Exploring Japan’s Ruins / Haikyo

Japan is littered with relics of the recent past; derelict husks of buildings known as ‘haikyo‘- a Japanese word that means ruin or abandoned building. Outside Japan exploring these places is known as ‘urbex‘- short for urban exploration.

Thousands of these haikyo / ruins / abandonments dot Japan’s dark heartlands; once grand structures now left to rot and collapse, leaving behind their gradually fading mark on a country torn apart and reshaped by social upheaval, modernization, world war, and economic collapse.
Nara Dreamland
Maya Hotel Ruins
Nara Dreamland is the epitome of many haikyo dreams; an abandoned theme park with all its roller-coasters and rides still standing. On Maya mountain in central Japan there`s an old hotel famous in the haikyo scene for one particular setting- a silent corner room with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Jungle Park #1. Exterior
Jungle Park #2. Interior
Izu’s Jungle Park is an immense abandoned green house, an indoor botanical garden sheltering nearly 10,000 square meters worth of sweltering tropical habitat. Jungle Park was easily the biggest green-house I’ve ever been in, and boy was it hot inside. H-O-T. And very humid. Within minutes I was soaked to the skin, and any time I had to climb something I was panting with the exertion
Jungle Park #3. Souvenir Shop
Izu Roadside Haikyo
Across the road from Jungle Park was this smashed-up restaurant/souvenir shop. I`ll guess it wasn’t actually connected to the theme park, though it probably survived on the tourists who came there. Here’s a haikyo I chanced upon almost a year ago in Izu, while haikyoing with Mike. It`s not particularly awesome in any way, it just has some nice peeling red and white paint, and a cool Coke fridge.
Solid Rock Hotel 1. Exterior
Solid Rock Hotel 2. Interior
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. 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.
Jeju Resorts 1. Saurabol
Jeju Resorts 2. Hanultari
The Saurabol resort hotel was never completed, abandoned 10 years ago when construction funds ran dry. The Hanultari resort hotel was never completed, abandoned along with numerous half-built schools as Jeju`s promise never panned out.
Fuchu US Air Force Base
Tachikawa US Air Force Base
The abandoned US Air Force (USAF) base in Fuchu is a vine-slathered memento from the early days of Japanese/American peace. Its huge twin parabolic dishes are still visible from the exterior- though now half-eaten up by the passing decades, rusted red and bobbing like hole-riddled yachts on the sea of green jungle. The abandoned US Air Force (USAF) base in Tachikawa is a bramble-choked memento from the early days of Japanese/American peace. Its three huge chimneys are still visible from the exterior, brick-red and lined up like masts on a rudderless ship, slowly sinking deeper into the smothering sea of green jungle.
Camp Drake US Air/Army Base
Monkey Island WW2 Bunkers
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. No, not the game. This particular Monkey Island (‘Sarushima’ in Japanese) is located off the coast of Yokosuka near the mouth of Tokyo Bay, and during World War II served as an artillery battery and first point of defense of the Japanese homeland.
Kawaminami POW Shipyard
Hiroshima A-bomb Dome
The Kawaminami shipyard was opened in 1936 and went bankrupt in 1955. Through the war years it served as both a munitions factory, a drydock for construction of cargo ships, escort ships, and kaitens, and possibly also as a POW slave labor camp At 8:15 on August 6 1945 the first nuclear bomb in the history of warfare detonated over Hiroshima, obliterating the city within a 1.5 mile radius and killing outright some 80,000 people, with around another 70,000 dying of radiation and burns by the end of the year.
Nakagin Capsule Hotel
The New Sky Building
The Nakagin Capsule Hotel Tower in Shimbashi was the first of its kind in the world; a wholly modular building comprised of a concrete stack with latch-points for pre-fabricated one-piece rooms to bolt on to. The New Sky Building in Shinjuku belongs to the stable of architecture known as Metabolism, a 1970’s movement in Japan to create utilitarian, utopian, bolt-on and off structures that can change and evolve as needed.
Ceramic Land
Kaiten Suicide Boat Base
Ceramic Land is one of Japan`s grand failed theme parks, though one more resilient than its compadres. Located in a Kyushu town famous for its flowery gardens, it is still barely clinging to a tenuous thread of life. Towards the end of World War 2 the Japanese military created and employed the `kaiten`, a manned suicide torpedo designed to blow up American ships with great accuracy.
Kyu Nagasaki Prison
Seoul`s Ruined Jumbo Jet
Kyu Nagasaki Prison was built in 1907, one of five `ultra-modern` Meiji-era prisons built throughout Japan. Its Victorian design is attributable to a research mission to study European prisons conducted by the Meiji government. Within its five meter-high red brick wall, a five-pointed prison block held up to 800 high-security prisoners. Juan T. Trippe was one of the leading aeronautical pioneers of his time, a Howard Hughes figure who first dreamt up the idea of the Jumbo Jet, and founded the company Pan American Airlines, which in the 30’s and 40’s was the biggest airline company in the world. This plane was only named after him in 1975, 5 years it was first built and 6 years before Trippe himself died.
Go to page two to see the abandoned volcano museum, numerous ghost towns, and the ruined Keishin hospital amongst others.
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Comments 12

  1. Post

    David- Thanks, that’s a great title. Maybe I’ll borrow?

    Val- Thanks so much, about half come from a book I have, and the other half from various tip-offs or random finds of my own. Only really frightening when I’ve gone solo, and at night. With friends it’s more just like fun.

  2. Hello Michael,

    I don’t know whether you’ll be having a look at this, but I simply wanted to thank you for this awesome website which have caught my interest for the past 2 days 🙂
    Your haikyo pictures and articles are captivating and I started having a look at your writings as well.
    I should be moving to Japan in January, and feel truly excited that I might be visiting such places. My interest in ruins started as a child. Fairly close to my house (in France) was an old psychiatric complex that, I realize know, was the ideal haikyo. The old building was fairly unstable but the newer one was amazing : big windows, furniture and medical equipment… This place was the absolute nightmare of my childhood and it took me 15 years to get inside, just before they demolished it!
    Anyways, all this to say thank you for your amazing work 🙂

  3. Hi there, I really love your photos from the Nara Dreamland. I’m headed to Osaka at the end of the month, would you be kind enough to suggest “haikyos” (I learnt this word here!) that I could check out around the region? I’m looking forward to head to Nara Dreamland.

  4. Hi MJG

    One of my all-time favourite movies is Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, so reading your blogpost about ruins in Japan has probably been the most exciting thing I will be doing this Christmas! 🙂 Hope you are still exploring and sharing – I see this post is nearly a decade old now.

    Take care.

  5. I was trying to find information about the old Yawata Steel Works and the old Space World Amusement Park in Kyushu, to see if I could sneak in and photograph, then I found your site. What really grabbed me was the piece on Camp Drake, my first assignment in the Air Force. So, anyway, thanks for the memories and keeping this site up.

  6. Sir I would like to use the following photo of yours on my site an one of the Tachikawa AB pages Tachikawa
    Air Force Base re claimed by nature, Tachikawa Air Force Base Haikyo11 and Tachikawa Air Force Base Haikyo24.
    Thank you

  7. I was stationed at Fuchu AB 1966-1969 and my first daughter was born in Tachi Hospital.
    We had a small car (as did everyone else) and went to Yakota Base for less expensive shopping than Fuchu, thanks to the Fuchu PX run by the base commanders’ wife…too rich for an Airman’s salary.
    Tremendous memories from our time in Japan.

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