Hashima, the Ghost Island of Japan
Exploring abandoned places in Japan, known as “haikyo” (which literally translates to “ruins”), is a unique experience that offers a glimpse into the country’s recent and distant past. Japan’s rapid modernization and changing economic and social landscapes have left behind a fascinating array of abandoned sites. These range from deserted amusement parks to derelict hotels and forgotten historical sites. Here’s an overview of some of the remarkable abandoned places in Japan:
- The Royal Hotel (Hachijo Royal Hotel): Once one of the largest hotels in Japan, located on Hachijojima Island, this hotel was abandoned in the 2000s. Its grand, overgrown structures stand in stark contrast to the island’s tropical landscape.
- Fureai Sekibutsu no Sato (The Village of Friendly Ghosts): In the town of Osawano, this park filled with hundreds of stone statues of people was abandoned, creating a surreal and somewhat spooky atmosphere.
- Keishin Hospital: Located in the Fukushima exclusion zone, this hospital was hastily abandoned after the 2011 nuclear disaster, leaving behind a time capsule of life interrupted.
Expoland, a Strange Abandoned Amusement Park in Japan
Expoland amusement park in Osaka, Japan, opened as the amusement zone of Expo ’70, the International Exposition hosted in the city in 1970. It was supposed to be a temporary part and closed down after the end of the exposition but reopened in 1972 due to its popularity. The park covered an area of 20 hectares and included more than 40 rides and attractions, 19 restaurants, and shops.
On May 5, 2007, a tragic accident took place at Expoland. The Fujin Raijin II rollercoaster derailed, resulting in the death of a 19-year-old university student while 40 people were injured and 31 were taken to the hospital. The investigation revealed that the ride derailed due to a broken axle. None of the ride vehicle’s axles had been replaced for 15 years.
Reopening of the Park
The park reopened after a series of safety inspections but closed again on December 9, 2007, due to a lack of customers. In 2008 there were reports that Paramount Pictures was looking to turn the Expoland site into a theme park. In 2009, 20% of the park’s area was renovated and reopened as a new theme park called ‘Farm Expo’.
Safety Concerns and Violations
Concerns have been raised concerning the security of Japan’s theme parks following the catastrophic roller coaster accident at Expoland in 2007. Similar roller coasters at other parks voluntarily shut down and were inspected for the same axle issue that led to the Expoland tragedy after tragedy. However, further investigation revealed that the park had received a warning from authorities for poor upkeep after identical axle cracks were found on a second train just one month after the first accident. The park’s difficulty in recovering its visitors’ trust was made worse by these safety concerns and violations.
Permanent Closure of the Park
Expoland announced its closure in February 2009 after failing to recover from a catastrophic rollercoaster accident in 2007. After the board voted to liquidate the company, the corporation abandoned its request for corporate rehabilitation protection. The park struggled to regain the public’s confidence in its safety and suffered from the sluggish economy despite its history as a well-liked family and thrill-seeking destination. The park’s future remains questionable until now, with speculations of a possible replacement with a theme park from the US film business Paramount Pictures.
Located in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan and in operation from 1997 to 2001. Although Japan has its fair share of uncanny abandoned amusement parks, we think that Gulliver’s Kingdom, a failed theme park based on Jonathan Swift’s classic tale, takes the proverbial cake. Although demolished in 2007, the several-year span when the Lilliputian theme park sat disused and neglected was a high point for the many intrepid urban explorers looking to crawl all over Lemuel Gulliver’s lanky, 147.5-foot-long concrete frame.
The park’s closing, the result of poor ticket sales, probably had something to do with its rather unfortunate locale: although located at the foot of Mount Fuji, the park was adjacent to Aokigarah, Japan’s infamous “Suicide Forest,” and in the same village where the Aum Shinriyko doomsday cult, the group behind 1995’s Sarin gas attacks in Tokyo, was headquartered.
The Strange Mansion of Mr. H, Japan
This strange home belonged to the mysterious Mr. H is one of Japan’s most famous abandoned buildings. The mansion was built in 1928 by a Mr. H, a Japanese politician. Mr. H held a position within the Freedom and People’s Rights movement, a group which was in part credited with the establishment of Japan’s first constitution in 1889. As such, Mr. H could doubtless afford such a spectacular home; unfortunately, the mansion was constructed in 1928, a mere two years before his death.
