Nakagin Capsule Tower

When I first moved to Tokyo, my company was renting me a tiny apartment in Ginza. That was not for the fancy side of it, rather because it was really close to work 😉 So everyday, I was walking from Ginza and Shiodome and on the way, here it was: the Nakagin Capsule Tower.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

As my passion for haikyo grew, I realized that this little gem was not only an architectural wonder but also a very cool haikyo location. The access was impossible (no tourists are allowed) but eventually, by chance, I became friend with one of the owners and I could visit it many times.

abandoned, architecture, haikyo, japan, japanese, kanto, minato, minato-ku, ruin, shimbashi, tokyo, urban exploration, urbex
Nakagin Capsule Tower

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed in 1972 by the famous architect Kisho Kurokawa who also designed the Modern Art Museum in Tokyo. It contains 140 post-futurist capsules that you could buy or rent; based on the fact that you probably lived in the countryside, worked very long hours in Tokyo and needed a simple place to wash your face and sleep during the weekdays. That was in the 70’s and 80’s.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

This building was built during an architectural movement called metabolism. Basically, the concept behind it is that the structure can renew itself and evolve, potentially in a modular way. Sounds pretty cool for us, software developers 😉

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Unfortunately, it didn’t work as expected, it was far from being modular in practice. There were many hiccups in its API. The original owners seemed to have kept the capsules just to sell them when the building would be finally demolished.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Luckily, many architects and architecture lovers are now buying capsules to take care of them. Maeda-san is now of them, and spend most of his free time at the Nakagin. Recently, he also called me in a hurry with excitement to show me the amazing state of decay of the new capsule he just got.

Maeda-san renovates them all

Jordy: Wow! The decay of this capsule is amazing. How long does it take you to restore such a capsule?

Maeda-san: It depends on the state but for one capsule, it’s generally around 8 days. But since I can only work at the Nakagin during the week-ends, it takes me up to 2 months!

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: What’s the main difficulty?

Maeda-san: The decay of the outer wall and the ceiling is a catastrophe, so there are many leaks. Water gets into the capsule and deteriorate them. This is the result and it takes the most time to stop and repair.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: Why and when did you buy your first capsule?

Maeda-san: I came across an advertising on which the capsules were on sale by chance. I was a bit surprised because I knew the Nakagin already and based on a news from 2007, it was supposed to be demolished. I called immediately. It has been my dream for a long time to get into the Nakagin and this was my chance, I jumped on the occasion! It was in 2010.

As of today (2016), Maeda-san has 13 capsules (out of the total of 140 capsules).

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

abandoned, architecture, haikyo, japan, japanese, kanto, minato, minato-ku, ruin, shimbashi, tokyo, urban exploration, urbex
Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: Could you get rid of all the asbestos? Is there still asbestos in the building, if we walk around, in the stairs for example?

Maeda-san: I can’t remove it my myself but I block/contain it from where it comes from. In the common area, there is no risk, so no worries to have.

abandoned, architecture, haikyo, japan, japanese, kanto, minato, minato-ku, ruin, shimbashi, tokyo, urban exploration, urbex
Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: What was the Nakagin supposed to be?

Maeda-san: Originally, the building was built for the salary-men. Around the 70’s, they were going to work very early until very late in the night. Their home being really far from the office, it was better to stay somewhere in central Tokyo during the week-days and go back only for the week-ends. Today, of course, the new inhabitants of the Nakagin are very different, they live here because they love it or because they enjoy a different kind of lifestyle.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: Why did the original purpose of the building failed?

Maeda-san: It came out that the original idea of being able to remove the capsule independently didn’t work. Therefore, taking good care of the capsules became impossible and I think they only tried to make it look like it was maintained, while they were were actually becoming much worse. I thought at this time that it would be better to switch the owners to new ones, who would aspire to repair and conserve them.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Here is a before/after, that shows you what kind of work can be accomplished by Maeda-san. This apartment is ready to be rent! The only issue is that there is no hot water in any of the capsules and you’ll need to visit the nearby sento or the small shared shower at the reception.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Even this bathroom from 1972 looks now brand-new!

abandoned, architecture, haikyo, japan, japanese, kanto, minato, minato-ku, ruin, shimbashi, tokyo, urban exploration, urbex
Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: If it is not a secret, what is the current average price of a capsule of the Nakagin?

