An abandoned hotel by the sea

Abandoned hotels are undoubtedly the most common form of haikyo in Japan; structures that starkly expose the folly of the country’s bubble era, or perhaps more commonly the gradual decline of once popular tourist destinations. And the Fujiya Hotel in Shimoda is no different, situated as it is in a city that has undoubtedly seen better days.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

Shimoda’s biggest claim to fame is that Commodore Perry and his fleet of ‘black ships’ arrived there in 1854, resulting in the opening of the first American Consulate in Japan. Plus far more significantly, the port (and eventually the whole of Japan) was opened to foreign trade.

But within 5 years this pivotal role had been handed to Yokohama. The consulate was relocated. And the city’s decline arguably began.

To be fair though, it’s not all doom and gloom — far from it in fact. Shimoda has some genuinely lovely beaches. Not to mention a wonderfully craggy coastline. Making it a popular spot in the summer, particularly so with surfers and the like. A situation that is ideal for small guesthouses and rental homes, but not necessarily big hotels. Meaning that despite a myriad of guests during the region’s more clement months.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

The phone presumably didn’t ring much at all during the far longer off-season.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

A sorry state of affairs that, like previously mentioned, has been a common occurrence all over the country. And just like many of the others, the Fujiya contains some interesting things that got left behind.

Dolls.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

Chairs.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

The obligatory vending machines.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

Plus a rather forlorn-looking photo of an unnamed woman, although it could be Okichi, a former geisha from the city whose story is far sadder than the decline of a mere hotel.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

And just like other such places, the Fujiya has room after identical room, which can get rather tedious. The hope for something interesting behind the next door almost always dashed by yet another semi-furnished interior just like the last.

This time, however, there were at least a few surprises.

Some rooms are in a truly shocking state.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

Although far more interesting is that nature has started to take back a few of the others.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

Creating wonderfully atmospheric scenes.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

Something that is also repeated in the hotel’s bathing area — a presumably popular feature due to the area’s natural hot springs. As such it’s probably fair to assume that most guests would have gone down these stairs in anticipation of a soothing, restorative soak.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

An element that the brochure was understandably keen to emphasise.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

But that was then, and this is now. And just like the rooms, nature has begun to make considerable inroads, giving the baths a very different look indeed.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

As well as endowing the building with real character. Ironically far more than it probably had when open.

abandoned Japanese seaside hotel

The horror movie-like interior of an abandoned Japanese clinic

Abandoned buildings in Japan come in all shapes and sizes, with each one boasting its own, unique atmosphere. And particularly in regards the latter, the rotting, filthy clinic below, is a world away from the wonderfully welcoming and serene house I’d visited only hours earlier — photos of which can be seen here.

But that’s not to say the clinic doesn’t have character, because it does. Lots of it too. Something its wooden structure really adds to.

abandoned Japanese clinic

But condition-wise it leaves a lot to be desired, with remnants of the building’s former calling scattered everywhere.

abandoned Japanese clinic

Instruments.

abandoned Japanese clinic

abandoned Japanese clinic

Potions.

abandoned Japanese clinic

Archaic-looking glass containers.

abandoned Japanese clinic

And syringes.

abandoned Japanese clinic

Pretty much everything really. Even jars containing things that the imagination can probably make too much of.

abandoned Japanese clinic

Yet quite why it has been abandoned like this is hard to say. Obviously the elements have taken their toll, but as the owner’s house is on the same plot of land — a factor that makes exploration a little tricky — it seems odd to leave the clinic in such a sorry state.

But whatever the reasons, time has certainly stood still since the last patients left in 1970.

abandoned Japanese clinic

Meaning no more calls.

abandoned Japanese clinic

And no conversations with the receptionist.

abandoned Japanese clinic

Which, considering the truly horrific nature of the operating room, is perhaps as well.

abandoned Japanese clinic

The abandoned and beautiful home of a wealthy Japanese politician

Certain types of haikyo/abandoned buildings are relatively common in Japan. Schools for example, and especially hotels — the latter in particular sullying the landscape in countless recession hit resorts.

