Odaiba Cannonades

Mike GristHaikyo, Military Installations, Tokyo-to 3 Comments

160 years ago, Japan and America looked at each other down the barrels of cannon. Japan was in isolation, and America (the whole world, really), wanted in. Five island forts stuffed with cannon (‘daiba’) were built across Tokyo Bay to repel foreign invasion. They were never used. The foreign invasion came, and Japan opened its doors to the world. Now three of those islands are gone, incorporated into recent land developments. Two remain, one preserved, the other conserved as a habitat for birds. But why were they built at all? Why was Japan so afraid of letting foreigners in to …

Mizune Freighter Tracks

Mike GristBridges / Roads, Haikyo, Tokyo-to 6 Comments

60 years ago the Mizune freighter line built one of the biggest dams in Japan. The line was specially constructed in the 1940s, with some 20 tunnels and bridges snaking through the west Tokyo mountains, to ferry supplies from the sleepy hiker’s village of Okutama to the construction site for the Ogochi dam on Okutama lake. It must have cost millions to blast those tunnels and build all those bridges. Still, the line was abandoned after completion, and now remains high above the still-operational road to the dam, like a hidden super-highway for local fauna. A concrete bridge along the …

Fuchu US Airbase Heyday

Mike GristHaikyo, Military Installations, Tokyo-to 284 Comments

Since publishing my 2008 explore and photos of the abandoned US Air Force base in Fuchu, Japan, it’s been one of the most popular pages on this site. See it here. It has attracted hundreds of veteran airmen from the 50’s onwards to comment and reconnect with old friends and colleagues- some of whom at times sent me photos from the Base’s heyday to include in a heyday page. This is that page. Thanks to 4 airmen in particular- Carl Lindberg, Cliff Cockerill, Bill Lambert, Dale Lingenfelter, and Donn Paris for taking the trouble to scan and send the photos …

After the conflagration: a ruined Tokyo dormitory

Mike GristHaikyo, Residential, Tokyo-to 22 Comments

In 2007 the Seika Dormitory in central Tokyo went up in flames. The roof was burnt away and flames roared up the building’s old stairways and licked at rooms full of possessions, melting and burning some unrecognizably, leaving others coated in a thick mask of sticky black ash. Skeletal roof girders remain. Did anyone die in the Dormitory fire? I don’t know. I hope not, but so many of the rooms were left with so much stuff that seemed still in good-ish condition (heaps of books, vinyl records, clothes, diaries, photo albums) that I have to wonder. The dormitory was …

Tokyo’s Urban Battleship

Mike GristArchitecture, Featured Story, Haikyo, Japan, Residential, Tokyo-to 15 Comments

Tokyo’s urban battleship glides through the ever-changing cityscape like a predatory shark- its mad crescent fin stocked with slate-grey torpedoes and radar foils- hunting out fresh prey for the saw-blade teeth ratcheted down its flat-iron side. Built in 1970 by the retired Imperial Navy general Watanabe Youji, the urban battleship building (GUNKAN) was apparently inspired by a World War 2 sea-battle, where Watanabe’s cruiser faced an American submarine off the coast of the Philippines. The entire crew expected to die, stared down the barrel of death, but ultimately survived.Sailing for fresh apartment blocks to bomb with water-tank torpedoes. Gliding through …

SunLovePrice Haikyo

Mike GristEntertainment, Haikyo, Tokyo-to 8 Comments

At the time of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in March I was teaching at a composer’s office 10 minutes west of Shinjuku. During the quake and aftermath it was a bit crazy, but soon things calmed down and it was time to go home. All the trains were stopped so I started walking, and on the journey ran across this little haikyo- the Sun Love Price pachinko/restaurant combo. I dipped in, but with just my iphone camera in the dark interior I could only get blurry photos. A few weeks later I returned to shoot it properly. I think it …

One-armed Ultraman

Mike GristEntertainment, Haikyo, Statues / Monuments, Tokyo-to 3 Comments

Ultraman is a Japanese icon, guardian of Tokyo against all kinds of horrible invaders since 1966. His branding can be found everywhere, from plastic bento lunchboxes to bikes, cell-phone straps, and kids’ ride. My buddy Scott was out walking the streets near his home in northern Tokyo and stumbled across this one-armed Ultraman. It doesn’t really qualify as a haikyo since it seems that it may still function, despite the missing arm and rust-coated surface. 10-yen will give your kids a ride into battle with whatever crazy alien-suited baddie the Man had to face. Scott very kindly took these photos …

Baba’s abandoned curiosity shop

Mike GristEntertainment, Haikyo, Tokyo-to 29 Comments

The old curiosity shop in Takadanobaba has been a mystery to me for a long time. I first spotted it passively years ago, before I lived near here, most likely on a trip to the Blue Parrot second-hand book store. It’s built in red-brick, or at least the facade is, and instantly stands out when surrounded by a street lined with featureless plaster-cement buildings. It is obviously no longer in use, with papered -up windows, an overgrown window-box, and vines creeping down the sheet metal siding. Peeking inside through the veiled glass doors reveals dim shapes, one that looks like …

Tama Lake Ruins in Black and White

Mike GristHaikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Tokyo-to 1 Comment

The Ruins on Tama Lake changed little since the last time I came to visit. Perhaps the wooden huts of the Red Blossom restaurant have canted a little further towards collapse, and the walls of the Akasaka love hotel were holed and splintered a little more. A new fence has gone up, with warnings of CCTV cameras watching 24/7. Wires dangle from the mock cameras, now only effective as scarecrows to the masses. Red Blossom huts slide down the hillside in slow motion.

Hotel Queen Haikyo

Mike GristHotels / Resorts, Sex Industry, Tokyo-to 5 Comments

The Hotel Queen is another abandoned love hotel on the banks of Lake Tama. I first saw it the first time I went out there to shoot the Akasaka and the Red Blossom about 2 years ago. At the time it looked semi-abandoned, with a chain roping it off. I tentatively strode over the chain only to be blasted by a motion sensor alarm. I froze like a deer in the headlights, saw a nearby open door, shoes on the ground beside it, and decided not to push my luck any further. I cycled off, heading for the real meat. …