Maeda-san: A capsule costs now between 6 millions and 10 millions yens (~ 50,000 – 85,000 euros). In fact, this price doubled or even tripled during the last 2-3 years. Before you could get one for 4 millions yens (~ 34,000 euros). There were many more owners at this time, now we are only a few.

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Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: It looks cute and small but can you actually live there and have a comfortable life?

Maeda-san: Yes, I do believe it’s possible!

abandoned, architecture, haikyo, japan, japanese, kanto, minato, minato-ku, ruin, shimbashi, tokyo, urban exploration, urbex
Nakagin Capsule Tower

Jordy: Are there any other buildings that you love as much as the Nakagin?

Maeda-san: I didn’t find any equivalent to the Nakagin yet! 🙂

Shooting with Miki

One of my favorite models is Miki. She has the most incredible poses, original choice of clothes, she has always ideas and never get tired. For the Nagakin, I simply proposed her to do two kinds of photos, one would be 70’s style, and the other one would be retro-futuristic in black & white. She picked her styles and then it was up to us to improvise. Here is the result.

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Miki at the Nakagin

 

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Miki at the Nakagin

 

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Miki at the Nakagin

 

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Miki at the Nakagin

 

japan, japanese, kanto, miki, minato, minato-ku, people, sexy, shimbashi, tokyo
Miki at the Nakagin

You’re okay, Miki isn’t too sexy for you? For information, Miki is not a model in reality. She creates songs for idols bands which buy them from her. I didn’t knew that this kind of job existed.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll in the Nakagin with Maeda-san and Miki. If you like the Nakagin, make sure to check my old article about this Warship Building in Shinjuku.

Takeda, the Castle in the Sky

Takeda Castle is always popular, and even more so in autumn. Why? Just because that’s the best time to have a chance to admire it surrounded by clouds! Hence its many nicknames such as Castle in the Sky or the Machu Picchu of Japan. To be sure not to miss anything, I reach the site at sunrise.

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Takeda Castle

After the short climb of 3 kilometres, with camera bag slung from my shoulder and my drone’s heavy case, my tongue is hanging out! This doesn’t fail to amuse the handful of Japanese visitors already there, for whom I have to pose a few minutes for pictures.

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Takeda Castle

Once alone, I prepare the drone at a little parking space for security staff, just before you reach the castle itself. With my head in the clouds (literally), I anxiously wonder if the castle is in the same state as me. Beep-beep-beep, bzzzzzzzzzzzzz, I send the drone (noisy, these things) swirling through the thick fog. It rises, rises, the cloud layer never-ending … But at last the castle appears right under its nose!

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Takeda Castle

Difficult to fly in these conditions because the drone appears to be in a different world, but the main problem is that it’s completely out of my sight. Radio contact can also be very quickly lost in these conditions. So while being careful I’m trying to fly over the ruins and take a few panoramic views.

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Takeda Castle

Flight over, I set off on foot. Without the drone case this time, cautiously left in the care of the little woman in charge! Only in Japan.

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Takeda Castle

This castle was built in 1443 as a hilltop fort like Himeji. Amazing isn’t it? It then changed hands several times until abandoned in 1600 to become a haikyo, after the suicide of the last samurai owner.

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Takeda Castle

Hundreds of years later it’s being mobbed by tourists who are destroying it with their trampling feet and crazy drones.

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Takeda Castle

As usual my photos are misleading. I’m surrounded by hundreds of tourists whom I try to avoid, but my own shadow is the worst problem (with an annoying tendency to butt into all my pictures).

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Takeda Castle

As you may have realized, I’m not keen on video. But anyway I decided to make one of the castle, which you can find here on my YouTube.

