Common wisdom says Japan is a tiny island nation with no space and no time for ruins (haikyo).
In actuality there are thousands. The general view that every square inch of land is worth a bazillion dollars is just not true. There are gaps in the facade that whole towns have fallen into, along with bizarre abandoned theme parks, ruined U.S. Air Force bases, and the tawdry remnants of pay-by-the-hour love hotels.
|The Royal Hotel haikyo in Kanagawa is the grand-daddy of all love hotels, streaking 7 empty stories up into the big blue sky, a giant vermillion flag on the banks of Sagamiko Lake calling out to all and sundry in a mega-watt alto- ‘Need some discreet time alone with your loved one? Come on down!’||The Waverley Hills Sanatorium in Jefferson County, Kentucky, opened in 1910 in the thick of a Tuberculosis groundswell, then an incurable disease rife in the swampy backwaters of rural Loisville. The infected went to Waverley to be quarantined, and most likely to die- now the current owners hope to re-furbish and re-open it as a haunted hotel.|
|The Negishi Racecourse Grandstand in Yokohama looms like an ancient 3-headed Titan over the Negishi Plateau. It once drew crowds of thousands to cheer from its elaborate bleachers, to wander its long hallways and admire its extravagant architecture.||Deep within the solid rock of the Negishi Plateau in Yokohama, spreading beneath the old race-course Grandstand and Yokosuka Naval Base, lies a twisting warren of hidden World War Two era caverns, reportedly filled with ancient munitions and top-secret military dossiers.|
|On December 2nd 1941, just 6 days before the Japanese opened hostilities in the Pacific War against the Allies by bombing Pearl Harbour, a coded signal went out from the Kemigawa Transmission Station in Tochigi: CLIMB MT. NIITAKA 1250; the order to join the war. CLIMB MT. NIITAKA referred to Niitaka mountain, the tallest in all of the then-Japanese Empire (now Taiwan).||The Hyaku Ana Cliff Tombs in Saitama are ancient, easily some of the oldest ruins in all of Japan, dating back 1380 years to a time of almost pre-history. 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.|
|The Red Blossom Restaurant Haikyo on the Lake Tama ring road rests as a peaceful shrine to the yin and yang of Nature, showing in gentle tones both her power to tear down the old, and raise up the new. The restaurant itself sits on a small hill like a rusted old tank, off-kilter, gap-toothed, and leering to the side.||The Akasaka Love Hotel Haikyo in Higashi-Yamato, Tokyo, clearly suffered for lack of passing traffic. Inside, its gaudy rooms still sing of forbidden pleasures, the walls plastered with bright helios, lurking cheetahs, and naked Bathsheba`s, though I doubt any lusty couples have joined in their bawdy chorus for some time.|
|An old Toyota once-buried by summer`s foliage reveals its winter bones.||The ruined love hotels and ancient restaurants of Tama Lake in silvery black and white.|
|The Pearl Love Hotel Haikyo in Tochigi is a wreck in camouflage, deeply nested underneath a blanket of scraggy brown vines. Rooms lie in embers, grown through with ferns; once-bohemian beds, chaise longues and chandeliers lie scrapped, dropped, and despoiled with the nests of birds, spiders, and the homeless.||The Yui Grand Love Hotel is an abandonment with a more sordid past than usual, if urban legend is to be believed. According to the story, a gang of bosozoku riders kidnapped a schoolgirl into one of its rooms, where they abused and killed her.|
|The Queen Chateau Soapland Haikyo in Mito, Ibaraki, is at once a grand but squalid folly. A bath-based brothel rising 5 fairy-tale stories into the sky, cornered with towers and capped with bright red tile, it represents an era gone mad with indulgence, audacity, and hopefulness.||It was my second time to visit the ruins of the Queen Chateau. It’s a bizarre abandonment, a giant soapland in the midst of a cluster of still-functioning soaplands presiding over them like the towering castle in the suburbs in Edward Scissorhands. Within its walls sex was transacted for money on a grand scale.|
|Gulliver once rested in the shadow of Mt.Fuji, bound and nailed to the ground by the hair. His giant body was the main attraction of the now defunct and dismembered Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park in Yamanashi, built in 1997, closed in 2001 due to defaulting bank loans, and demolished around 2007.Image from here.||Namegawa Island is a big failed bird theme park, one that up until fairly recently held its own against the twin Disneys standing astride the Chiba peninsula, past which any bird-aficionados would have to run the gauntlet to reach it. It sits perched on a precarious jag of forested coastline, completely blockaded from the mainland by a wide swath of mountains stretching from edge to edge.|
|Sports World occupies an idyllic position at the crown of the Izu peninsula, overlooking a wide swathe of richly forested mountains and valleys. In its heyday it was a sports and relaxation haven, featuring tennis courts, miniature golf, a dive pool, restaurants, a hotel, a huge wave pool, a spa, and a gym.||The Sports World Water Park in Izu is a well-hidden gem in the crown of Japan’s abandoned theme parks. Tucked away from the main theme park down a slim passage over-awed by rabid weeds, its brilliant blue umbilical water-slides snaking and inter-twining through the verdant green jungle canopy.|
|Sports World is probably my favourite haikyo in Japan. In an upcoming top ten list of ruins in East Japan I’m putting together, it will more than likely be number 1. It’s just so awesome. It’s massive, 20 years abandoned but relatively intact, and set in a really beautiful forested mountain area.||I heard recently that Sports World has been demolished; apparently there’s nothing left now but the car park and a few minor buildings.|
|The Russian Village Theme Park in Suibara, Niigata, sprawls empty and forlorn atop a small hill set back from the main road, its giant fake mammoths resting unseen in their dark and musty show hall, and the vibrant blue onion-domes of its vaulting ‘Russian’ church slowly tarnishing to white.||The Kappa Pia Theme Park in Saitama prefecture was in the process of being demolished when I went to see it. The grand rusted rollercoasters, creaking tea-cup rides, teddy bear-winning sideshows and themed restaurants I’d hoped to see were all gone, leaving nothing but bare concrete platforms with rust-pocked rivet marks where rides had once been.|