An abandoned and atmospheric Japanese school in the mountains

With Japan’s population rapidly ageing, it’s really not surprising that so many abandoned — and sometimes perfectly preserved — schools exist. Plus combined with the equally rapid migration to the cities, it’s even less surprising to find such places in isolated areas and mountain regions. Locations that are feeling the full force of Japan’s changing demographic, resulting in the end for countless small communities, and also Sazuka Elementary School.

abandoned Japanese school

Situated next to a tiny, and now equally uninhabited village, the school closed way back in 1977, but remarkably it wasn’t declared officially shut until March 1990. A decision that, along with its back of beyond location, perhaps explains why so much has been left behind.

abandoned Japanese school

As such, it is still packed with reminders of school life. Things that were studied.

abandoned Japanese school

abandoned Japanese school

Played.

abandoned Japanese school

abandoned Japanese school

Used.

abandoned Japanese school

And possibly just marvelled at.

abandoned Japanese school

Being a good way from anything even remotely resembling civilisation, there’s also a small living area that housed a couple of male teachers. A setup that must have been more than a little cozy to say the least, consisting as it does of just one room and a kitchen.

abandoned Japanese school

The only obvious form of escape, besides books and magazines, being a now very battered TV.

abandoned Japanese school

That’s not to say the school’s female teacher had it any easier, as she often stayed with a student’s family rather than make the long trek back to wherever it was she lived.

But like most abandoned schools, the most striking thing about the building is its silence. Where once there was music.

abandoned Japanese school

Of which there was clearly quite a lot.

abandoned Japanese school

abandoned Japanese school

abandoned Japanese school

There is now very noticeably none. Which, while we were there, only magnified the sound of rain from a slow moving storm hammering down around us.

abandoned Japanese school

All of which seemed to emphasise the inexorable passage of time, along with the enormous changes that have taken place in the world.

abandoned Japanese school

And the complete lack of them at Sazuka Elementary School.

abandoned Japanese school

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Comments

  1. Andrew says

    Very chilling photos. The last photo with the peeling clock is very reminiscent of Salvador Dalí.

  2. seldomseen says

    Easily the most beautiful post you ever made, you were really enspired and it shows.
    The one with the wind up silver qey was great (I’m reading Lovecraft’s silver qey currently so it might have something to do with it).

    • says

      Thank you very much.

      I do have a real soft spot for abandoned schools. They are genuinely fascinating places to explore, and invariably just spend time in. Sad, but at the same time strangely peaceful.

  3. says

    Fantastic. I bet it had quite an atmosphere with the rain outside! Did you get to explore any of the surrounding town?

    • says

      It did, although to be honest I’d have rather had a sunny day. The road up there was treacherous, and then the walk left us drenched.

      Yeah, but all that’s left is a few buildings, and they were either falling apart or filled with rubbish. Except one that is that appeared to still be lived in…

    • says

      Cheers!

      Knowing what the places was like, I had it in my head I’d probably go for black & white before I even set off, but the rather dark conditions made it a certainty.

  4. Jeffrey says

    We’ve discussed this in other haikyo posts, but what I find so incomprehensible is the lack, for a better term, of closure. While not true 100% of the time here, but when something closes down here in the U.S., the building is usually emptied of whatever at the time was still usable, boarded up for security purposes or becomes property listed for re-development or demolition to be followed by re-development. So much of the residential, commercial and “academic” haikyo all look like sets from some zombie apocalypse drama where everyone apparently disappeared in a real hurry. I find that disturbing.

    • says

      I know what you mean. In this case, I suppose the original ‘temporary’ closure may have had something to do with it, as by the time it was officially shut the place was far less accessible. But then that begs the question as to why it was only temporarily closed in the first place, when clearly it was never ever going to be used again.

  5. June says

    I think abandoned schools have a strong fascination because we know at one time they were filled with children, You wonder if these now-adults ever think back to those days spent in a remote village school.
    Any idea how long this school has been here?

    • says

      Yes, that’s very true.

      The school was opened in 1959. Old, but perhaps not as old as I expected.

      Oh, and the old students do more than think about the school. The writing on the board is by ex-students who went back for a visit.

  6. winnie says

    Lovely and beautiful post! :) I could feel the thrill when i looked at the photographs.
    Did the roof leak as it was raining?

    • says

      Thank you!

      Yes, not surprisingly it was leaking in quite a few spots. In fact in some places the roof had simply disintegrated…

  7. Michael says

    Sorry but I’m calling B.S. on these photos. They’re obviously staged with props arranged to give more (false) significance.

    Oh sure…a ping-pong ball stays in the same spot with the paddles on a table for 50 years.

    • says

      As I mentioned in a comment above, ex-students have been back to the school. They were the ones who wrote on the board. Other people like me will have been too. So some stuff will undoubtedly have been moved. A lot of it won’t have been. But what I can say for certain is that I didn’t touch anything.

    • says

      Cheers! To be honest I didn’t find it spooky at all. Even with the storm going on around us. But definitely lonely…

  8. albacon says

    It occurred to me that this might be representative of the world as a whole and many of the people in it, used for a time and then left behind as in the case of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or great illustrations for the novel “on the Beach” when much of the world itself was left behind. I loved it!!

  9. says

    Thank you for these photos and story…..it’s so gorgeous, eerie, and nostalgic at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • says

      You are more than welcome. I really enjoy exploring abandoned places, so it’s great to hear that other people get some pleasure out of my photos.

    • says

      Sadly it’s not always the case, but being in a mountain area, with only a narrow, pretty trecherous road taking you only part of the way there, it has a good chance of staying that way for a long long time.

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