We crept around the hallways of the love hotel quietly as walls sagged and floorboards bent beneath our feet. There was no lovemaking to disturb, though—the hotel had been abandoned for at least 10 years. It was one of Japan’s many haikyo or ruins, lusted after by urban explorers.
Though obviously dilapidated, Japan’s ruins remain frozen in time like an alternate reality of the last day they were occupied.
I’ve crawled my way into a few decaying buildings back home in America, but nothing compares to urban exploring in Japan. Though obviously dilapidated, Japan’s ruins remain frozen in time like an alternate reality of the last day they were occupied. Hotels with medieval-themed decor still intact and amusement parks with rusted games sit in place as if one day someone simply got up and walked away from them.
Taking pictures of abandoned buildings as a hobby sometimes gets a bad reputation for exploiting someone’s misfortune or tragedy for the sake of an Instagram aesthetic. For that reason, it’s important to know the history around these spots, and not to disturb anything you may find.
Here are some of the most interesting and totally wicked haikyo in Japan.
Furin Love Hotel (Chiba)
Ten themed rooms for lovemaking are available at the Furin Hotel in Chiba’s quiet countryside. Choose from a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) style or Greek deco room complete with Grecian pillars. My personal favorite is the medieval room decked out with full-scale armor, sexy red curtains, and a grandiose chandelier.
Not much is actually known about this haikyo, but it is one of the most popular amongst urban explorers for obvious reasons. Now it sits in a sunken state of disrepair with collapsed ceilings making half of the rooms inaccessible.
It’s too bad it was abandoned in 2010 because I would have liked to spend a night here myself. Perhaps sex isn’t quite the lucrative business in a countryside town with an aging population.
Negishi Grandstand (Kanagawa)
The Yokohama Negishi Grandstand has been around since 1866 when it was opened as a horse racing facility. The behemoth of a building was apparently frequented by Emperor Meiji himself.
During WWII the building was used as a printing headquarters for the Japanese military, and a holding for Australian prisoners. After Japan surrendered, the U.S. military claimed the building as their own and the surrounding area became Negishi Heights, a residential complex for U.S. forces. The building was returned to Japanese ownership in the ‘80s but the history of foreign influences on the area is evident.
The inside looks like a dystopian stronghold where the leaders of a rebel group would hole up after the apocalypse. Withered documents and rusted metal machinery are strewn about, but the view over Negishi from the roof is stunning. That is if you can even get inside—it’s protected by an iron fence and barbed wire.
Western Village (Tochigi)
Welcome to the wild wild west, where dusty arcade games and busted cowboy mannequins are all the rage. Back in the early ‘70s someone with a lot of money and no better way to spend it opened this American Western-themed park three hours north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture.
It was originally a ranch where people could experience horseback riding and all the joys of cowboy life. It gradually expanded into a full-blown amusement park complete with carnival games, bumper cars and more.
There’s a shootout going down in the saloon and Buffalo Bill has escaped from prison again. There’s also a life-sized replica of Mount Rushmore because that just screams “America.”
The park was abandoned in 2007 and has been a hotspot for urbex photographers ever since. Don’t worry, any body parts you see scattered around are from the poor animatronic mannequins that were left behind, and not human.
The Former Japanese Navy Underground Bunker (Okinawa)
Okinawa has an unfortunate war history that many people aren’t aware of when they visit the subtropical paradise full of friendly locals. The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters puts that history on full display.
In April of 1945 America launched a full-scale assault on the Japanese Imperial Army that had occupied the Okinawan shores. The 82-day long attack cost thousands of Okinawans—who had no interest in the war—their families, homes, and ultimately their lives. When the Japanese navy soldiers retreated to their underground headquarters, the Americans flooded them with poisonous gas.
An unsettling feeling will follow you as you explore the bunker walls still riddled with holes from hand grenade suicides.
On June 13, 1945, Commanding Officer of the Japanese Imperial Navy Minoru Ota committed suicide in this underground bunker with the threat of defeat looming closer. He’d rather die by his own hands than those of the enemy. Before killing himself, Ota sent a telegram to the mainland expressing remorse for the suffering of the Okinawan people.
Other navy troops followed suit and by the end around 5,000 men had died in the bunker either by suicide, explosions, or gas attacks. That bunker is now a museum. Stiff air and an unsettling feeling will follow you as you explore the bunker walls still riddled with holes from hand grenade suicides.
While technically not abandoned, the chilling history of the tunnels can be felt through its ominous atmosphere.
Gunkanjima Island (Nagasaki)
The previously-uninhabited island was ripe for coal mining in 1890 when it was purchased by Mitsubishi and populated by the company’s workers. The coal miners had their own little world with high-rise apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals built just for them.
Nothing lasts forever though, and the coal mines dried up in the 1970s leaving the miners without jobs. Naturally, a mass exodus occurred and the entire island was completed deserted. Now considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a relic of the Meiji Industrial Revolution, the island remains controversial as Koreans and Chinese were forced into labor here during WWII.
This is a truly apocalyptic scene as entire buildings were left behind with everything from electronics to clothing still inside. Exploring on your own is impossible unless you have permission from the local government, and the threat of collapsing buildings is real.
Some private companies offer tours to the island but they only take you to limited “safe zones.” Due to typhoon damage in September of 2019, however, boats are currently unable to actually land on the island. You can still take a tour of the island’s perimeter from the safety of the boat if you really just want to see it up close.
Interested in more creepy places in Japan? Check out these Japanese urban legends that are based on true stories.