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Takeda Castle

Doesn’t this structure (above) remind you of anything? I can’t help but think of Gunkanjima.

In winter

I also visited the castle a few years ago, in winter. Clear sky, crisp coldness, snow, but a much more serene experience. The spring looks like it would be very pleasant too, because of the cherry blossom.

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Takeda Castle

 

castle, hyogo, japan, japanese, kansai, natural, nature, sky, snow, sunrise
Takeda Castle

 

castle, hyogo, japan, japanese, kansai, natural, nature, sky, sunrise
Takeda Castle

 

 

castle, hyogo, japan, japanese, kansai, natural, nature, sky, sunrise
Takeda Castle

 

castle, hyogo, japan, japanese, kansai, natural, nature, sky, sunrise
Takeda Castle

The site is quite isolated but if you’re spending a few days in Osaka you can take a day trip to visit the castle. Don’t think twice.

Amanohashidate

According to a Japanese philosopher, Amanohashidate is one of the three most famous views of Japan (along with Matsushima and Miyajima). This is the Heavenly (amano) Bridge (hashi). I stopped off there mainly because it was on the way to another destination that I’ll cover later.

Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate

A 3.4 km long tongue of sand drawing a line along the middle of Miyazu bay, there isn’t much on it except pines and sand. Tourists come specially to admire the view from a distance, either from Amanohashidate View Land or Kasamatsu Park.

Amanohashidate View Land

Ideal for families, there is a small amusement park at the top and a fine view. In autumn, the mountains are also very colourful, surprisingly enough.

Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate

Look, there seems to be some beautiful beaches! In summer, it’s mostly locals who come to swim there, especially children. Personally I’d prefer the beach at Toyooka city which is not so far from there neither.

Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate

The amusement park is lucky to have this view because otherwise it would surely be deserted. Not even a cat in the Ferris wheel! The attraction is simply to watch Japanese visitors take pictures of one another looking at the view, back to the bay, head between legs! This position, called matanozoki, gives the impression that the bridge is really suspended in the sky.

Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate

The sun is setting so I hurry to the other viewpoint, right on the opposite side (30 minutes drive). If you have time, the sanctuary of Motoise Kono is also a very pleasant place to visit.

Kasamatsu Park

You go up in a chairlift, which isn’t very reassuring. Luckily there are nets below (have a good look, there’s plenty of stuff lying down there).

Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate

The view is beautiful but it’s almost 17.00 … and the sun has already Japanese time zone is completely out of line and to really enjoy your day you’d have to get up at 5 in the morning. Better to visit this spot in spring at sunrise.

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Amanohashidate

Then I leave to wander around on Amanohashidate, but after 18.00 I’m all alone in total darkness. So I go back to the ryokan for the evening meal. If you don’t (much) like crab, be warned! Matsuba crab is a local speciality and if you are staying in a traditional inn it’ll be served up with everything! I’ve nothing against it but there it was really crab overdose for me.

Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate

The tourist office has a website with plenty of information so I invite you to take a look here: Miyazu Amanohashidate.

Aoike: The Blue Pond

In Japan there are mysterious places often shown in photos but where nobody really seems to go. Aoike – literally the Blue Pond (青い池) – is one of these. This pond is in fact in the most popular area of Hokkaido, Furano, where all the cows gather and moo plaintively to attract tourists. But seriously, if you’ve seen pictures of lavender fields in Japan, it’s very likely Furano.

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

I didn’t want to visit Aoike and be just another brick in the wall. So I took Airi, my adventurer friend, on a night visit. A large empty parking lot, a path leading into the forest, the Milky Way overhead. I get out my two flashlights and we set off. Beware of bears.

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

It’s pitch black! The pond is only 10 minutes walk from the car park but I think that in case of a bear problem we’ll really have to run for it! The pond is invisible to the naked eye, so I have to illuminate the scene.

Milky Aoike
Milky Aoike

Well, that’s about the kind of result I wanted (minus the clouds and the moonlight at the side). But after 30 minutes messing about and running around everywhere, we choose to leave. The risk of ending up as bear snacks is too great. We’ll come back tomorrow morning.

