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

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Comments

  1. Uchujin says

    Great place and some really nice photos.
    You’ll have to tell me where this is next time I see you would love to go for a little wander myself.

    • Lee says

      Thanks!

      Yeah, definitely. A video of the house could be very interesting, especially in a month or two when there’s a lot more greenery about.

  2. Don says

    That is absolutely amazing! Quite the impressive structure and the circumstances are very curious indeed. Since this is my first comment after the site redesign, I’ll also take the chance to say that I like it very much!

    • Lee says

      It is, isn’t it? Like no other haikyo I’ve been to before. A very special place.

      And thank you. I like it too!

  3. Jordy Meow says

    Hey Lee,
    Good photos + congrats for the new clean design! I have to drop you a message about this soon, but I actually went to the house earlier than I thought. We met a old man outside when leaving the area (could have been bad but he was really nice) and he told us the story of the place. I will ask later for the details of what he said exactly, but I got 2 facts: when this house was build, it was only surrounded by wooden houses all around; it was the only concrete building in the area. And now, it belongs to the richest man in the prefecture, hence the… “security” ;)

    • Lee says

      Thanks a lot Jordy!

      Interesting. I can only imagine how impressive it must have been way back in the late 1920′s, especially so as every other structure would have been wooden. And the new owner? Very intriguing! The large fence did make me wonder, but I assumed it had been put up by the city to keep kids (and people like you and me!) out. Clearly not. I wonder what he has planned for the place…

  4. Martin says

    This one is amazing. Thinking about what you said before, it must be a depressed area to let a home like this rot away.
    I like the new look of your site as well.

    • Lee says

      Yeah, possibly my favourite haikyo to date. The area certainly isn’t the richest, but it’s not especially depressed. Or at least I don’t think it is. But it does seem odd to let a place like this just rot away.

      Oh, and thanks. A long overdue change!

  5. Jason says

    Fantastic! Thank’s for the tour. I wonder about the man in the picture on the fire place mantle, any information?

  6. Matt says

    That’s quite the find. I’m always amazed how little vandalism these places seem to suffer. Love the the shot of the false teeth, even if they do freak me out s little. LIke the new site design.

    • Lee says

      Yeah, and this one in particular is untouched. A real rarity. While initially a worry, the large fence round the property has obviously helped keep it intact — teeth and all!

      Thanks! My only misgiving about the new design is that I didn’t implement it a long time ago…

  7. winnie says

    Awesome!! Impressive writing too!
    This huge house looked like a mansion or even medieval manor house!
    I am so excited while reading this entry. Love the hearth, love the ballroom.. love all the pictures!
    Except the false teeth, a twitch of my eyes!! :)

    • Lee says

      Thanks a lot! Yeah, it’s a genuinely unique haikyo, no doubt about it. Each and every one has its own character, but this is like nothing I’ve ever been to before.

  8. Riccardo says

    Great place and nice location for a shoot.. Unfortunately it’s so far from me.. Next time I’ll be in Japan it could be a destination for a photo with a model.
    Congrats for the new design.

  9. Willy says

    That certainly is a project for the renovation team… If it’s 1928 concrete.. it could be really long-lasting.. or so I have heard .. evidently some of the older concrete was better quality…
    That is definitely one of the best of the best of your best!
    Love the dentures, would love to sink my teeth in as well!
    Cheers!

    • Lee says

      Interesting. Didn’t know that. I thought concrete was simply concrete. Makes sense though. While the window frames and flooring were in a terrible state, the structure itself seemed surprisingly intact.

      And thanks. Personally I think this is without a doubt my best haikyo to date. The first time I feel I’ve actually captured what I saw and felt. Something I’ve been trying to do for an awfully long time.

  10. Lizzy says

    Oh my goodness what an interesting find! The outside made my heart race. :D Additionally, the couch with the severe butt-prints made me laugh out loud. I imagine in such a fancy home those indentions almost had to be made after the fact. Such a fantastic home! Shame there seems little hope of it being restored.

    • Lee says

      Yes, that couch has seen some use, hasn’t it? Someone’s favourite seat for sure.

      And yeah, it really is a wonderful place, but there does seem very little chance of it being restored. It seems too far gone for that.

  11. ying says

    It’s really impressive that this building escaped being torn down for a development project!

    • Lee says

      While not exactly in the middle of nowhere, it’s in a fairly rural area, so land isn’t quite the premium it is in other parts of Japan. But considering the size of the plot it sits on, it is pretty amazing it’s still there.

  12. Gregory Howell says

    What an incredibly haunting, yet beautiful pictorial and story about this mysterious gem. It calls for someone to buy, rent, or lease the structure and give it new life in a new age.

    • Lee says

      Thank you!

      As special as it is now, it’d certainly be interesting to see it restored. In its pomp it really must have been something extraordinary, particularly so for Japan, and the time it was built. But if you read Jordy’s comment above, rumour suggests it is owned, and by a very wealthy individual, so while probably unlikely, restoration of some kind could still happen.

  13. Norbert Woehnl says

    Fantastic haikyo, Lee – the usual impeccable combination of photography and writing in your trademark style. Great light for shooting on that day; the window frame shadows do make an excellent graphical add.

    Congrats on the new responsive WordPress theme, it does freshen things up quite a bit without being distractive. Just for the heck of it I looked at your page on my スマホ where it looks good too :)

    • Lee says

      Thank you very much, Norbert. Ever so kind of you.

