Top 10 Haikyo 2009

Mike GristBest Of 15 Comments

Haikyoing is kind of an addiction. Every time I get back from a long haikyo weekend, trudging through dusty overgrown schoolhouses and factories, I say to myself- ‘that’ll do, pig’. But then a few weeks or months later I’m always out there again, doing much the same thing, striving for a more authentic experience, a more exciting explore, more mind-blowing shots. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t, and resultingly sometimes the articles I post here find a larger audience and sometimes they don’t.

Here you can find the most popular posts of the year, sorted not by me but by you, the readers of this site, according to how much you voted a post up or down via social media buttons, how much you linked to it, and chiefly how many of your eyeballs looked it over.

10- Osarizawa Mine

2,525 views, 8 Retweets, 5 Stumbles, 18 Japan Socs, 10 Japundit Votes, 17 comments

Osarizawa is one of only three of my more recent haikyo explores (along with number 9 and number 2) to make it onto this list, which surprised me. It was shot with my Nikon d90 dSLR, whereas all the others were shot with a Canon Powershot compact camera. It was a more recent explore, so it’s true that it hasn’t had the time the others have to be seen- though a popular website borrowed shots from it with a linkback. That sort of thing probably helps my Google Pagerank, but clearly didn’t send that many click-throughs. It makes me wonder if people are more interested in straight up explores and documentation of explores than they are of more artistic (I hope) shots. I’m interested to hear what you think in the comments.

inarizawa chemical pools mine latest 6

One of my favorites.

It’s true that there is only really one photo in this post- the shot of the Osarizawa Chemical Pools from various angles. There was other stuff there, an excellent factory on a hill, but shooting it and showing its grandeur proved very tough- it was just too long, with too much nothing stuff either side of it.

inarizawa chemical pools mine latest 3

Chemicals eating a tree.

9- The Small Pox Isolation Ward

2,589 views, 4 Retweets, 10 Stumbles, 18 Japan Socs, 12 Japundit Votes, 12 comments

The only other post shot with d90 to make it into the top 10. I was beginning to shoot more regularly in HDR, using a cable release to bracket shots smoothly. The interior was very dark, as the whole structure was completely surrounded by thick overgrowth, so exposing the brighter shots fully could take up to 30 seconds.

smallpox 900m2

It was probably this haikyo that made me realize most I needed to get a wider angle lens. I wanted to capture all of the interior rooms, but was just unable to do so, bounded by the limits of the walls and rooms themselves. I still got shots I’m pleased with, but acquiring wide-angle (Tokina 11-16mm) since then has really opened things up.


Straw beds decay.

8- The Akasaka Love Hotel

3,257 views, 2 Facebooks, 7 Japan Socs, 14 comments

I’m surprised this is on here, though it did gather a number of linkbacks on various minor blogs. I think its appeal is more in the garish nature of the decorations in each room than from the fact that it is a haikyo. Love Hotels, Soaplands, these things generate more interest than haikyo do for obvious reasons- so any time my path crosses with them I tend to get a bit of a spike.


I tinkered with the shots I got from my Powershot camera a fair bit, to try and best show the wallpapers and bed artifacts at their utmost garish, with as little distraction from the ruin as possible. Some ruin is graceful and worthy, while others is just a bunch of plastic bags, empty drink cartons, and half-burnt porn- not very photogenic. I tried to chop most of it out.


7- The Russian Village Theme Park

3,932 views, 5 Retweets, 3 Facebooks, 6 Stumbles, 9 comments

Amazing place, loved it, wish I’d had my d90 and better knowledge of photography when I went, as it’s unlikely I’ll return. Quite a trek to go there just to see it. Not much to say about shooting it, other than in low light was very tricky, especially in the mammoth hall.


I’m not sure if I had a tripod then, but in every contained space I did all I could to open windows and doors to let in natural light.

We arrived at night and explored under cover of darkness. That was great, nail-biting fun.


6- Sports World Water Park

4,545 views, 2 Facebooks, 4 Stumbles, 9 Japan Socs, 9 comments

My second time back to Sports World (see the third time here), hoping to ‘do it justice’. I wasn’t using HDR then, but did manage to capture some great shots of the water tubes, a whole side of the park I didn’t see on my first trip there.



Wave pool.

5- Fuchu US Air Force Base

5,550 views, 4 Facebooks, 1 Stumble, 15 Japan Socs, 56 comments

A long-standing favorite on the site, with the most comments of any post I’ve put up- I think because it’s one of perhaps two haikyo (the other being the Negishi Grandstand– 29 comments) to have a connection to the English-speaking, American world. Soldiers served or were involved with them both, and can come to respective pages on my site and remember the good old days.


Antennae, shot through the fence.

