Peaceful Haikyo of a Motor Lodge

Mike GristGunma, Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts 11 Comments

I don’t know anything about this haikyo- no history, no past claims to glory or modern haunting. Like the Sun Hills Hotel Car Park before it it’s just a place with some beautiful shapes, light, and decay. Nobody goes there, though access is easy. Nothing is there, so there is very little evidence of vandalism, besides the usual broken windows and occasional weak bit of graffiti. For all that, I really liked the place. The light was tremendous, the architecture and lines of the structure very strong, intriguing. The main hub was a circular tower, with spiraling staircases, floor-to-ceiling windows letting in a flood of light, and a sea-shell roof-top that spun up like a winding road to the apex.

Winding stairs in the shell-like motor lodge.

Within that central hub was a conference hall, empty but hauntingly lit. Adjoining the hub were the lodge rooms, each devoid of any kind of furniture, each named after a different breed of flower- Lily, Azalea, Marginot, etc.. From outside the bold strut of each balcony was immediately obvious, as though daring me to try my weight upon them. Ha, I did not.

Clean lines, solidly built.

Double dare.

I liked the calm in this place, the peaceful feeling. There was no detritus of life, as you find in most hotels. It had been stripped back to just the bare bones- the architecture, the slow decay, and the light. It was a lovely clear day, shreds of blue in the sky, so I had a wonderful time exploring and shooting.

This was one haikyo of about four I visited over the long weekend along with three fellow haikyoists. Mike I’ve known all the time I’ve been in Japan, he’s a steady partner in haikyo explorations. Another Mike and Lee (Tokyo Times) were new team members, though I’ve known them both for a while from their blogs. We finally met at Mike’s painting show at the Pink Cow a few weeks back, and hashed together this trip. Mike and Mike have already posted shots from the Volcano Museum, the same one me, Mike, and Jason visited about two years ago- one of the first we ever explored. I’ll hold off for a while on posting my version, go with some of the others first.

The Motor Lodge has been on my haikyo dance-card for some time now, ever since about a year ago we headed back into Gunma and Nagano to revisit the Nichitsu Mining Town and see the huge Shin Shu Kanko hotel. On that trip though we didn’t have enough time, so it got left by the wayside. This time it was the first place we hit on the second day of the trip.

Gakuranman told us (from his translation of the haikyo book) that we’d have to ask permission to enter the Motor Lodge from an old lady selling rice in front. We didn’t see her though. We entered easily, the door was wide open, no fences, no signs, and began to wander. At times I’d bump into Lee and we’d explore together for a bit. We hit the roof around the same time, though he went a few minutes ahead of me. When I emerged from the attic-door I heard a startling:


I jumped, Lee laughed. He was standing over my head, having walked the inclining roof to stand immediately over the attic-door.

From the roof apex, the view Lee saw as he spooked me coming out from below.

Mike and Gakuranman I somehow managed to misplace for almost the whole explore. The place was big enough and had enough levels to bypass each other fairly easily.

Down on a hall from a spy-hole in the attic.

The attic.


A hall, minor grafitti.

Conference Hall.

By the end, Lee and I were standing in the big hall waiting for the two Mike’s to finish up, reviewing some of the shots that we’d got. Lee shoots with a different set of lenses to me, ones that achieve great depth of field but don’t go very wide, whereas I generally shoot with the Tokina 11-16 and can fish-eye almost anything into a single shot. I guess this reflects our interests- as Lee is more interested in capturing images of things found, possessions, furniture, artifacts that tell the story of the place. I’m more interested in capturing the sweep of the place, the broad strokes, without much of the detail. As such, he didn’t much enjoy the Motor Lodge as there was not much for his camera to focus on. For me it was the opposite. Put us in a small wooden apartment stuffed with abandoned possessions though and Lee would probably have a field day while I wouldn’t know what to do.

Well, finally the two Mikes got their acts together, and we rolled out, onto the next.

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

Comments 11

  1. I’m with you Mike in that I define haikyo with the 11-16mm lens. The random odds and ends lying around don’t much interest me either.

    Why the long delay for this post?

  2. Really nice description of the place Mike, and I really like the first shot in particular.

    It was definitely very interesting to see how differently we approach our haikyo photography, although looking at your photos, the purchase of a wide angle may well be in order…

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    Can- Long delay for various reasons, site was down, been busy, and then wanted to wait for Tuesday to catch the traffic from the rest of the world.

    Lee- Cheers, enjoyed your shots too- though a wide angle could well transform the way you look at haikyo.

  4. Great post Mike! Your site was down earlier, but I’m glad to see it is working again now 🙂

    I love the composition of your ‘Double Dare’ shot. There’s something curious about the combination of curves, straight lines and a soft blue sky behind.

    I definitely need to think about investing in a wider lens myself… My current duo of lenses give me zoom equivalent 28-100mm approx and an equivalent 40mm f/1.7 which takes 90% of my shots because of its bright nature.

    I’m with Lee in that I love photographing remnants of the past and small details a little more than architecture. Seems we have a well-balanced team 😉

  5. I like the first shot the most.

    To address the discussion on lenses going on here…….First, I do not think a wide angle lens is the be all end all of haikyo lenses. No one lens is, as any given haikyo might have nothing or little interesting to fill a wide frame up with. And only going with wide room/exterior shots does not bring the person into the haikyo on a personal level. We have all heard about “fill the frame.”

    Second, to get the benefit of a wide angle lens one needs to shoot at, at least f/5.6 if not lower, like f/8 or f/11 and those shots cannot be handheld indoors, so a tripod is a must (and shouldn’t really ever be handheld even outdoors as long as space is allowed). Unless someone is shooting a wedding or a sporting event, where you are constantly moving or there is no space, then a tripod should always be used. Always…..

    ….unless, using a powerful off camera flash/speedlight. I’m still waiting for someone in the greater haikyo group to break that barrier, as I did first for the doctor’s clinic haikyo.

    In the next month I should be able to photograph some haikyo here in Florida, as I look forward to contributing again to haikyo lore.

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    Mike- Cheers, and I wonder if you bought a wide lens yet, since it’s been 6 months since you left this comment. I don’t know how I let them slip me by without a response for so long.

    I find now that I alternate between my Tokina wide and Tamron wide-mid, which allows me to cover the 11-50mm range. The wide is really only useful for, obviously, wide stuff. For everything else I use the Tamron.

    Jason- Yep, agreed. Tripod, various lenses, fill the frame. In sync on this. Though except maybe flash in a haikyo. My recent efforts have shown this to be very tricky. Light up the place and it starts to look like just a dirty old building. Shadows and uneven light seem to be necessary to the mood.

    Axel g and Dan- Thanks!

  7. Browsing around the web I found out that this place has been used in a few Japanese bands for their music videos, most well-known example is the band Spitz. I’ll probably have a poke around on Youtube looking at their videos to see if I can spot which one it is. If I do, I’ll link the video here as it would be interesting to see the site in that context.

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      Leni that would be great- I`d love to see the place used for alternate reasons. Thanks!

      Once I heard Sports World Theme Park was used on some Japanese TV show, where they challenged themselves to run down the water tubes in a race. I never saw the clip of it, but if you have the inside track on that- I`d love to see it too!

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