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

Finally, around 6.30, there’s nobody around. Bu the light isn’t ideal and late afternoon would seem a better choice. We enjoy the quiet. The first rays pierce through the birch trees and the colours sparkle on the water.

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

I settle myself behind an old man who comes here to paint Aoike in all conditions and at all seasons.

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

I didn’t want to break the spell too soon but this place is actually not entirely natural. It’s the result of construction to prevent sudden erosion that could be caused by nearby volcanic activity. This system protects the Biei area downstream.

Aoike: The Blue Pond
Aoike: The Blue Pond

Je recommande une visite de nuit si vous n’avez pas peur des ours 🙂 Blague à part, le lieu est de toute beauté à toutes les saisons mais surtout en hiver. Il est possible que je mette à jour cet article avec de nouvelles photos dans les mois à venir.


How to get there?
– By car, 40 minutes from the city of Furano.

Where to stay?
Kamihoroso : Not only is it not very far from Aoike but it’s not at all expensive! There’s a very pleasant onsen with an outside view and when I used it (very early in the morning) I was surrounded by deer! Great experience. I also left some clothes behind and the staff sent them back to me right away. Recommended!

Tokyo Sento with Stéphanie: Takara-yu

So you’ve spent an exhausting day in Tokyo? Mortified at being the typical tourist? Just follow me and we’ll take a bath together, along with my friend Stéphanie. She’s become the ambassador for sento – public bathhouses – so we’ll let her choose a good one for us.

Jordy: Hi Stéphanie! So, you’re taking us along?

Stéphanie: Hi Jordy! Today I’ll share with you a small Tokyo paradise: Takara-yu, known as The King of Garden. This sento has several massage and aromatic baths with a beautiful mural of Mount Fuji. It also has a fine view of a Japanese garden. Unluckily for me, only the men’s side has direct access to the garden from the baths.

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: Why did you visit a sento in the first place?

Stéphanie: I had the chance to spend a year as an exchange student at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University. A friend suggested we go to the nearby sento after class.

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: A roundabout way of getting to see you naked? Isn’t it too weird the first time?

Stéphanie: At first, like everybody else I think, I felt a little embarrassed for the first five minutes, as in France we’re not really in the habit of stripping off in front of strangers. But as nobody pays the slightest attention I soon relaxed and could then discover what was to become my daily ritual.

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: Come on, let’s go in! Is there anything we ought to know about this entrance? It seems rather like going into someone’s home.

Stéphanie: That’s partly true because it’s often families who run them. You take off your shoes at the door just like at home! You then put them in one of the little lockers and keep the wooden key.

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: Are all sento the same price in Japan? I undress in the changing room and then I go into the bathhouse? Any useful hints?

Stéphanie: In Tokyo the price is ¥460 but it varies depending on the region. Nothing special, except you should dry yourself off a bit before returning to the changing room after the bath to avoid wetting everything.

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Takara-yu Sento

The interior of Takara-yu is superb! But maybe better not stand there stark naked gazing around like a fish out of water. There’s just a wall between me and Stéphanie but everything is in the same space.

Jordy: Magnificent design and setting. And there’s Mount Fuji in the background!

Stéphanie: It’s lovely isn’t it? Only three painters in Japan specialize in this unique artform (more info here: Sento Mural Art).

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: Hey, Stéphanie, do I jump straight into the water or what? These taps are kind of unusual – do I just use the shower nozzle or is there something else I should know?

Stéphanie: You take a stool and a basin from the entrance to the bathhouse, then choose a shower space and wash yourself thoroughly before going into the baths. The shower water is hot and at your feet are two taps to mix whatever temperature you want into the basin. When you’re in the hot tub a small basin of cold water can help too.

Stéphanie’s pedantic, don’t you think? Only joking. After I’ve had a good wash I step into the pool. Surprise surprise! It’s burning hot!

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: It’s really hot! Is it always as hot as this? No way of throwing in a bucket of ice or running some cold water in? Or would that be naughty?

