Volcano Museum 3. Return in HDR

Mike GristGunma, Haikyo, Museums 22 Comments

This was my second time to go to the Asama Volcano Museum. The first was on my first haikyo road trip back in 2007- back when I was packing only a cameraphone to shoot with and cared far more about the explore than I did about the photography. It was an amazing place to ‘discover’ for ourselves, our nerves on high wires the whole time as the ethereal music rang out from the rooftop. In the two intervening years the balance of my interests has changed, with photography coming to the fore, perhaps naturally, over exploring. The Asama Museum has been shot pretty extensively though, and it’s becoming a challenge to see it in a new light.

From the fore, in HDR.

The volcano museum was much as we left it that first time. All the doors were unlocked, the big fenced-off generator still hummed away, music still played on the observation deck, and the mysterious orange antenna room remained as mysterious as ever. It was the second haikyo on our first day, after the chutes and ladders of the Hume cement factory. As ever we split up on the way in, each taking a different door. I headed up the side, to the observation deck, where Lee and I chatted a bit and took in the view.

The front edge of the observation deck has been smashed away by time, volcanic eruptions, and weather.

The observation building, with orange antenna room. Last time we were there it was all covered in snow.

One of my favorites in this set.

Another favorite.

100 yen per use.

After the observation deck I moved into the body of the museum, from the top down. I bumped into Mike every now and then, and we talked shots and camera settings briefly.

Compare this shot to one from two years ago:

That’s got to be volcano damage, as the windows and frames are buckled inwards. Unless a vandal was tugging from the inside, you wouldn’t see this pattern of destruction. It’s quite awesome. Imagine chunks of rock flying through the window!
(Actually that’s not the exact same position, as you can see from the landscape- but was all basically the same)

A side store-room, this fella was high up on a shelf.

One curious thing we discovered this time, largely due to the Gakuranman pushing the switches he found, were the working lights and displays on the museum level. See here:



It’s strange that they’d leave power connected, it’s strange that the light bulbs would still work after so long, and most of all it’s strange to walk between these ruins with the ghost of their once-life shining through. Strange and cool. Did they replace the lights as they went? Was it someone’s pet project, for a bit of fun? Either way, the huge generator in the wire fence supplying them with power is no meager expense. It’s huge, and no doubt cost a bomb. Presumably it is for the volcano research project, connected to the antenna room. Probably the lights and music are just someone’s pleasant side project. Bringing the past to (uncanny) life.

Smashed displays alongside uncanny lights.

Explaining natural local life cycles.

Cigarettes, anyone?

This baby stuffed deer used to stand in the dark on the topographical map a floor above. I (shock horror!) picked him up and moved him here.

And moved him here too. I didn’t leave him outside though, so he won’t rot, don’t worry.

Mike found a dead snake in jar and we all clustered around it like paparazzi desperate to get the best, sharpest shot.

Just sleeping?

How a snake in a jar is connected to a volcano museum I’m not really sure- perhaps part of describing the local natural life cycles of things in the vicinity.

Towards the end of our explore me, Mike and Lee walked up the Oni Oshi Dashi park path a bit to shoot the museum from a fresh angle. All the while we were mostly waiting for the Gakuranman to get done on the inside, shooting the snake, and other dead things he found pickled in a series of small jars.

My third favorite.

Now the skies have changed, grown darker.

We stood in the cold for a while waiting. When Gakuranman emerged we all rolled up our sleeves and went back to shoot the dead things in jars. None of my shots came out well though. They were just mice and tiny squid.

Lo- some video:

Volcano Ruined Museum from Michael John Grist on Vimeo.

Feedback on the photos is welcomed.

See other posts on the Volcano Museum here-

1. First road trip

2. History

3. Return in HDR

4. Wedding shoot

5. Documentary shoot

See more Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:

[album id=4 template=compact]

You can also see a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.

Comments 22

  1. Mike that shoot is pretty cool, i really enjoy reading your haikyo posts.

    That place reminds me of some kind of super villain secret layer, it would be cool to rebuild the place into some kind of crazy bachelor pad.


  2. Your favourites are the ones I like the most Mike. Those clouds coming over the mountains were fantastic. I could have stayed up there looking out at the view for hours.

    Interesting to see the damage to the damage to the windows in just 2 years. Certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be around when that happened…

  3. I voted for the thrill of exploring but I was very tempted to vote for the history as well. As I have said before I like to hear the stories of how you came to be exploring these locations and your thoughts and feelings as you explore them so for me that is the most interesting. I am certainly going to be hitting up some of these locations for myself when I come back to Japan later this year.

