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

An abandoned Japanese nursery school pt 2: The classrooms

Even though it’s only one building, Midori no Sono nursery school felt like two very separate haikyo: the possession filled rooms of the sadly deceased owner that were featured last time (photographs of which can be found here), and then the actual school itself.

Just like other abandoned schools, and in particular this incredibly preserved one up in the mountains, it’s the complete silence that was once again the most notable feature.

abandoned Japanese school

Clearly music practice was a regular occurrence, but it’s not anymore. And hasn’t been for many years.

abandoned Japanese school

So instruments that were once functional, as well as part of the furniture,

abandoned Japanese school

now look rather forlorn.

abandoned Japanese school

As do the chairs once used for that regular feature of school life, student photographs.

abandoned Japanese school

Although it’s probably fair to say that the students looked more uncomfortable then, than the seats do now.

abandoned Japanese school

Elsewhere, it was more of the same: Everyday items.

abandoned Japanese school

Traditional ornaments.

abandoned Japanese school

Memories.

abandoned Japanese school

And toys. All of them left behind.

abandoned Japanese school

Along with rooms that while full, seemed incredibly empty.

abandoned Japanese school

The only sign of (relatively?) recent life being these tracks in the kitchen; a flood having covered part of the ground floor with a now dry and cracked layer of mud.

abandoned Japanese school

But other than the unidentified beast, the place was pretty much completely untouched — presumably just as it was when the last of the teachers left.

abandoned Japanese school

A little over 20 years ago.

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.

An abandoned and wonderfully decayed Japanese school

After visiting the abandoned but perfectly preserved mountain school last year, it seemed inconceivable that there was a similar haikyo out there that could match it. And in many ways, the incredibly decayed Shimo Ashigawa Primary in Yamanashi Prefecture, doesn’t. There are no desks neatly arranged. The sense that students may return at any minute simply isn’t there. Plus personal effects-wise, there’s very little left.

Yet despite lacking all of the above, it has an atmosphere and serenity that arguably makes it just as compelling.

abandoned Japanese school

Situated near a river and behind a little enclave of houses a few hours from Tokyo, the structure in many ways mirrors the decline of the location itself. While clearly never a bustling metropolis, it was still a community that warranted a school, and along with farming, was one of the region’s many silk producers. In 2006, however, due to a steady decline in its population, the village was merged into the nearby city of Fuefuki, resulting in it and the surrounding district being dissolved.

abandoned Japanese school

The school, on the other hand, disappeared long before that, although its history goes back much further. Founded in 1876, as well as existing in its current form since 1954, it must have been second home to countless children — not to mention a key feature of the small community. Yet the last time students walked along this corridor was 38 years ago.

abandoned Japanese school

Since then, Mother Nature has slowly but surely began to claim the building back. Typhoons and winter weather, plus the school’s rather exposed location, have left the windows in a dreadful state — meaning the structure is now completely open to the elements.

abandoned Japanese school

And it’s this aspect, especially on a bright, sunny day, that arguably makes the school so appealing.

abandoned Japanese school

Yes, there are only a few mementoes of its previous life and inhabitants.

abandoned Japanese school

Elements that for me personally usually make such places so interesting.

abandoned Japanese school

Most notable was some craftwork that one or two students probably poured their hearts and souls into.

abandoned Japanese school

Along with this key that someone would have been in charge of.

abandoned Japanese school

And an old can it may have been stored in.

abandoned Japanese school

Plus there was this rather forlorn looking woman. A portrait that presumably meant something. To someone. At some time.

abandoned Japanese school

But regardless (or possibly even because of) these memories, it was just a wonderfully peaceful place to be. A feeling that even the building’s dubious status as a double haikyo couldn’t break.