Stéphanie: The temperature of the baths varies – for hot tubs 39 to 47 degrees. There are also warm or cold baths.

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: Onsen (hot spring) water is naturally warm (and often mixed with cold water). But here, how do they heat it? It must cost a small fortune…

Stéphanie: The traditional heating fuel is wood, but many sento also use gas or a heat pump. And yes, it’s very expensive…

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: You’ve got the answer to everything! You’ve become a real sento obsessive. What do you like so much about sento?

Stéphanie: In the first place I’ve always enjoyed looking after myself and the pleasure of a hot tub. My friend and I went to this sento every week and enjoyed the benefits of the different pools (aromatic hot bath, electricified bath, cold bath and sauna), and we also took the chance to use body and hair care treatments. Another thing that I really appreciate in the sento is the easy communication.

Jordy dabbles in the water while Stéphanie tirelessly discusses her passion…

Stéphanie: The sento are often full of locals who go there several times a week or even every day. So it’s a kind of community and people are usually pretty friendly. I often talk to strangers I’ve met in the baths. When I travel outside Tokyo it’s also a great way to discover interesting little places more popular with locals than tourists. I often ask people I meet there to recommend a restaurant or something.

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: It seems to me that the social side is the great attraction of sento (and onsen). Even without me speaking Japanese, people come up to me quite naturally. And when exactly did you fall in love with sento? Right at the start?

Stéphanie: After my university year in Japan I lived in France for a few years and then in Djibouti before life brought me back to Tokyo again, three and a half I did of course go back to my favourite place that quickly became a second home (the sento of student days) but I began to explore Tokyo sento in particular, finding that they were all different.

The two guys below are charming and they speak French.

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, people, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: You visit a lot of sento, right?

Stéphanie: At the moment I go to about five a week. I don’t remember exactly how many I’ve visited but for around two years I’ve collected the stamps from each of them (there’s a booklet for ‘collecting’ Tokyo sento stamps like there is for temples). So far I’ve reached 200, and I also use sento outside Tokyo whenever I get the chance.

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: By the way, you’re welcome to visit my sento at Nara. It’s really ancient and the old lady who works there always comes to see me to check if I’ve got everything I need …! How did you get to be an ambassador?

Stéphanie: Little by little, thanks to roaming round all the sento, I was curious to find out more about, and while getting to know many sento owners, I made a small library of books on sento. At the time I also started to write and share sento ‘reviews’ on Instagram (#dokodemosento). The sento magazine 1010 interviewed me, which was the first step I think. Shortly afterwards Tokyo city hall contacted me to sit on the Tokyo Sento Committee. It’s a mission for which five people are selected every two years. As I’ve also started freelance writing, I decided to start the Tokyo Sento blog and various other activities. My work has been increasingly recognized and the Tokyo sento headquarters offered me the role of ambassador.

Think there’s any way I could become a cat or haikyo ambassador?

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: And you’re the only person doing this? The first?

Stéphanie: No, I have an ambassador companion who was taken on at the same time as me. He’s professional boxer Kimura Yu-san, WBC light flyweight champion. I’d already met the sento ambassador of Mie prefecture but we’re obviously the first to have this broader title.

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Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: What an adventure! At the same time it’s really well deserved – for me you’ve became the sento icon! On the other hand, looking on the black side, there’s also the sad truth that two pages are dedicated to sento in my new book Abandoned Japan! Because ultimately there’s fewer and fewer of them and many have been abandoned.

Stéphanie: That’s right, sadly. Moreover, one of the Sento Committee’s tasks is to think about their future. Ten years ago, there were more than 2,000 in Tokyo. Today, there are about 630 of them.

As it happens I’ve written an article on the subject of an abandoned sento visited with Stéphanie and the owner. It’s on my haikyo website here: Tsuru No Yu. Sad? So here’s a simple solution. When in Tokyo take a bath, foreign visitors are welcome!

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: If friends or family come to visit me in Japan, what would you suggest they should do with you to accompany them?