    As for your pictures, you got some really good shots this time around. Despite all the really well composed shots and excellent cinematic feelings behind some of them I think my favourite is the one of the smashed displays inside the museum. Maybe it is the sadness, the history or just that smashed things look cool 🙂 but I really like it.

    Anyway can’t wait to read your write ups of the new ruins!

  4. You got some great shots, MJG. For this haikyo I think the rugged mountain backdrop is a big part of the charm. It’s like a dying ember of civilization in the wilderness.

    My vote on the poll would be “all of the above”. All of those are aspects that fascinate me about your haikyo articles.

  5. Nice shots Mike. You must have had your work cut out for you trying to provide something different to the shots the rest of us posted 🙂

    For me, haikyo are about the mystery as much as the thrill and trepidation of exploring. Something about finding aged objects that aren’t behind the glass walls of museums is captivating, and especially so when you make the discovery yourself. With all the good documentation about haikyo out there, it’s tough to make original finds these days.

    I just hope all the attention we’ve brought these places doesn’t invite further wear and tear from destructive visitors… Seeing some of the places I visited in the past ruined further by vandals led me to the decision not to write the place names or locations in my reports. Seeing as we are the few english language haikyoists on the net, I feel we have a duty to be diligent about how much information we provide about these places.

    I notice the large majority of Japanese haikyo sites blank out or change part of the names of places to prevent simple Google searches. The hardcore explorers will always find out eventually, but it deters the more casual visitor of the sort that enjoys smashing and bashing these sites.

    I’m rambling a bit. I guess what I wanted to say is I think we shouldn’t write the names of the sites we visit, especially for the leser known sites that aren’t yet exposed.

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    pharmarcy tech- Spam? All the same, I’ll take the compliment.

    Ryan- With the lights and music, for sure a Tracy Island kind of deal.

    Lee- That observation point can be really gorgeous. Wish we’d have had snow, a whole order of magnitude different.

    Chris- Right, blasted. Thanks for kind words 🙂

    David- I agree, I love the mountain haikyo for that reason. Context is everything.

    Mike- Cheers, and yeah the place has been covered very well already.

    About not including names of haikyo- I hear your concern, but it’s not something that really bothers me. I don’t think there are any English-language haikyoists out there willing to travel many hours to a place just to smash it up. It’s my belief that the vast majority of haikyo vandalism is done by local punk kids.

  7. hi mike
    I wrote you to ask if possible to use one of your gunma picture on my website.
    Do you think it’s possible?
    In any case great ones…

  8. Hello, Mike

    I’d like to thank you very much for the opportunity to see all these abandoned places. Such places have a mix of charm and sadness, with no vanity. When I see places like that it seems to me that I can see Time itself. I feel like looking through a secret key-hole into a parallel world.

    Do you mind if I post your photoes on my Livejournal?

    By the way, have you ever thought about visiting Pripyat (???????) in the Ukraine (former USSR) – the whole city was abandoned in 1986.

    Good luck for you and your friends in your future haikyos

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    Cri- Hi, sorry I`m so late to reply, of course you can use some of my photos, provided you link them back to this site. Am glad you like them.

    Tatiana- I totally agree with you, like stepping back in time. Am so pleased you like them, and will be happy for you to post them on your LJ- provided they link back to this site.

    Pripyat, for sure, I`d like to go. Also I`d like to go to Chernobyl. Maybe one day.

    Will- Thanks a lot, most appreciated.

  10. I chose the spiritual connection because it was only description that best described it for me. I don’t completely believe in ghosts. But I do feel emotion when I imagine the people that once filled these places with life. I should have chose other. Hahah!

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    Chris- Looks like you`re the only person to choose that option! I chose beauty of natural decay myself. Still hoping to see a ghost, though I don`t really believe in them either.

  12. Fantastic pictures!

    I was only there earlier this month and had no idea the observation area was in ruins. There were so many people, even elderly strolling up that way… now it puzzles me as to why so many people would walk that way if it’s in that condition. I don’t live too far away so maybe next time i’ll leave my toddler daughter with the in laws and explore a little.

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  13. I’ve been swinging around your blog for a couple hours now and seeing all these cool spots makes me want to visit and possibly live in Japan just that much more!

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