Huge houses that once belonged to wealthy politicians and social activists, however, are quite the opposite. Unheard of really. But tucked away behind a large wall, surrounded by grounds the size very rarely seen, is such a place. And what a place it is.

abandoned Japanese house

Built out of concrete way back in 1928, the house would have almost certainly been something special even if just a modest home, but, due to its sprawling nature and almost overt opulence, it must have been more akin to a modern marvel. Elements that even now, almost a century later and with the building in semi-ruins, are still very striking.

abandoned Japanese house

The owner of this incredible home was a certain Mr H. Born in 1861 into a wealthy family, he had a varied education and career. In his youth he studied Chinese literature and foreign languages, before being tutored by Nakae Chomin, a political theorist and early promoter of liberalism in Japan. These latter studies in particular had a huge influence on Mr H’s burgeoning writing career, which saw him published in numerous newspapers; the political nature of these articles securing him a position within the influential Freedom and People’s Rights Movement — a prominent group of the period that is credited with the eventual establishment of Japan’s first constitution in 1889.

abandoned Japanese house

This focus and belief then took a further turn in 1894 when Mr H entered national politics; his successful role in the then recently created Diet continuing until 1915. A job and stature that no doubt saw the house he had built entertain a large and influential number of guests, both in the very impressive living room.

abandoned Japanese house

abandoned Japanese house

And in the ballroom-like grandeur of the second floor.

abandoned Japanese house

Needless to say, a building on this scale is a rarity of sorts anywhere in the world, but to find one in Japan really is something special — even more so for it to be long abandoned and left to the elements. Yet unlike many crumbling structures, it’s an absolute joy to walk around. Plus despite the decay, there’s none of the bleakness that often pervades such exploration.

abandoned Japanese house

Instead, there’s a strangely welcoming, relaxed vibe about the place.

abandoned Japanese house

Light, airy rooms offering glimpses of other parts of the house.

abandoned Japanese house

Along with a staircase that wouldn’t look out of place in an English stately home.

abandoned Japanese house

Plus while relatively empty, there are still a few personal items left behind. A good selection of sake cups.

abandoned Japanese house

Some rather ornate paperwork.

abandoned Japanese house

And somewhat startlingly, a pair of false teeth.

abandoned Japanese house

Left behind technology also gives us an indication as to when the house was in use.

abandoned Japanese house

Along with when it was possibly vacated.

abandoned Japanese house

Yet like most haikyo there’s an element of mystery, as despite owning the house, Mr H may never have actually lived there — or at least not for any extended period of time. This is because records show he moved to Kamakura (a considerable distance away) in 1906; living out his days there until he died in 1930, just two years after the house was built.

In many ways this leaves the purpose of the building unclear. Was it a gift of sorts to his former constituency, an area in whose development he played a major role? A base for political events or meetings perhaps? Or simply a grand second home that would double as a legacy for his family?

These are questions we may never find the answers to, but in regards to the current, increasingly dilapidated nature of the house, there are a few hints about its untimely demise. Repairs done here and there with nothing more than bits of tape mean that towards the end the money might well have started to dry up. Plus this huge cooker (in what was clearly once the staff area), had been downsized considerably — in both usage and cost. Suggestions that all might not have been well financially in the house of H.

abandoned Japanese house

That, however, is mere speculation, and the house may well have been in a fairly impressive state when it was eventually shuttered up, with the considerable power of time and nature the main cause of its currently forlorn state. We simply don’t know.

But what is for certain is that as far as abandoned buildings go, it is very special indeed. So special in fact that it was almost sad to leave.

abandoned Japanese house

Remnants of a man’s life in a rotting hotel room

Unlike long vacant homes and schools, abandoned hotels tend to contain very few reminders of the people who worked or stayed in them. And the Tower Hotel, which can be seen here, was no different, with room after room of faded hope and lost guests.