I was surprised at first by this trend, then felt quite warm and cosy inside that the explore I’d done had had this unintended consequence, of bringing up some good memories and even acting a little bit like a friends reunited kind of thing.


Shot from within one of the antennae, about 5 stories up a ladder.

4- The Queen Chateau Soapland

5,668 views, 4 Stumbles, 20 Japan Socs, 12 Japundit Votes, 36 comments

One of my earliest explores, packing only the Canon Powershot compact camera, this post is also the all-time most popular post on my site, with 58,000 page views. It all happened very suddenly too- some Japanese news site linked to me and sent almost all that traffic to me over the course of a few days. For a brief while I felt famous, riding high. It’s funny how a tiny slice of exposure can do that for you. For the week following, as the spike trailed off, I entered a phase we could only call withdrawal. That’s a problem of rampaging ups, there’s always a down to follow them. Much better is a steady, gradual ascent, where you can always keep your feet on the ground.

In line with that, general viewing stats on my site have increased steadily over the nearly two years it’s been active, approaching 40,000 per month:

Picture 1

It looks low in December cos we’re only a third of the way through. The massive spike in 2008.08 was the Queen Chateau. Which leads me to clarify, this top 10 is not only of places explored in 2009, but simply of the most popular explores on the site in 2009. The three month spike in early 2009 was when I had a lot of quirky Japan content, weird conveni products, cosplay girls, stuff like that, and was posting it every day. Anybody think I should go back to that breakneck pace?


Her daunting visage.


The ladies who await.

3- The Royal Love Hotel

6,269 views, 11 Japan Socs, 11 Japundit Votes, 21 comments

I’m surprised to find this one in the top 10, let alone so near the top. I can’t really explain it. It’s not as gaudy as the Akasaka Love hotel, nor as ruined as the Pearl Love Hotel, or as impressive a hotel as the Shin Shu Kanko. It was great to explore though, so perhaps that’s why? Few of the shots stand out. Perhaps it attracted someone’s attention and got a lot of linkbacks, that’s all I can guess.



2- Nichitsu Ghost Town 2- Elementary School

7,064 views, 14 Japan Socs, 11 Japundit Votes, 9 comments

My second time back to Nichitsu with the d90, seeking out the brain in a jar in the Doctor’s Office (reportedly now stolen). Somewhat surprisingly that post is not in the top 10, though it was quite anticipated. Perhaps though, at number four and coming after three other posts on roughly the same topic, people had got a bit tired of Nichitsu. Either way, the Elementary School takes second place.



1- Ashiodozan Ghost Town 2- Shrine and Apartments

24,058 views, 15 Stumbles, 9 Japan Socs, 12 Japundit Votes, 15 comments

There’s a lot of stuff in Ashio. Some of it is plain to see, though fenced off, like the Degawa power station, the main factory, the mine hubs. The shrine though is a little harder to find, set back up an overgrown path, shrouded from view by a screen of trees, up a steep hill. It is one of the haikyos, along with love hotels and soaplands, unique to Japan.



It drew several link-backs from places as diverse as gamer’s message boards (it looks just like Silent Hill!) and geocaching sites (perhaps because there was something like a geocache in the second shrine, a plastic bag with notebooks and pens that served as a kind of haikyo guestbook). I don’t know if it would top my personal top 10 list, but it would certainly be up there.


Faded out apartments

Well, that’s the 2009 top 10. I’m all ears to hear your thoughts, comments, theories, as to how the list shook out like this. Where are the other Iwate mines? Where’s the bowling alley and Keishin hopsital?

Also I’ll welcome any suggestions, if you’d care to make them, on what I can do to improve this site, make it more accessible, make it more of what you’d like to see.

2009 was a good haikyo year, let’s hope for more in 2010!

You can see all the haikyo on this site in the Ruins/Haikyo Gallery.

Comments 15

  1. Post

    Since you called for site improvement suggestions . . .

    It was interesting to see the history of the shots in your haikyo posts, and I have to say I feel going nearly exclusively HDR has been a detriment to your documenting of haikyo.

    When I got down to the #1 haikyo and saw that shot with a blue sky, I was taken aback as I don’t recall ever seeing vivid color and correct exposure in past or recent haikyo shots. That blue sky shot should be the basis for all external haikyo shots in the future, granted there is a blue sky to work with.

    Another suggestion would be that comments under the photos should tell us something we cannot tell from looking at the photo itself, like some nugget of information that could only be discerned by being there, rather than a statement of the obvious.

    It seems the most popular haikyo posts are ones that include information about the history of the haikyo itself, which I know is not always easy to come by, but can be a distinguishing point of your haikyo site if you can try to include background information, to separate your haikyo site from the increasingly numerous haikyo posts on other sites.

