Sickening and semi-abandoned Japanese snake centre

With its conspicuously empty corridors,

abandoned Japanese snake centre

and truly awful exhibits,

abandoned Japanese snake centre

the Japan Snake Centre’s staggering abundance of ashtrays at least offer the smoker some sort of respite from the almost overwhelming miserableness of a barely-functioning-but-somehow-still-open-for-business facility and the horrible plight of its poorly housed alligators, wild boars and of course snakes.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

But amazingly even this pales into insignificance when one enters the parts of the place that have actually stopped being used — as opposed to just appearing that way. And in particular, a room where, at least according to some of the letters left behind, a Mr Toba once worked.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

A small, rather dark area that, despite its confined nature, is home to an absolute multitude of horrors, namely jar after increasingly sickening snake-filled jar.

In which some of the specimens are packed in.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

Whereas others are left to lie alone.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

With what relatively little light there was sometimes contriving to clearly display the containers increasingly disconcerting contents.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

Samples that, despite the slight distraction of scientific stuff,

abandoned Japanese snake centre

of some form or another, were simply impossible to ignore.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

Especially as not only were they everywhere,

abandoned Japanese snake centre

but some of them were quite a size too.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

And yet even this nightmarish scenario wasn’t as bad as the room next door. An even smaller space stacked to the ceiling with unsealed plastic containers.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

All full of the now horribly familiar.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

Even the sink contained them.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

A sight that whilst unpleasant, was nowhere near as repulsive as the smell — a stench so overpowering and putrid that I actually came very close to vomiting, making the return to Toba-san’s old room almost pleasant. Although not pleasant enough to consider a couple of cute-shaped cakes,

abandoned Japanese snake centre

or, regardless of its apparent tastiness, some coffee.

abandoned Japanese snake centre

For fans of horrible things in jars, there are other haikyo/abandoned building explorations on this site that feature a similarly contained brain, or, for the (arguably) slightly less squeamish, a mouse.


  1. says

    I find it truly shocking that the local or prefectural authorities allow some place this to be left in this manner. It’s similar to other bizarre haikyo’s such as the abandoned hospital. You would think the government would clean these places up.

    • says

      I know what you mean, but this one is slightly different in that the centre itself is still functioning, albeit just about.

      Whether it’s a sponsored or a private enterprise I don’t know, although either way it does seem odd to simply leave all that stuff there without cleaning it up.

  2. says

    Excellent post Lee! I was excited about seeing your shots from here after you mentioned it on Twitter and you didn’t disappoint! Truly a grim place with no shortage of exhibits – perhaps even too many!? Nice job capturing them in the low light!

    • says

      Cheers Mike! There was definitely no shortage of snakes in jars that’s for sure, and I do have more pictures, but I think what I’ve posted is enough. Probably more than enough to be honest…

  3. says

    Holy Crap Lee!!
    That is one gruesome place, and quite a find! Can only begin to imagine how bad it must’ve smelled in there…

    • says

      Yeah, it was pretty horrible to say the least. It took me a good few minutes to get over the sheer unpleasantness of it all before I could begin to properly take photos.

      The smell though was something else. In Toba-san’s room it was bearable, but the other one was just horrid. Getting that shot of the sink which was at the far end very nearly made me sick. Even when editing the pics I could still almost smell the place…

  4. Lizzy says

    Am I the only one that read “sickening snake centre” and thought the live animals were going to be in this condition?! I was expecting something far more repulsive so, for me, this was a rather pleasant expedition into the abandoned portion of this building. Definitely some chilling sights, to be sure. My husband actually shuddered at the cookie cutters. My personal favorite is the off-kilter angle of the yellow hallway. Like a disorienting beginning to a strange place. Kudos Lee!

    • says

      Thanks Lizzy. And glad to hear you didn’t find it too unpleasant. I’m with your husband on that one. The mere thought of food (or drink) in that was place was enough to turn the stomach.

  5. Len says

    I really haven’t the words (beyond the aforementioned). Great post and pics! The “Tasty” shot was well timed after the less-than-appetizing shots! Grisly stuff, Lee :-)

    • says

      Thanks Len! The ‘tasty’ coffee was a lucky find and allowed me to balance out the horrors of snakes in jars just a little.

  6. Jason says

    How do so many buildings go abandoned like this? It’s disturbing to see the insides as though people just picked up and left everything behind.

  7. Rob says

    Crazy place, Lee!
    How do you keep on finding these ?
    This has got to be the weirdest one so far ? It’s a strange one because of the weird stuff that was/is going on there, and then to top it all off, they just left it without cleaning anything up…. insane….

    • says

      Yeah, it was definitely one of the stranger ones Rob. I honestly thought I’d run out of haikyo near enough from Tokyo for a day trip, but luckily a friend has really got into it and she has managed to find a few more places for us to visit. Another of which we visited today actually.

