An abandoned Japanese nursery school pt 1: The owner’s living space

Some haikyo/abandoned buildings are so well documented they are practically tourist spots, resulting in a steady stream of urban explorers like myself eagerly photographing them and foraging around for details. In many ways this is arguably a good thing, as without such exposure these places would remain hidden. Yet the downside is that every photo seems to take away a little more of a haikyo’s soul — or at the very least any surprises. So finding a barely visited, little known treasure trove is a real treat; especially so when it’s one as full of memories as Midori no Sono nursery school.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

The school itself has a rather convoluted history. It existed way back in 1948, but only as an unofficial place where youngsters used to congregate under semi-supervision. This resulted in it becoming a locally recognised school 7 years later, and then in ’62 it was given full state approval and extra funding — a move that eventually helped finance the building that stands there today. One constant, however, was the kimono-clad woman in the photo below: Niikura Midori. A person it can only be assumed owned — or at the very least ran — the school, as she was there from the very beginning, and the closing of the nursery seems to have coincided with her death.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

That was in 1992, and since then, the building and everything inside it have remained remarkably intact. Pretty much untouched it would seem. And nowhere is this more evident than in Niikura-sensei’s living quarters; a good-sized area on the school’s top floor that also doubled up as a meeting room for the small group of teachers who worked there.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Staff members who might also have used the adjoining kitchen and bathroom.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Maybe even the odd child did too.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

But the rest of it is very much an old lady’s home.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

The large number of ornaments and other items saying a lot about the woman as well as her age — without a doubt the most touching being this music box. The sound of which, in a possession-filled, utterly silent room, was incredibly moving.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Elsewhere, it was reminders of a long life, and the possessions one acquires over time.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Many functional.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Others reflecting taste and interests.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

But all of them, presumably, left as they were on the day the doors closed, resulting in an experience that was incredibly interesting, but really quite sad.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

In part 2, the school itself is the the main focus, and it can be seen here. A section of the building that was nowhere near as personal as this set of photos, but at the same time, it still contained a lot of memories.

An abandoned and wonderfully decayed Japanese school

After visiting the abandoned but perfectly preserved mountain school last year, it seemed inconceivable that there was a similar haikyo out there that could match it. And in many ways, the incredibly decayed Shimo Ashigawa Primary in Yamanashi Prefecture, doesn’t. There are no desks neatly arranged. The sense that students may return at any minute simply isn’t there. Plus personal effects-wise, there’s very little left.

Yet despite lacking all of the above, it has an atmosphere and serenity that arguably makes it just as compelling.

abandoned Japanese school

Situated near a river and behind a little enclave of houses a few hours from Tokyo, the structure in many ways mirrors the decline of the location itself. While clearly never a bustling metropolis, it was still a community that warranted a school, and along with farming, was one of the region’s many silk producers. In 2006, however, due to a steady decline in its population, the village was merged into the nearby city of Fuefuki, resulting in it and the surrounding district being dissolved.

abandoned Japanese school

The school, on the other hand, disappeared long before that, although its history goes back much further. Founded in 1876, as well as existing in its current form since 1954, it must have been second home to countless children — not to mention a key feature of the small community. Yet the last time students walked along this corridor was 38 years ago.

abandoned Japanese school

Since then, Mother Nature has slowly but surely began to claim the building back. Typhoons and winter weather, plus the school’s rather exposed location, have left the windows in a dreadful state — meaning the structure is now completely open to the elements.

abandoned Japanese school

And it’s this aspect, especially on a bright, sunny day, that arguably makes the school so appealing.

abandoned Japanese school

Yes, there are only a few mementoes of its previous life and inhabitants.

abandoned Japanese school

Elements that for me personally usually make such places so interesting.

abandoned Japanese school

Most notable was some craftwork that one or two students probably poured their hearts and souls into.

abandoned Japanese school

Along with this key that someone would have been in charge of.

abandoned Japanese school

And an old can it may have been stored in.

abandoned Japanese school

Plus there was this rather forlorn looking woman. A portrait that presumably meant something. To someone. At some time.

abandoned Japanese school

But regardless (or possibly even because of) these memories, it was just a wonderfully peaceful place to be. A feeling that even the building’s dubious status as a double haikyo couldn’t break.

