In a crumbling house that’s been abandoned for almost two decades, the silence of its unplayed piano was almost palpable.
Finding abandoned buildings outside Tokyo isn’t difficult. Head out into the countryside, or pass through one of Japan’s many faded towns, and there are long-disused structures almost everywhere. Many of them, it has to be said, aren’t the least bit interesting— well, not on the inside, anyway. Invariably filled with junk, or simply stripped bare, they offer little in the way of exploration. Also, a good number of them are understandably sealed shut, so even if they do contain intriguing little time capsules, they remain frustratingly out of reach.
Every now and again, however, it’s possible to stumble upon something very different. Like the abandoned village below. Some of its structures have been demolished. Others have simply collapsed. But those it was possible to enter offer up a fascinating, and at the same time rather sad look at the lives of those who once lived there.
Background wise, there used to be a mine in the area; an enterprise that was presumably the settlement’s biggest employer, and very likely the reason why many people moved there in the first place. Being up in the mountains, forestry work and other rural occupations also helped sustain the settlement. But the closure of the mine in 1980 understandably seems to have been the death knell for the small outpost. An idea further reinforced by calendars in several of the properties displaying that very same year. The demise, however, was a slow and drawn out one, as some people did stay on — for a surprisingly long time too. The most recent sign of habitation being a not at all distant 2012.
Details regarding the actual inhabitants, on the other hand, are far more hazy. For reasons unknown, they left behind a staggering amount of stuff, and yet oddly it tells us more about who they loved and lost, rather than any specifics regarding what they did, or indeed how they lived their lives. Intriguing titbits that hint at a lot, and yet at the same time give very little away. So, with no more facts available, and wild speculation or educated guesswork the only options, here is what we found without any further commentary.
For over 50 years now, this cable car in west Tokyo has sat totally unused, but unlike so many abandoned structures, it’s still surprisingly intact. And together with having once chatted to a lovely old bar owner who rode in the cabin during the brief period it was in use, it’s not in the least bit difficult to imagine some of the memories still attached to the location.
Built in 1929, the Ikaho Kanko Hotel must have been quite a place to stay in its day. Situated in a popular hot spring resort, the cultural heritage listed structure was originally designed to cater for the region’s foreign visitors. A surprising concept, especially so in those days, and one that took a rather ironic twist, as the hotel became an official recreation facility for the US occupation forces after World War Two. Fast forward to 2017, however, and all those factors seem more akin to another reality, rather than merely another era.
Like other hot spring areas that have seen better days, Ikaho is dotted with abandoned structures, and in an all too familiar story, the hotel simply couldn’t attract the number of paying customers it needed. So, at the end of May, 2007, it closed — exactly ten years ago to the day when these photos were taken. A decade that has exacted a very heavy toll on the building, with the climate already making some serious inroads.
But like so many abandoned places, whether they be villages, clinics, or even post offices, it’s the lack of sound that is often the most striking. Where once there were people and all manner of noises, there is now only silence. A key element that the remaining photographs hopefully convey.
Outside the big cities, Japan’s ageing population can make some areas feel like a very different country. They are visibly older in every way. Far less hectic too. And combined with urban migration, the number of residents is noticeably dwindling. With that in mind then, it’s not surprising that abandoned structures already dot the landscape. A trend that is only going to continue, meaning buildings like the clinic below will in many ways become commonplace.
Founded in 1918, and eventually closing in the early 70s, Japanese society saw more than a little upheaval during the years it was open. Inside, however, all that feels like a very long time ago, as it’s arguably more akin to a very badly kept museum than a mere abandoned building.
Unfortunately, those forty-odd years of neglect have really started to take their toll. Certain parts of the building have collapsed, and the flooring in general is more than a little suspect to say the least. That said, despite the damage and the general disarray, there’s still a genuine sense of what went on there — not to mention when.
Implements and the like are scattered all over the doctor’s room.
And the connected pharmacy still has some stock on the shelves.
Plus there’s a real feel of Japan in the 1960s.
But the chairs in the waiting room hint at something much darker than colourful calendars and a wonderfully retro TV.
Namely an operating room that due to all the dirt and damage, is like something out of a horror film.
A room that is now only connected with decay, rather than any kind of recovery.