The Cosplay Factory Haikyo in Ibaraki is like a series of jewels bevelled so well within a crown of thorns that you wouldn’t even know they were there. Snuggled up inside a bamboo jungle and locked behind at least two sets of fences, it keeps its treasures safe- and what treasures: a NASA rocket ship boiler circa 1950, two enormous bread kilns not for baking bread, and a gaggle of Final Fantasy warriors posing for their daguerrotypes to be etched. Glorious.
Despite 400 years of powering Japanese industry, of mining, processing and shipping one of the most essential early industry elements in some of the hardest and most dangerous conditions around, Ashio is remembered far more for its flaws than for its accomplishments. Ask any Japanese about Ashio, and they’ll give you a response straight from their high school history textbooks: in Ashio Japan learned the true cost of industrialization, that of crippling environmental damage, as sulfuric acid from the factory’s numerous smelter chimneys coagulated in the atmosphere and fell as acid rain, poisoning the water table and blistering the mountains …
Mining for Copper began in Ashio over 400 years ago, on the chance discovery of a surface lode by 2 farmers tilling their rocky topsoil. Shafts were dug and miners sent in, the process was commandeered by the Shogunate of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and production went into overdrive. Soon the copper coming out of Ashio made up 40% of the nation`s supply, driving the engines of Japan`s industrialization, providing coinage, plumbing, roofing, wiring, and material for a wide range of household goods. The Mine Complex, wooden rails and roofs in broken cascades around it. The Power Hub was the first building …
The Tai-Hei-Yo Cement Plant Haikyo in Chichibu, Saitama, was once one of Japan’s biggest producers of concrete, a massive complex woven through with miles of piping, studded with huge firing kilns, silos, 30-story smoke-stacks and immense clinker vats. Throughout its 50 year plus history it stripped the mountains around it bald of limestone, filled the skies with thousands of kilograms of CO2 from its furnaces, and helped drive Japan into the 21st century. Now it’s a half-demolished scrapyard, strewn with piles of twisted metal wreckage, yellow chemical pools, bulldozers and cranes.
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