      But back to this place, I totally agree. Very strange to just leave everything like this. Especially so as the desk contained numerous letters and the like. And then of course there’s all the snakes…

  8. Vivian says

    Have been reading your blog for years (since moving back to the states in 2002). First time commenter.
    Yikes! I can almost smell the formadehyde along with you! No lunch for me!
    Lee, have you ever been to the Meguro Parasitological Museum? It’s equally grisly, (an 8.8 meter tapeworm on display) except not haikyo. Check it out sometime, it’s within walking distance from the Meguro JR station in Tokyo (hopefully still open!)

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Vivian.

      Yes, I went to the parasite museum years ago, and that tapeworm has stuck in my mind ever since. It was probably good preparation for the snake centre come to think of it, and there was a similar feeling of being utterly repulsed and yet absolutely fascinated at the same time.

  9. says

    Great photos as always Lee, definitely a classic haikyo. I wonder if the snakes are worldwide species or just Japanese ones? Do you have wild snakes in Japan?


    • says

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

      What kind of snakes the jars contained or where they were from I really couldn’t tell you, but yeah, Japan has wild snakes. More than I thought to be honest. I’ve seen a good few, especially when cycling along the river, but according to this site, there are a huge number of species.

      I’ve also seen signs, once or twice at a haikyo funnily enough, warning about the danger of マムシ (mamushi), which it turns out are poisonous, so definitely not to be messed with.

  10. Yasukostyle says

    Among unsealed containers there was a box printed with a word “unagi”! I’m going to think about this series when I eat eels! As always, great work!

    • says

      Thanks! Yeah, I noticed the うなぎ box too.

      Talking of food, in the functioning part of the centre you could actually order snake in the little restaurant, although after what we’d just seen, we certainly weren’t ready to sit down for a meal. And especially not one containing snake.

  11. Chris says

    This reminds me of how culturally different we are. In the US or UK someone would be going to jail for doing this. My old friends who spent their early twenties in the far east jungles and building the occasional railway wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t share their negative opinion but I can’t argue that they earned the right to hold it. At times like this I wonder if they are nearer right than I care to believe.

  12. Quinton says

    Great photos. It reminds me of some of the museums that dot the rural landscape in America, the ones that had a heyday forty or so years ago but have succumbed to dust motes and fading memories. Do you know what this particular center actually did, other than collect dead snakes. The samples of the serpents are not that odd. In fact the Smithsonian museumprobably has more snakes in their vault than this place but the way they have just been left out like that is somewhat odd. And the office of Toba… My first thought was how much that sounded like some sinister horror movie. What vile science did Dr. Toba conduct?

    • says

      It’s still actually a functioning facility, apart from the parts I photographed, and there seemed to be a lot of stuff focused around venom. Also, whilst I don’t think they make it anymore, snake venom sake was once produced there.

  13. Samuel L. Jackson says

    Enough is Enough! I’ve HAD it with these M—–F—‘n snakes in these M—–F—‘n jars!

  14. says

    After living in Japan I thought I had seen everything. A lot of bad karma in that place. There are so much about Japan I will never understand. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Yes. And a rather pricey ¥1,000 too. Although as they obviously get so few visitors, over-charging those that do turn up is no doubt a necessity.

  15. Richard says

    I went to the Snake Center last weekend. I gotta say that after visiting the place & comparing it with your blog entry and the comments on it, I kinda feel that you have misrepresented the place. I went into the place and took a tour with a student tour-guide. So I’m not sure if you don’t know or just didn’t write about it, but it really doesn’t even qualify as a true haikyo. People are working there right now. While I dig the haikyo thing, nevertheless it involves some sort of breaking&entering&trespassing. Being such, it bums me out that you did that and then chose to disparage the joint.
    The center was founded in 1968 and has collected the largest database of snakes & venon in Japan. After the sarin gas attack in Tokyo the police contacted the center to assist in identifying the chemical used in the attack. The national and city governments continue to refer to the center in emergency poison cases.
    They provide education programs for schools, and during my visit quite a few students were there dressed up in white coats and taking notes.
    The center also has a history of rescuing snakes kept as pets. The green mamba and black mamba they have right now were rescued after some crazy freak in Harajuku (who collected a rather large number of illegal pets) was killed while feeding them.
    And on top of that, they are also taking care of 2 boas owned by the Kano Sisters!
    So I don’t know dude, I feel you kinda exploited this joint and have condemned it as some sort of nightmarish shithole. I don’t think that’s fair…

    • says

      Yours was obviously a very different experience from ours Richard, ‘cos it’s one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been. I mentioned in the write up that it was still open, but when we were there, apart from the man who took our money (who was asleep in his little room when we left), there was barely any signs of human life. And some of the live animals on display made it even more miserable. I remember an alligator that was stuck in a tiny little enclosure, and worse, a boar that seemed to be hyper-ventilating.

      I don’t doubt the good work it does though, and there seemed to be a new building next door which I guess is where most of the work goes on these days. Did you get to go in there as you were on a student tour? And snakes owned by the Kano sisters eh? If they had been there my write up would have been very different!

      Seriously though, it genuinely was unbelievably grim when we went. To be honest, far worse than my write up. Either they have spruced it up a bit, or when students are there they make a bit of an effort.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *