An abandoned Japanese nursery school pt 1: The owner’s living space

Some haikyo/abandoned buildings are so well documented they are practically tourist spots, resulting in a steady stream of urban explorers like myself eagerly photographing them and foraging around for details. In many ways this is arguably a good thing, as without such exposure these places would remain hidden. Yet the downside is that every photo seems to take away a little more of a haikyo’s soul — or at the very least any surprises. So finding a barely visited, little known treasure trove is a real treat; especially so when it’s one as full of memories as Midori no Sono nursery school.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

The school itself has a rather convoluted history. It existed way back in 1948, but only as an unofficial place where youngsters used to congregate under semi-supervision. This resulted in it becoming a locally recognised school 7 years later, and then in ’62 it was given full state approval and extra funding — a move that eventually helped finance the building that stands there today. One constant, however, was the kimono-clad woman in the photo below: Niikura Midori. A person it can only be assumed owned — or at the very least ran — the school, as she was there from the very beginning, and the closing of the nursery seems to have coincided with her death.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

That was in 1992, and since then, the building and everything inside it have remained remarkably intact. Pretty much untouched it would seem. And nowhere is this more evident than in Niikura-sensei’s living quarters; a good-sized area on the school’s top floor that also doubled up as a meeting room for the small group of teachers who worked there.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Staff members who might also have used the adjoining kitchen and bathroom.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Maybe even the odd child did too.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

But the rest of it is very much an old lady’s home.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

The large number of ornaments and other items saying a lot about the woman as well as her age — without a doubt the most touching being this music box. The sound of which, in a possession-filled, utterly silent room, was incredibly moving.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Elsewhere, it was reminders of a long life, and the possessions one acquires over time.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Many functional.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

Others reflecting taste and interests.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

But all of them, presumably, left as they were on the day the doors closed, resulting in an experience that was incredibly interesting, but really quite sad.

abandoned Japanese nursery school

In part 2, the school itself is the the main focus, and it can be seen here. A section of the building that was nowhere near as personal as this set of photos, but at the same time, it still contained a lot of memories.


    • says

      Yeah, a real rarity. Somehow it didn’t feel spooky at all. Strangely peaceful really. The music box definitely got me though. There was something really poignant about it.

  1. winnie says

    Nice shots!
    Everything seem to be neatly placed which actually made me feel a bit uneasiness.
    Also, I’m trying to figure what is the reflection about which on the vase in the last picture.

    • says

      Thanks Winnie. It certainly looked like nothing had been touched. The clothes had been taken away, but that seemed to be about it.

      The reflection is just the little statue I think, and the window that is by the figure in the previous shot.

  2. says

    A real gem you found here, Lee, thanks for sharing it with us. Watching the photos while playing the music box sound in the background really makes for a lasting impression. I’ll watch out for part 2.


    • says

      Thanks Norbert. It surpassed all expectations. No doubt about it. The music box really got me too. Listenning to it there in the room, surrounded by all those possessions, was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in a haikyo.

  3. says

    This place is really good! I really can’t wait to see the school part. Hurry, hurry :)

    Doesn’t look very Japanese though, any idea why? And also, is the place easy to find with the information you’re sharing (the first photos)? Just thought that maybe some foreigner would be interested in the paintings, that’s why :p

    • says

      You’ll have to be patient! Maybe next week or the week after.

      That’s a good point. No, it doesn’t look very Japanese at all. Hadn’t actually thought about it though til you mentioned it. From the books we came across, she seemed very open minded and international in her outlook, so that perhaps explains it.

      I’m not sure how much information could be found from the name. We actually found it from a single photo with the help of Google earth and maps. If you are still interested after you’ve seen the school photos, I’ll be more than happy to share the location with you.

      • says

        Thanks a lot ^^ I will try to investigate and look for the place myself using Internet first: I need something to do during those rainy boring days… and I will let you know the results.

        Recording the musical box was a fantastic idea by the way. It makes us feeling being in that place as well, frozen in space and time. Gave me the chills…

        • says

          Cheers. I often forget to record stuff, but that was a must. It really affected me, so I’m glad it conveys at least some of those feelings.

