Ruins of the USAF base Camp Drake in Japan

Mike Grist Haikyo, Military Installations, Saitama 453 Comments

Camp Drake was a joint US Army/Air Force base in Saitama, active until the 1970`s. It contained a hospital which handled troops coming out of Vietnam and also a communications array. Now about half of it remains, an overgrown jungle with only a few remaining buildings set back behind several layers of fencing. The other half has been eaten up by parks and a junior high school. Tanks in a shed by the commissary.

The hotel one man dug out of solid rock #2 interior

Mike Grist Catacombs / Caves, Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Saitama 18 Comments

Takahashi Minekichi was a rural Japanese strawberry farmer with a vision. For 21 years he carved the beginnings of a grand hotel into the solid rock wall of a cliff face on his land, digging out the contours only he could see. He did it all alone, using only a chisel, until the day he died in 1925. It was never completed, and no rooms beyond the lobby and kitchen/shrine were ever dug. No-one ever stayed there, but still it remains to this day, thoroughly fenced off and out of bounds. Inside the Gan Kutsu cliff face hotel, grand staircase.

Burnt Down House haikyo

Mike Grist Burned, Haikyo, Residential, Saitama 5 Comments

When I went on the wedding haikyo shoot a few weeks back we stumbled upon this burnt down house. Normally I`d bypass it in favor of the target- in this case we were looking for the Hume factory, but that turned out to be demolished. We had some time to kill, so after looking into the nearby Pachinko Hall we decided to check out the house. Dom and Liduina posed a bit in front, but the light was going and none of us were really in the mood to do a proper shoot, so we just poked around inside.

Haikyo Pachinko Hall

Mike Grist Entertainment, Haikyo, Saitama 5 Comments

Last week`s haikyo wedding shoot at the Volcano Museum was supposed to only be the first of two locations. We scarpered out of there at double-time to make it to the Hume Cement Factory in Saitama, a place I visited only 5 months ago, along with fellow haikoyists Mike, Mike, and Lee. Liduina would don a second outfit she`d brought along, a kind of kimono, and we`d explore a whole other kind of shoot. What we found instead.

Exploring an Abandoned Japanese Castle-Shrine

Mike Grist Churches / Shrines, Haikyo, Military Installations, Saitama 10 Comments

Japan is riddled with shrines, both in cities and out in the countryside, huddled in the basin of wintry valleys or perched precariously on top of mountains- often at points of raw natural beauty and power. From time to time though these wooden complexes go bankrupt. The monks pack up and move out like franchisees out of rent money. They didn’t sell enough blessings from the shrine blessings shop, didn’t garner enough inheritance tithes, didn’t bury enough people in the graveyard plots they rent out. They move out and the wooden structure is left to fend for itself against the …

Ancient Ruins- 100 cliff-tombs of the Jomon period

Mike Grist Catacombs / Caves, Haikyo, Saitama 7 Comments

The Hyaku Ana Cliff Tombs in Saitama are ancient, easily some of the oldest ruins in all of Japan, dating back 1300 years to a time of almost pre-history- such that very little is known about them at all. They were first discovered in 1888 and thought to be aboriginal homes, only being proved to be tombs after a research study in the 1920’s. A second layer of history was added in the Second World War when deep munitions tunnels were carved into the rock; gloomy storage spaces to keep serious weaponry safe from Allied bombing raids. Now the tunnels …

The hotel one man dug out of solid rock #1 exterior

Mike Grist Catacombs / Caves, Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Saitama 9 Comments

The Gan Kutsu Cliff Face Hotel in Saitama is the relic of a dream, one man’s vision to carve out a massive hotel in the sheer rock face, working alone with only a chisel for 21 years until the day he died in 1925. He finished several rooms, a grand staircase, the two main entrances, and several windows including a balcony; the work was completed after his death, with a false facade slapped in white brick over the entrance to make it more appealing. It was closed after about 60 years due to cave-ins, the false facade stripped away, and …

Memories of Nichitsu 4. The Dr.’s brain in a jar

Mike Grist Ghost Towns, Haikyo, Hospitals, Saitama 26 Comments

Nichitsu is a tiny little village huddled in a chilly mountain pass, far from the nearest population center. Come an emergency the Doctor’s office would have been the only ER, so its few rooms were crammed full of equipment, now forgotten and lying in shadow: rusted iron operating tables, toppled X-ray machinery, birthing stirrups lying in puddles of water and moss, leather dentistry chairs ripped and spewing foam, ancient defibrillators on window-sills, walls lined with shelves stocked with bottles of nondescript pills and musty tinctures, documents sheafed and scattered everywhere, surgical clamps in heaps and organs floating in formaldehyde jars. …

Nichitsu 3. A fire truck in the ghost town

Mike Grist Ghost Towns, Haikyo, Saitama 5 Comments

Nichitsu Ghost Town stretches for around a kilometer, from the semi-functioning mine shacks at the mouth of the last tunnel, up past the Junior High School, the heavily dilapidated wooden apartments, and buildings stacked off the steep hillside on concrete supports, round a hill of white lime-chips, past the Doctor`s office hidden somewhere in the thicket of buildings, up to the Lower School, dorm, and warren of walkways. Dis-sheveled buildings.

Nichitsu 2. Elementary school in a Ghost Town

Mike Grist Ghost Towns, Haikyo, Saitama, Schools 16 Comments

At the dead-end of a blast-hewn road snaking up through the mountains north of Tokyo, imprisoned by sheer moss-rocked walls looming overhead like rotting Gothic colonnades, the Nichitsu mine ghost town lies in wait, wreathed in a low mist and perennially dusk-lit by the overhanging crags. It hums with a crippling weight of nostalgia, of enfolded memories playing out again and again in its boarded up buildings, of invisible ghosts standing guard at the mine entrance, looking out of cracked windows, walking their habitual paths to and from and back again.