Except one that is, as tucked away in a dark corner of the building was a space once occupied by Kanbe Tadashi.

abandoned Japanese hotel

Whether he was actually living there it’s hard to say, but judging by all the stubbed out cigarettes, it’s a room where he certainly spent a good deal of time. However, with the hotel closing, finding a new job at the very least would have been a necessity. An undoubtedly stressful time that quite likely saw him spend a lot of time sat here. Smoking heavily. And silently staring out of the window. All the while wondering where he would end up next.

abandoned Japanese hotel

Perhaps sometimes looking at his reflection in the mirror too. Each and every time dealing with the horrible realisation that he wasn’t getting any younger, and work would be increasingly difficult to come by.

abandoned Japanese hotel

But, with interviews hopefully beckoning, and future work of some description in the service industry ahead, leaving several of his suits behind doesn’t seem to have made any sense. Clothes that appear to hint at an ending of sorts, but an end to what it’s impossible to say.

abandoned Japanese hotel

An abandoned and incredibly dated Japanese hotel

When it comes to the likes of abandoned recording studios, homes and even completely untouched schools, there’s invariably not only a sense of sadness, but also the mystery as to why things ended the way they did. With a large number of Japan’s long-closed hotels, however, the real sadness is invariably in the depressing predictability of their demise.

Built in briefly booming resort areas, they generally boasted pleasant rooms, lavish function halls and state of the art entertainment.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

Places where guests could be expected to happily kick back and enjoy a relaxing break from the stresses of city life.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

Huge expenditure based on the overly optimistic idea that the good times would never end. But they did. Often quite quickly. And the Tower Hotel is another casualty on a long and lamentable list.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

To be fair though, some visitors did enjoy enjoy it.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

Or they at least tried to.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

But, as the tourist boom faded, so did the once lavish accommodation that catered for them. The rooms never getting updated to match the times.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

With mod cons such as fridges not especially tempting to potential guests — particularly so in the year 2000 when the Tower finally closed its doors.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

The vicious circle of tired old rooms not bringing the money in; money desperately needed to refurbish said rooms in order to be competitive again. Although that said, it’s hard to imagine any amount of expenditure making some of them even remotely appealing, as gazing out at a corrugated wall is generally not what people want on a weekend away.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

There again, neither is playing woefully outdated video games.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

Plus even drinking away the disappointment wasn’t really an option. The bar.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

Twin Peaks-esque decor.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

And far from exotic exotic window stickers.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

All provided a backdrop that even copious amounts of alcohol would have been hard pushed to obliterate. Perhaps the only blessing being that reserving a table wouldn’t have been a worry.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

But, on the way back to their rooms, they’d at least have had the chance to pause on this lovingly recreated bridge and ponder an era other than the one that permeated the rest of the hotel.

old and abandoned Japanese hotel

An abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

The very noticeable silence is a key ingredient of the whole haikyo/urban exploration experience — even more so when it’s a building more usually associated with music and laughter. A factor that makes noiseless and perfectly preserved schools especially atmospheric, and the same goes for bars with their unfinished drinks and hazy memories.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

Tucked away in the corner of a long-closed and sprawling spa (photos of which I’ll post in the future), this tiny bar had more than enough silence to make up for its meagre size. And remnants of possibly the last drink to be poured there almost 22 years ago to the day, hint at what the atmosphere may have been like.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

Then there are the empty request forms for karaoke, the bar’s bread and butter.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

This enka track by Kanmuri Jiro being one of the choices.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

A cover version of which can be heard here, which gives a fair idea of the sounds the place once reverberated to, as well as the kind of customers that used to congregate there.

In fact the names of a few them are still knowable due to the system of ‘bottle keep’. The varying degree of alcohol left in each bottle perhaps suggesting how regular a visitor they once were.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

Although it’s clear that some had more taste, or at least money, than others.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

But that was many moons ago, and where they all sat and sang is silent. Ironically now a perfect compliment to enka, with its themes of love, loss and loneliness.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar

For the staff, however, it wasn’t just friendships to say goodbye to, but also a job, and this notebook behind the bar with its doodled おわり (the end) seems especially poignant.

abandoned Japanese karaoke bar