    The next suggestion would be to settle on a WordPress theme and stick with it for at least 6 months. I have already suggested buying a professionally designed one rather than going with the free themes available for WordPress. Go with a unique design that will let visitors instantly know they arrived at YOUR site, and as the base install of WordPress says itself, not just another WordPress blog.

  2. Well it certainly has been a year huh. I was one of the many that came over form your Japanprobe link but unlike most of the others decided to stick around and now look forward to each of your new posts.

    However I have to agree with Jason about some of the points he made, I feel the changing of styles of the site layout is too frequent, while I like the current style as it is very clean and minimal I think that the darker theme you had before represented your content much better. Also this theme really doesn’t like being in a window of under 800px wide which causes some nasty squishing of text on the left side of the screen.

    As for the content I love that you are trying out new photography styles and content to be shot but again I agree with Jason that I think your reports have lost something with all the HDR photographs. I think they are a great way of doing arty shots but they lack any sort of realism when looking at them and thus I don’t get the same feelings when looking at them as I did with your early posts. Which brings me to the content of your posts, you might not think that taking pictures of trivial items or bland rooms as interesting but I disagree, I feel these are important parts of the Haikyos, as much so as the rooms with a history as they show a story of what has happened since the building was deserted.

    Also I find that I miss your stories about the actual exploration of the Haikyo, how you trained your way up and walked around for ages not sure if you would find your target, then sneaking around trying to find a way in without being spotted. It seems you have dropped a lot of this from your recent reports and I think some of the magic has gone with it. I still can’t get over your story about spending the night in Sports Land the first time and always link friends to it when we get on the topic of Japan as I really feel it is a great story.

    However with all of the above being said I really enjoy your blog and it is exactly that, “your” blog. I will continue reading as long as you continue visiting these great places and posting your wonderful pictures.

    Good luck for the year ahead!

  3. Count me in among those who prefer the “documentation” style photos over the “arty” ones. That said, it’s YOUR blog and I respect your need to keep the photography, writing and most of all the exploration of new haikyos interesting for yourself. I like the HDR stuff and would enjoy continuing to see a mix of HDR and other forms of photography.

    It’s a mystery why some of your more interesting haikyo explorations didn’t make it on to the top ten list for traffic. I have to admit the Hotel Royal is strangely fascinating to me and I’ve gone back to look at it several times, even though there are some far more interesting ruins to look at on your site. I guess it’s just the sheer size of the place that captures some readers’ imagination.

    As for improvements to the site – I miss being able to read the full posts in my RSS reader. Now I only get a preview which I have to click and go through to the site to read the full post.

  4. Post

    Thanks for the feedback everyone, it’s definitely appreciated. First off I’ll address a few points people shared:

    Site squished up on the left side- I think I’ve now fixed this, hadn’t really been aware of it before because I have a wide screen and the site fits on easily with white space either side. Should be better.

    Only excerpts showing in the RSS- I think I’ve fixed this, wasn’t aware of it at all before, but I don’t really know what part of my site governs the RSS feed so we’ll see. I’m looking into it, I guess.

    Changing site style- Right, I can easily appreciate this would be annoying, if not kind of a problem. I’ve been casting around for the right identity. Is the site about my writing, my future writing, about haikyo, about kooky Japan stuff, etc.. Obviously each one of those would go with a different kind of site design. Out of Ruins was cool, but is not my main goal- main goal is an interesting place that is open to a wider readership, so posts on any topic (fiction, kooky japan, straight-up blog posts) will not be too out of place. It’s a work in progress, but I don’t envision any large changes to come.

    Explore style- Glad to hear these thoughts. I too wonder where the Sports World kind of explore has gone, with more nail-biting adventure and the like. I guess these days I go on road trips with a group of friends, so that sort of ‘adventure’ is diminished. We roll up to the gate, go in, head out. Now I may write about some banter between us or something, but can understand that’s not as interesting as solo explores of the place. The only solution to this I can think of is to stop going with friends and start going solo again, perhaps at night, aiming to sleep over. The main trouble with that is it takes a lot longer, and can only really do one or two locations in a weekend that way. I’ll think about it some more though- I miss that style also.

    Photo style- HDR! Right. It’s true I rarely shoot natural light photos of ‘things’, preferring to shoot the broader rooms. I suppose my feeling is that once you’ve seen a number of ‘things’ across a range of haikyo, they all start to seem much the same (to me, at least). That’s a belief I’ll re-examine on my next trip out, perhaps I’m missing out. As for correct exposures for external shots and the like, well, often I’m at the mercy of grey skies and have the option of white-out or HDR. I can get better at that sure, but partly it’s a fact of Japanese weather.

    Comments under the photos- Good point, amended.