      Yeah, it was, the weather was perfect. It would have been quite different on a rainy or overcast day. We definitely got lucky.

      Good to hear you like the new design too. Gets rid of the clutter and allows me to put the photos to the fore. Plus like you say, it works well on smart phones and tablets. Very happy indeed with it!

  14. Gail says

    I have seen pictures of several abandoned buildings from all over the world,but never one like this,especially with all the odds n ends of furniture,dishware,and cabinets. What will happen to all of those beautiful cabinets and cups,etc? They have certainly withstood the sands of time,so to speak. And the story is so interesting. It would amazing if someone could fine anyone that lived around there or knew Mr H. to find out parts of the story.

    • Lee says

      Yeah, it’s something else, certainly in regards abandoned buildings here in Japan.

      My guess with all the stuff left behind is that it will just stay there. It’s not an especially well known haikyo, and it’s also fairly well sealed, so hopefully there’s little chance of vandalism.

      Yes, a few more details would be interesting, but at the same time, I quite like a few elements of mystery. Adds a little extra to a place I always feel.

  15. MrSatyre says

    Lee, it looks as though some (or all) of the pictures here are HDR. Have you ever tried one of the camcorders that shoot HDR video? I believe JVC has one (or had one, at any rate). Could be something fun to play with!

    • Lee says

      Nah, none of them are HDR. I upped the tonal contrast a bit to bring out a few details, but that was about it. Perhaps the light makes it appear that way?

  16. 硫酸イオウ says

    It is a very impressive place. I am wonder could I join your expedition?

    • Lee says

      It is. Very impressive. The trouble is after having explored it, it’s unlikely I’ll be going back.

  17. kidd says

    Wow, very impressive find. That’s a really fine architecture and interior, I can just imagine how grand it was. I hope it gets restored. Oh and those sake cups are still in excellent condition :)

    • Lee says

      Yeah, it really is something else, but considering the condition it’s in, and the size of the property, I really can’t see that happening. A shame, as it would be fantastic to see it regain even a fraction of its past glory.

  18. jeff says

    I seen lots of videos on youtube about homes in japan that have been abandond and was wondering if there is a reason for this? Why are so many leaving in the late 40′s? or 50′s? was it the war? or something else? school and small homes were simply left to rott, why? or can you give me an educated guess?

    • Lee says

      To be honest I haven’t visited that many abandoned homes. And certainly none like this. Most of those I have, however, have been connected to a factory or mine, and so when the work disappeared, so did the workers.

      Obviously there are exceptions, but why they have been left is always a mystery. Money? Death? Honestly, I wouldn’t have a clue. The only thing I would say is there’s no pattern at all. Each one seems to be different.

      Schools, however, are a different matter. With the population decreasing, and more and more people moving to the cities, lots of small, rural schools are closing. That doesn’t explain why they are left to rot of course, but my guess is it’s a purely financial reason. Demolition costs money. Leaving it to rot, doesn’t.

      That’s about the best I can do I’m afraid. Hope it helps a bit.

  19. Kitty Smith says

    Oh… Very interesting! Really? Japan leave them there and never reclaim it . Strange Japan people! Remind me of Winchester Mystery Haunted House in San Jose, California. Very strange lady keep built add the rooms about 110 rooms until she died, the workers left there unfinished! Creepy! It was fun tourist! :)

  20. Jill Rosecrans says

    I love it.. what a shame it has sat empty all these years. Why? who owns it now.? I would love to run into an old mansion to go through. So interesting, so beautiful. Yet so empty..

    • Lee says

      Why exactly is a mystery. Obviously the owner died, but that doesn’t necessarily explain why it’s abandoned. I’ve also no idea idea who owns it now, although clearly somebody does as a fence has been erected all round the property.

  21. Christel Gebauer says

    Where is this beautiful home located? Your pictures brought the home to life, so one can see the potential! My heart fell in love while viewing the pictures. Why has nothing been done to restore the home and land?

    • Lee says

      It’s a few hours out of Tokyo, but why it hasn’t been restored I don’t know. Presumably though it’s the cost. The potential is definitely there, but achieving it would be hugely expensive.

  22. Markt says

    I rarely like architectural descriptions. Here all my feelings were articulated better than i could have. Very much appreciated.

  23. Norman says

    Hello Lee, I am so glad I stumbled upon this site as the pictures and writing captivated me. I read what everyone has said about restoration and pertaining to someone that is wealthy that owns it. I feel I need to be in touch with this person as I would love to be the person to turn this property around. Wouldn’t you love to have those present pictures and then go back to visit to take updated ones? I would love to see that and have you return with your model for those pictures. This would be a dream come true for me as I am about to retire and was wondering what I could sink my teeth into to keep me busy. What a dream come true.
    Norman

    • Lee says

      Thank you very much.

      Yeah, seeing it returned to its former glory would certainly be something. Sadly I don’t think it’ll ever happen though. The cost would surely be too much.

      To be honest though I’d be just as happy to see images of how it once was, but as of yet I haven’t been able to find any…

  24. Alan says

    I was sent this article, link by a friend… what great photos… and what a fantastic old place.
    Great article…
    Im something of haikyo / ruins explorer when i can, and a carpenter, fixer up kind of man.

    One of my dreams now that I live in Japan, is to find someone who owns an old, run down, haikyo, or old building in the countryside within a few hours of Tokyo, and that we have an agreement for a couple of years where i rebuild, restore the building …

    Anyone know of a place please drop me a line at [email protected]

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