait for new haikyos from you! we both do the same kind of thing over here in australia, however the abandoned buildings arent as amazing of course. we have been to about 4 or 5 now including a large shutdown resort on the beach and an old tafe (university). hoping to come over to japan at the end of this year for a working holiday, maybe you would be able to send us some info on the best (and not yet demolished!) places to go!

  8. your stuff is amazing! my boyfriend and i are both subscribed to your feeds and love seeing all the new haikyos. we both do the same kind of thing over here in australia however there isnt as many cool abandoned buildings here that we have found yet. we have been to 4 or 5 already one being a large abandoned beach resort and another an old abandoned university (so cool everything was just completely left as is, including teachers offices and the library still filled with books, computers, and photocopiers. especially the science labs still with everything there!). we are both coming to japan at the end of the year hopefully for working holidays so maybe you could hook us up with some top places to visit (like ones that havent been demolished yet!) haha


  9. Hi Michael,

    I absolutely love your blog and I’m always looking forward to updates. In this post you mention a book, Nippon no Haikyo – but it seems like I’m too stupid to find it anywhere… Is it out of print? If not I would be very grateful if you could post a link to or another place I can get it. Thanks a lot!

    Greetings from Osaka,

  10. Never mind, found it – written in katakana…
    If you ever come to Osaka / have questions about local haikyo please contact me, maybe I can help.

  11. Post

    Florian- Hey, glad you found the book- sometimes I’m slow to respond to comments on older posts, they pass me by.

    Adam- Cheers, agreed.

    Elle- Thanks so much! If you still need to know some locations get in touch again and I’ll point you in the right direction. Your abandoned University sounds cool, never seen anything quite like that myself- the closest I’ve come is high schools.

    oys- A deep and thoughtful comment, thank you for taking the time. There’s a lot to be said about people who are interested in ruins, I’d agree. People who are interested in history, in art, in capturing and documenting the beauty of nature. It all comes together in ruins. I hope I can add something to what’s out there on the internet and in the world.

    Michelle- Thanks, though these days my HDR shots are catching a lot of flak. I’ll put up some newer material with polls where people can choose whether they prefer the HDR shot or the natural light shot in the next week or so.

  12. No problem – just don’t rely on the book too much if you come to Kansai. ????????? (No. 144 in the book) for example is nothing more than a pile of rubble by now as I found out today…
    BTW: It would be great if you could write an article about the book and add updates like that. I plan to go on a haikyo trip to Kanto in spring and it would be great not to waste precious time on places not existing anymore.

  13. Pingback: 5 Japanese Ghost Towns | michael john grist

  14. Nice. You posted these a while ago, but I actually lived in taro a few years back and knew of the mines, but everyone was all like hush hush in telling me where they were located. I was searching for Taro Ni-Chuu was there was a Ichu and a San-chuu but no second school….and I wanted to know where these mines were. Guess they thought I would go and get myself killed or something. Great pics!

  15. I can at lest say I have seen Matsuo Mine – ???? and Orizawa Mine – ?????? I hope to see more in the years to come. I got some get pictures too!

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