An abandoned villa in rural Japan

Long-abandoned homes aren’t uncommon finds in Japan, but western-style ones are another matter altogether. In fact the only one I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring was a wealthy politician’s house. A building so grand and beautiful that it more than made up for never finding anything even remotely similar. Or at least it did until I became aware of the villa below.

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Built in 1922, it’s fascinating to imagine how truly unique it must have been. A little bit of Europe amidst the rice fields and wooden structures of rural Japan.

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But that was then and this is now. The wooden structures and rice fields are still there, but the villa itself is looking decidedly worse for wear. The ground floor especially is in an incredibly forlorn state, although not quite as sorry looking as this unidentified beast that greeted us upon our arrival.

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Empty, staring eyes that are also on display inside. Quite fittingly in both a western form.

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And a much more traditional one.

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Plus there are the faces of the people who once lived there.

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Or if not the residents, then at least their relatives.

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Strangely personal items that only add to the silence made all the more noticeable by the home’s now defunct forms of entertainment.

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A slightly gloomy set of items that the battered surroundings only add to.

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But upstairs it’s a very different story.

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There’s so much more light, plus nature hasn’t taken quite the same toll. And just like downstairs, there are reminders of the people who once lived there.

Things that they took.

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Took pleasure in.

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Or perhaps tried not to.

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A fascinating couple of rooms that still hint at the building’s former grandeur.

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Not to mention the eclectic tastes of its one-time residents.

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Their interests too, as there is also a small, still well-equipped darkroom.

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But these things haven’t been used or looked at by anyone actually living there for years. Surprisingly there are records indicating a presence in the house as late as the early 1980s, but that’s still 30 years or so ago. A period of time that has seen a huge amount of decay. So much so in fact that a fairly hefty earthquake or simply a few more years of dealing with mother nature could conceivably see the whole thing collapse. And yet despite all the debris and the dodgy floors, the upstairs balcony still looks like the perfect place to relax on a bright, sunny day.

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For more haikyo, Tokyo resident and all-round good bloke, Jordy Meow, has just released a book covering some of the incredible number of abandoned buildings he’s visited in Japan. Details and a preview of which can be found here.

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Comments

  1. Martin says

    Great shots of what must have been home to some strange people. You have to wonder about the book on avoiding temptation next to an unidentifiable electrical device.

    • says

      Cheers. Yeah, they must have been pretty interesting people. Having got a clue what that device is/was, but it does get the imagination going!

  2. Jeffrey says

    I believe the carcass was a fox. The snakes in the bottle are about as creepy as things get.

    • says

      Ah, ok. Wasn’t sure what it was. Very nearly stood on it which wouldn’t have been pleasant.

      And yeah, a snake in a bottle wasn’t at all what I was expecting…

  3. Martin says

    As a photographer I’ll bet you’re wondering what kind of photos were developed in that darkroom.

    • says

      With so much stuff left behind it would have been nice to actually find some old gear, but alas there wasn’t any. I suppose everything of any real value would have gone when the house was shut up. The rest was just left to rot.

    • says

      Some rather exciting ones! The book ‘Avoidances of Sexual Temptation’ obviously didn’t help our photographer friend much, judging by the hidden collection of ‘pink’ photographs ;).

  4. willy says

    The snake in the bottle is supposed to be an aphrodisiac I think, but that doesn’t mesh to well with the puritan literature…

  5. says

    Wow, thanks for the mention about my book Lee! That’s really nice of you :)
    I really like the first photo you took and I realized there are a lot of things I missed during my visit. This house is definitely full of little treasures. A big +1 for the original picture of the house, this is gold.

    • says

      Not at all. You are more than welcome. The book looks fantastic.

      Cheers. It’s quite a place, isn’t it? I actually tried for a more conventional exterior shot, but the sun was shining directly at me by then so couldn’t really get.

    • says

      Ah, knew they had a dog but never connected the two. And that would explain the weird half preserved, half not state it’s in. What a peculiar find…

  6. says

    Fascinating! It seems the woven furniture on the balcony has held up better than most of the items inside the house.

    • says

      Yeah, that is a bit odd, isn’t it? There was no space inside for them though, so presumably they have been there the whole time. It’s perhaps a very sheltered spot. Can’t think of any other explanation.

  7. Joy says

    I was scrolling down the page going “Ah, what a lovely house. That’s so–AHHHH!” with the Ahhh being an actual scream upon seeing the skeleton thing. Scared my husband half to death.

    I wish I could read Japanese because I’m fascinated to know what the actual title of that book is and who it’s by. The bad grammar of “Avoidances From Sexual Temptation” suggests a (poor) translation from the Japanese rather than the other way around. I’m honestly wondering if the book is actually a Freudian or otherwise psychoanalytic book, perhaps about fear of intimacy, or it could even be an academic work about the motif of resistance of desire in myth and literature (Adam and Eve, Odysseus and the sirens etc). Maybe it’s something about the cover design that gives me that impression.

    • says

      I know what you mean – I very nearly stood on it!

      It’s written in old kanji, so very difficult, but it’s apparently not the title, more a notice that the book passes censorship requirements. Or at least something along those lines. So we are sadly nowhere nearer working out quite what kind of book it was…

  8. Martin B says

    There’s something strangely intriguing about abandoned buildings that sets the imagination wandering off, the people that lived there, what their lives were like and why they seemed to just up and move, leaving so much behind, made ever more curious by being such a different culture.

    • says

      Yes, there really is. It feels genuinely odd at times when there’s so much personal stuff left behind. Like intruding on someone’s life.

      And like you say, there’s also the cultural aspect too. Or in this case a mix of sorts.

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