Details are scarce, but after the school closed in 1974 — although when exactly and for how long isn’t clear — it was used in connection with the area’s aforementioned sericulture trade. The odd leftover cocoon, hooks hanging from the ceiling and silk production-related machines where desks once stood, giving the place a slightly surreal vibe.

abandoned Japanese school

One that, considering its dilapidated state, may sadly not last too much longer.

abandoned Japanese school

But while it does, it will remain very special indeed.

abandoned Japanese school

An abandoned Japanese recording studio complex

There are lots of well equipped recording studios in Japan that can be rented out for relatively small fees. Studio/hotel complexes, on the other hand, are understandably less common. And it’s a number that was reduced still further when the Karaway closed its doors and became a haikyo.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Situated in the vicinity of Mount Fuji, the Karaway (a converted ryokan) offered accommodation, plenty of studio space, and a good sized performance/stage area. The perfect spot really for a band to get away, practice and possibly record a few songs. A scene and setting that back in 1983, Random Star clearly made the most of.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

The university formed band’s repertoire, among other numbers, included some Loudness cover versions — a heavy metal outfit that also visited the Karaway during its heyday. And, for a bit of a feel for their sound, Crazy Nights, a 1985 single, can be heard here:

Loudness Crazy Nights (mp3)

Nowadays, however, the Karaway is a very different place. There are no more bands, and definitely no more crazy nights. Not even mildly interesting ones — just reminders of them. Meaning the phone no longer rings.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

And the small office merely shows signs of what once went on there.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

The slightly unconventional desk perhaps suggesting it wasn’t quite your regular, run-of-the-mill receptionist position.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Condition wise, the building is still in surprisingly good shape — except where wooden parts of the structure have been exposed to the weather — although its age and half empty state do give it a slightly bleak vibe.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Also, vandalism is pretty much restricted to some rock ‘n’ roll damage to a not especially rock ‘n’ roll coffee dispenser.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

But what was more noticeable than anything was the silence.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Of course this is something that’s an integral part of all haikyo, as they were once buildings that people lived, stayed or worked in. But just like the abandoned and yet perfectly preserved school, the complete lack of sound was even more of a factor than usual. This time due to the constant reminders of music.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

And the instruments that songs were composed on.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Or simply played.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

But now sit utterly silent and unused. Making the Karaway a fascinating, yet ultimately quite sad place to walk around.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

An abandoned and rapidly decaying Japanese hotel

Most abandoned buildings/haikyo offer something of interest, but the ones that I’m invariably drawn to contain hints of the past; poignant reminders of the lives of those who once lived or worked there. An element that the old enka singer’s house offered with suitably melancholy mystery.

Yet arguably better still are those rarities like the long since closed mountain school — a building so utterly untouched that despite decades of disuse, it still felt occupied.

Neither of those places, however, contained that other mainstay of haikyo: the taking back of the building by mother nature. A feature that, despite offering little else, the SPG House hotel in Yamanashi Prefecture had in abundance.

haikyo hotel

Possibly because of its location beside one of Mount Fuji’s famous lakes, the dampness throughout the structure — particularly on the ground floor — was staggering.

haikyo hotel

A problem that has gone way beyond rising, and is now simply all-encompassing. Even its iconic neighbour, bravely clinging to the wall, is now barely recognisable.

haikyo hotel

Fortunately, despite the decay, there were still a few of those previously mentioned reminders of the past, with the office revealing some of the activity that once went on there.

haikyo hotel

But all that came to a very abrupt end in 1996, when the business went bankrupt. The last people to check-in and enjoy what by then could have been the SPG’s quite dreary delights, being Shusaku Miyadera and four family members or friends.

haikyo hotel

Elsewhere, it was simply more signs of the hotel’s fight with the forces of nature.

haikyo hotel

haikyo hotel

An unfair contest that has even turned everyday objects into fascinating, initially unrecognisable, forms.

haikyo hotel

And in the guest rooms, moss in particular has begun to make a move.

haikyo hotel

Some of it so wonderfully resplendent that it easily manages to outdo many moss gardens.

haikyo hotel

An abandoned and uniquely themed love hotel

It has been suggested that love hotels are one of Japan’s more resilient businesses, but even they sometimes succumb to hard times. And in many of the areas liberally dotted with them, the competition must be intense; each one attempting to outdo the other with novel interiors or technology. A fate it would seem that befell the now abandoned Hotel New Royal, as there’s a fairly new and far fancier place positioned right across from it.