It seems likely that he did not live there much, and it is unclear as to who may have inhabited the house for any length of time. There is no indication as to how long the mansion has been derelict for, but it has remarkably retained the charm and grandeur it must have had in its heyday.
The Abandoned Towns of Fukushima – Ghost Town
The abandoned towns of Fukushima
Four years after the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing and displaced more than 300,000, the surrounding towns of Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant remain abandoned. Even today, tens of thousands of survivors live in temporary housing as the area surrounding the nuclear plant remains too contaminated by radiation for residents to return for more than short visits.
The New Sky Building in Shinjuku, Japan
The New Sky Building in Shinjuku belongs to the stable of architecture known as Metabolism, a 1970’s movement in Japan to create utilitarian, utopian, bolt-on and off structures that can change and evolve as needed.Â It was a grand-sounding vision that never went mainstream, as Metabolist buildings were often a nightmare to construct and far too much effort to actually ‘transform’ by re-bolting. Another example is the Nakagin Capsule Hotel Tower in Shimbashi- slated for destruction.
The Abandoned Matsuo Mine – Japan
Matsuo Mine used to be a huge, bustling sulfur mine before being abandoned, and now if you ever wanted to try to check it out for yourself you’d be met with a giant wall of mist that constantly hides it from view, making it look like the scariest ghost town ever.
The Abandoned Japanese Lovers Hotel Where Rooms Were Rented by the Hour
The Medievil room with carriage and suit of armour in the Fuurin Motel. This stunning set of photographs offer a peek inside an abandoned hotel used as an escape for extramarital affairs. The empty Fuurin Motel, in Tokyo, Japan, used to be a meeting point for lovers who rented rooms by the hour.
Ten themed bedrooms, including a Medieval suite with a full suit of armour and a carriage-shaped bed, lay perfectly preserved under layers of dust. Other room themes include Greek, Traditional Japanese Ryokan and hunting – all with their own dining rooms and bathrooms. The hotel was closed 17 years ago, but the furniture and fittings remain. Locals have respected the empty hotel, due to rumours the building has a paranormal presence.
Japanese Holiday Resorts Abandoned and Left to Rot!
Covered in dirt and falling apart, this resort was abandoned 40 years ago and left to the mercy of the elements. The one-time holiday camp in Japan’s Izu peninsula fell victim to changing times at the turn of the 1970s. As in Britain, that period saw Japan’s domestic tourist industry in steep decline as affordable air travel allowed holidaymakers to seek out exotic destinations overseas for the first time.
Nara Dreamland, an Abandoned Theme Park in Japan
Nara Dreamland theme park was built in 1961 near the city of Nara, Japan. The creators of the park were inspired by Disneyland in California and tried to replicate the same feel, copying some of the main landmarks including the Train depot, a Main Street, U.S.A. and the familiar Sleeping Beauty Castle. The park had its own mascots, which were 2 kids dressed as bear skinned guards, named Ran-chan and Dori-chan.
Nara Dreamland closed permanently on August 31, 2006 due to low visitor numbers. Everything inside the park, including the rides and reastaurants, was left induct and is still standing today. This gives the impression of an eerie ghost town, attracting many urban explorers.
Hashima, the Ghost Island of Japan
Hashima, also known as Gunkajima or Battleship Island due to its shape, is an abandoned island an hour away from the port of Nagasaki in Japan.
Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 to use it as a base for an underwater coal mining facility. There, they built Japan’s first concrete building (9 stories high) in 1917 to accomodate the workers. In the following decades, Hashima became the most densely populated place on earth, with a population of over 5,200 people, or 83,500 people per square kilometre of the whole island.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, between 1943 and 1945, the Japanese government and Mitsubishi transported Korean and Chinese prisoners to the island on Mitsubishi-owned ships known as “hellships,” and then forced them to handle the most dangerous work in the coal mines. Hundreds or thousands of the prisoners died to to the poor living conditions and coal mining accidents. Eventually, captives were freed in 1945 when the atomic bomb shook the windows of the island’s apartment blocks.
The island shut down in 1974 as a result of the decline in coal industry during the previous years. Since then, it was left abandoned before it was reopened for travel again in 2009. Hashima is also featured in the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall. Today, a process is underway to designate the island as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Japan’s abandoned places, or haikyo, offer a unique window into the nation’s history and cultural evolution. They stand as silent witnesses to times of prosperity, periods of change, and moments of crisis. While they attract explorers and photographers with their haunting beauty and historical significance, it’s important to approach them with respect, awareness, and caution.