    Individual responses now-

    CJW- That means a great deal coming from you, thanks a lot.

    Jason- Noted. As for more history in posts, I strive to whenever I can find it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Adam- Thanks a lot for this, very interesting ideas, and thanks for passing the link on to your friends. ‘Sneaking around’ stories, yes, I need more of those back. Will see what I can do for 2010.

    geekmom- Documentation style vs. arty style, hopefully I’ll be able to bring these two into closer union in future posts. Have them both. The appeal of the Hotel Royal maybe slides by me because I get used to seeing so many big abandonments, but now you point out how bizarre it is (especially for something so modern), I can see it.

    Tornadoes- Cheers, agreed. Maybe I’ll put up a poll post so people can vote directly on their favorites.

  5. That was an interesting top ten and surprised the doctors office didn`t make it up there, still statistics can interpreted in different ways so why not try a poll to rank the all time or 2009 haikyo, might turn up a different set.

    It seems as though everyone is on the case of HDR and it is one of those “bovril” love it or hate it things. I like HDR but am in the school of when it is more subtle and realistic(here is a nice subtle one on flickr , one thing that strikes me about your HDR shots is that they never seem sharp, I don`t know if this is how they are displayed or a wordpress thing etc, but I have seen some HDR shots with the tokina looking amazingly sharp. I think for your eventual book if you are to go with HDR this might be something you want to work in, Stuck in Customs book just came out, and although he has a lot more experience with HDR and a better camera his shots have a big impact, the ozawa pools one is getting there, here are some images too

    hopefully this doesn`t come across as HDR bashing and keep up the good postings.

  6. I think Jason makes some good points, for example, I think the photos can speak for themselves. Your little comments under the photos, have the effect of over-explaining things, quite unnecessary.

    Not sure about the HDR comment though, a lot of your photos are extremely over exposed, something which HDR should help you overcome. I noticed that in the russian village shot and the sports world shot, the sky is almost pure white….

    Are there many good haikyo left in Japan? Looking forward to more.

  7. Post

    J-eye- Poll yes, I’ll put one up soon, good idea. Your thoughts on HDR are much appreciated, it can be tricky to get right, I’m still working on it. The sharpness thing is probably due to the size I display the shots at on the site- not high quality. Cheers.

    Japnomon- Comments under posts, check, I’ll cut that out from now on. Over-exposure I think is due to very white or grey skies, one of the reasons I moved to more HDR in the first place. Am sure shots can be better though. Are there more haikyo in Japan, sure, though those that remain will all require more travel from me to get to. So far I’ve not been far west of Tokyo at all, there’s a whole half of the country left, including Gunkanjima which I’ll get to at some point. Then there’s Hokkaido, Okinawa, and doubtless lots of other ones I’m not yet aware of. After that, there’s wider Asia, whole new countries I could haikyo trip to, if I can spare the time and money.

    UPDATED- Poll is here.

  8. It’s really a meaningful article of your haikyo history. Claps for the well organized stories, the convincing stats and especially your lots of efforts. Brilliant!

    I enjoyed to see the top 10 haikyos as well as your other haikyos and
    I was a bit surprised that Ashio dozan was ranked as no 1.
    Personally the best haikyo is the Queen Chateau and the second best is Heiangaku in my experience.
    But the Russian village looks the most intersting haikyo to me.
    As for the photo, the cobalt blue chemical pool is my favorite.

    I love both of your artistic and realistic photos as It’s always cool to see that you’re challenging on something and make yourself better.
    For the same reason, I like you to change the theme design once in a while.
    It’s totally unique if you use it well or remake it with your own touch- although it is a free one. Using a professonally designed one with no understanding is worse I think.

    I know it is getting harder to find cool haikyos. But don’t give up and keep challenging!
    Otherwise I look forward to seeing your different haikyos and reading new stories next year.

    Good luck!
    SY xx

  9. Post

    SY- Thanks so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Stats is fun to post about, glad it’s interesting to look at as well. I put up a new poll that should give us some more good stats- you can vote for Heian Kaku there.

    How else can I use stats on the site, hmm…. 🙂

    Glad you’ve enjoyed the changing designs, hopefully though the current one will be OK for a while now. I agree about pro/free sites, it depends largely what you do with it yourself.

    Domo on photos!

  10. Amazing photos.
    The very idea for creating dedicated to ruins collection of galleries is great.
    I don’t know why but I was always fascinated by ruins (and Japan is a definitely rich of them as well my own Eastern Europe (especially the industrial type one)).



  11. Post
  12. Is there a round-up of the 2010 or 2011 most popular haikyo?

    Have you explored the haikyos of China? Just watched this documentary ( and intrigued to see what’s to be discovered in this massive country!

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