  4. Martin B says

    Quite remarkable that the place has remained untouched for twenty years, it doesn’t even seem that dusty, sadly the same can’t be said about the UK, it would have been trashed and tagged in no time, that probably says something about the difference between the two cultures.

    Thanks for recording the musical box, it certainly gives a great impression of what it must have been like to stand there.

    • says

      Not at all Martin. Glad to hear the recording had the desired effect.

      It is amazing it has survived so intact, as sadly stuff gets trashed here too. A lot of places I’ve been to have been badly smashed up.

  5. Susan Rogers says

    This seems to be a common occurrence in Japan, it is so interesting. In America the abandoned business would be ransacked within a week. I really enjoy your posts and look forward to them.

    • says

      Thanks Susan. It is amazing how many places are left fairly untouched, but more than a few get vandalised unfortunately.

  6. Rafael says

    Looking at the photographs while the music box plays feels eerie. Thanks for sharing this. The ruins have always been my favorite of all the posts in your blog.

    • says

      My pleasure Rafael. The sound of the music box is what dominates my memory of the visit, so I felt it needed to be included. Glad to hear you like the haikyo stuff. Just wish I could include more…

  7. Willy says

    That’s a real treasure that one! so intact… a lucky find!
    I said to wife . oh look .. you can hear the music box… she said ‘nanka kowai na..’ eerie indeed.
    How did you record that?

    • says

      It was, Willy. A great find. Glad to hear the music box had the desired effect too.

      I simply used my iPhone and the AudioBoo app. Given the right conditions, it produces surprisingly good results.

  8. MrSatyre says

    I wonder if that will be my legacy. No children of my own to collect my things after I am gone, and divide them up amongst themselves. Only my collections of art and electronics and books slowly gathering dust in the gloom of faded sunlight through dirty window panes and moldering, half-drawn curtains.

    God, I’m depressed…

  9. Rod says

    The musical box melody was incredibly touching in the context of the photo essay. It reminded me of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Inner Light”, and the sound at the end of the episode from Kamin’s flute. A melody that brings the deceased back to life, at least in that moment.

    • says

      It was Rod. No doubt about it.

      I’m not familiar with that episode. I’ll have to search it out. Sounds interesting.

  10. says

    Wow! The music fits the pictures! It’s amazing how mechanism still works perfectly. Would you know the title of the music? I have a question about these ruins by the way, how do you manage to get in, aren’t these buildings locked or secured? Aren’t you risking of violating trespassing law or anything? Are they completely abandoned? How are they kept intact? (and I’m sorry if you have already written about it in your previous post). I find the preservation of these ruins and all the items inside really amazing, I’m inspired to look for haikyo in my own country (I hope there’s something comparable to your discoveries). Thanks for sharing these pictures :)

    • says

      Sorry, no idea what the title is. But yeah, it worked perfectly. Gave me quite a start to be honest when I opened the box.

      Surprisingly many of these places aren’t secure. This one we entered through a back door that was open. And as for trespassing, yes I probably am, but as the places I go are completely abandoned, I don’t see it as much of a violation at all. Technically though it must be illegal.

      This was particularly well preserved. It’s in a quiet, sleepy town, as well as being tucked away up a narrow street, so it has basically just been left untouched. Hence the wonderful condition. Such finds don’t come a long too often, but good luck finding your own. You never know, you may get lucky.

  11. says

    I love the addition of the music box recording. Alongside the text and the photographs, it adds so much to the post, I’d say a sense of lost time. It’s hard to explain but it’s rather lovely and poignant but you’re right, strangely it doesn’t feel sad, just seems to enhance the incredible stillness in these pictures.

  12. lorraine says

    i especially love the caw from the crow and the sound of the wind in that recording. this is just haunting.x)

    • says

      That music box and the quiet of the place really was something special. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced in an abandoned building before.

  13. Maggie says

    God, the music box suddenly made memories of my child back in preschool come rush in…

    I’m crying right now & I miss him so much (he’s now studying in the Philippines).

    I’m gonna call up his former first grade teacher in California tomorrow. Thank you for your photos to serve as a reminder.

    From N.Y.C.

  14. Gerry says

    Hi. Amazing photos. I accidentally discovered the world of Haikyo last year in Izu by stumbling across the jungle park.
    I’d love it if you could share this nursery school’s location with me.

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