Details are scarce, but after the school closed in 1974 — although when exactly and for how long isn’t clear — it was used in connection with the area’s aforementioned sericulture trade. The odd leftover cocoon, hooks hanging from the ceiling and silk production-related machines where desks once stood, giving the place a slightly surreal vibe.

abandoned Japanese school

One that, considering its dilapidated state, may sadly not last too much longer.

abandoned Japanese school

But while it does, it will remain very special indeed.

abandoned Japanese school

An abandoned Japanese recording studio complex

There are lots of well equipped recording studios in Japan that can be rented out for relatively small fees. Studio/hotel complexes, on the other hand, are understandably less common. And it’s a number that was reduced still further when the Karaway closed its doors and became a haikyo.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Situated in the vicinity of Mount Fuji, the Karaway (a converted ryokan) offered accommodation, plenty of studio space, and a good sized performance/stage area. The perfect spot really for a band to get away, practice and possibly record a few songs. A scene and setting that back in 1983, Random Star clearly made the most of.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

The university formed band’s repertoire, among other numbers, included some Loudness cover versions — a heavy metal outfit that also visited the Karaway during its heyday. And, for a bit of a feel for their sound, Crazy Nights, a 1985 single, can be heard here:

Loudness Crazy Nights (mp3)

Nowadays, however, the Karaway is a very different place. There are no more bands, and definitely no more crazy nights. Not even mildly interesting ones — just reminders of them. Meaning the phone no longer rings.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

And the small office merely shows signs of what once went on there.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

The slightly unconventional desk perhaps suggesting it wasn’t quite your regular, run-of-the-mill receptionist position.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Condition wise, the building is still in surprisingly good shape — except where wooden parts of the structure have been exposed to the weather — although its age and half empty state do give it a slightly bleak vibe.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Also, vandalism is pretty much restricted to some rock ‘n’ roll damage to a not especially rock ‘n’ roll coffee dispenser.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

But what was more noticeable than anything was the silence.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Of course this is something that’s an integral part of all haikyo, as they were once buildings that people lived, stayed or worked in. But just like the abandoned and yet perfectly preserved school, the complete lack of sound was even more of a factor than usual. This time due to the constant reminders of music.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

And the instruments that songs were composed on.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

Or simply played.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

But now sit utterly silent and unused. Making the Karaway a fascinating, yet ultimately quite sad place to walk around.

abandoned Japanese studio hotel

An abandoned and rapidly decaying Japanese hotel

Most abandoned buildings/haikyo offer something of interest, but the ones that I’m invariably drawn to contain hints of the past; poignant reminders of the lives of those who once lived or worked there. An element that the old enka singer’s house offered with suitably melancholy mystery.

Yet arguably better still are those rarities like the long since closed mountain school — a building so utterly untouched that despite decades of disuse, it still felt occupied.

Neither of those places, however, contained that other mainstay of haikyo: the taking back of the building by mother nature. A feature that, despite offering little else, the SPG House hotel in Yamanashi Prefecture had in abundance.

haikyo hotel

Possibly because of its location beside one of Mount Fuji’s famous lakes, the dampness throughout the structure — particularly on the ground floor — was staggering.

haikyo hotel

A problem that has gone way beyond rising, and is now simply all-encompassing. Even its iconic neighbour, bravely clinging to the wall, is now barely recognisable.

haikyo hotel

Fortunately, despite the decay, there were still a few of those previously mentioned reminders of the past, with the office revealing some of the activity that once went on there.

haikyo hotel

But all that came to a very abrupt end in 1996, when the business went bankrupt. The last people to check-in and enjoy what by then could have been the SPG’s quite dreary delights, being Shusaku Miyadera and four family members or friends.

haikyo hotel

Elsewhere, it was simply more signs of the hotel’s fight with the forces of nature.

haikyo hotel

haikyo hotel

An unfair contest that has even turned everyday objects into fascinating, initially unrecognisable, forms.

haikyo hotel

And in the guest rooms, moss in particular has begun to make a move.

haikyo hotel

Some of it so wonderfully resplendent that it easily manages to outdo many moss gardens.

haikyo hotel