The office part of the building certainly suggests that money had been a little thin on the ground during the latter years, as despite closing its doors for the last time in 2006, the equipment it is kitted out with feels like it’s from a very different age indeed.

abandoned love hotel

A time when figures were generally inputted with one, very deliberately pressed, finger.

abandoned love hotel

And tried and trusted metal switches were very much the order of the day.

abandoned love hotel

Equipment that the presumably far from young Narushima-san — who it would appear ran the hotel — perhaps felt just about comfortable with.

abandoned love hotel

Accounting and clerical tasks that needed to be fitted in between the considerably more pressing work of such establishments — cleaning.

abandoned love hotel

Yet despite the rather archaic nature of the office, the rooms themselves really weren’t that bad. Something that’s still true even now, another five years down the line. Yes, there’s no denying they are dated, but not diabolically so.

abandoned love hotel

Plus they were fitted with a few nice little extras. There was the offer of sustenance for those who may have over exerted themselves.

abandoned love hotel

Phones and fancy panels to marvel at and play with.

abandoned love hotel

Along with games machines for those whose heart perhaps wasn’t in it when it came to the main purpose of being there. Although with buttons labelled double up, big and small, there was no getting away from the job at hand.

abandoned love hotel

And for those who were up for it, there was no shortage of matches for more than a few post-coital Marlboros.

abandoned love hotel

In regards any kind of theme, mirrors were clearly a key feature.

abandoned love hotel

But for the more adventurous, this room had a moving bed.

abandoned love hotel

With simple buttons to get things rolling.

abandoned love hotel

And while there is obviously no power in the building anymore, the rooms are still in surprisingly good condition, with very little damage apart from the removal of all the air-conditioning units. A scenario that presumably prompted at least one person to stay. The colour of the sheets and the amount of tissues they went through suggesting it was for quite some time too.

abandoned love hotel

Yet why they chose the rather mundane room they did is hard to fathom, especially with a chariot sat idly by next door.

abandoned love hotel

Or even more so the marvel that was just across the corridor. For starters its lamps are quite ornate.

abandoned love hotel

But even they are nothing compared to the bed itself. A truly preposterous affair that is quite literally the Rolls Royce of beds.

abandoned love hotel

The abandoned and surprisingly intact Sun Park Hotel

When heading to a haikyo, there are never any guarantees: It’s often hard to get a true location. The building might not be there anymore. And the interior may have been smashed up beyond all recognition even if it is. Factors that when added together make genuinely incredible places all the more rewarding — like the recently visited and spectacularly preserved, abandoned school.

In fact, it was in such good condition that expectations for the Sun Park Hotel had to be suppressed still further. Along with the usual uncertainties, there was a sense that anything even approaching the completeness of the school would be asking too much. And needless to say it was, but thankfully only slightly, as the hotel was still in surprisingly good condition — plus it had a sombre, and yet really quite serene ambience of all of its own.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Situated in Kiyosato, Yamanashi Prefecture, the hotel suffered a fate similar to the countless other closed businesses that line the main streets of the once popular holiday resort: it went bankrupt.

Only a few hours or so from Tokyo, and once labelled a ‘mini Harajuku’, the area was apparently the place to visit in the 80s, but, like everything else that has a boom, there sadly had to be a bust, and Kiyosato’s came at the end of that decade. The visitors disappeared, and so did many of the places they once visited — like the Sun Park Hotel.

The building now sits semi-hidden by trees, but inside, it’s almost welcoming. The bar and eating area by the entrance is even now still set out to accommodate those looking for a bite to eat or a few beers.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Although the last people to do such a thing were presumably the last of the staff, having one last drink.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

It may even have been Yamamoto-san, but that’s something only he or she can answer.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Unlike the telephone.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Elsewhere, the sense of waiting persists, although as calendars suggest the hotel closed in either 1989 or 90, it’s a long while indeed since this chair seated a young diner.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

And it was very similar upstairs, even if the paintwork and elaborate lighting has seen better days.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Despite damage in the corridors due to scavengers ripping out metal wiring in the ceilings, the rooms themselves are still remarkably well preserved.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Televisions remain untouched.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

And one can almost imagine still using the laughably ostentatious telephone to call down for a quick clean up.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Plus some fresh bedding.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

But just like the slippers, you’d have to wait patiently. Possibly forever.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan

Because just like the plight of Kiyosato itself, no one will come.

abandoned Sun Park hotel in Japan