Stéphanie: Sento aren’t always easy to find and often people who aren’t used to them don’t really dare go in. I always adapt the choice of sento to the people I’m going to guide. Some things I take into account are the location, the facilities offered by the sento, the temperature of the baths and the design. It’s a very relaxing way of discovering Japanese culture. So I recommend it to everybody, but it’s also excellent after a day’s sightseeing or to recover from jet lag.

adachi-ku, japan, japanese, kanto, sento, tokyo
Takara-yu Sento

Jordy: A kiss and a final word?

Stéphanie: I hope many of you will come and discover my little Tokyo pleasures. And be sure to contact me if you need a personalized tour! You’ll find sento articles and more photos in my Tokyo Sento blog. Feel free to comment or ask questions, I’m sure Stéphanie will respond. If you’re visiting Tokyo one day, finish off in style with one or two good sento with Stéphanie. It’s definitely an experience worth having.

Address : Senju Motomachi 27-1, Adachi-ku
Open: Every day from 15.00 to 23.30, closed Monday.

Osore-san: Highway to Hell

We march towards the entrance of Mount Osore under the crazy heat. Osore means fear, so the place should be anything but peaceful paradise, especially in the summer! As of now, the sulfide is already burning our nostrils. I have to constantly drink water to keep myself alive.

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Mount Osore

The Legend

Time is around… 800 AD. En’nin is a Japanese monk who went to study Buddhism in China. One evening, perhaps had a bit too much to drink, he had a dream… a strange, strange one. Well, actually it is not that special, it is about a saint coming to talk to him. Who doesn’t have this kind of dream every once in a while 😉

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Mount Osore

aomori, japan, japanese, natural, nature, temple, tohoku, volcano
Mount Osore

The Saint told him that on his way back to Japan, he will walk to the east. He will find a sacred mountain walking for 35 days after reaching Kyoto. However, it took him a while longer to carve Jizo statues along the way and to spread buddhist teachings, he did what he was told.

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Mount Osore

There was indeed this little piece of heaven exactly as described in his dream after so much distractions on the way. Never forgotten his tools, he sculpts a beautiful jizo. So that’s basically the story of the birth of Mount Osore. This is not really a mountain but in fact the volcano crater surrounded by other mountains.

The Ponds of Hell

It is a real experience of walking around 108 small sulphide pots (one for each represent one of the 180 desires) which makes up the first part of the visit of Mount Osore.

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Mount Osore

Composed of water and mud, the ponds bubble and are not welcoming at all, but we must try to get closer…

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Mount Osore

aomori, japan, japanese, natural, nature, temple, tohoku, volcano
Mount Osore

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Mount Osore

If you have a friend in hell, you can probably leave a message in this mailbox.

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Mount Osore

Spent long enough on the melting ground, we are going to visit Paradise now; it seems not too far away after all!

The Lake Usori

This is the second point of interest of Osorezan. After the hot pots, this lake seems a perfect place to cool it off a bit.

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Mount Osore

aomori, japan, japanese, natural, nature, temple, tohoku, volcano
Mount Osore

A beach of white sand, crystal clear water, but where are the sunbathers? I look at the water more closely: long streaks of sulphide are visible in the water and not a fish in sight.

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Mount Osore

The only living creatures are some strange little insects.

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Mount Osore

The surroundings of the lake are not at all refreshing in the end and I am in pain. Fortunately, there is the Bench of Osore in the Shadow! It is a very popular spot, I am honoured to be here and with good company too; a grandma who works on dances for Aomori festival, she is the director (or one of them) of the famous Aomori Museum, and a grandpa who registered a place in Iwate at UNESCO! New travel destinations!

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Mount Osore

But Osorezan is especially a place of silence, where souls of children who left too early can be found. You can find small colourful windmills here and there, they are offerings from relatives or visitors.

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Mount Osore

These small piles of stone are prepared for the nighttime. Spirits of children will throw stones at demons to protect themselves. You can help the children by adding a few more stone piles.

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Mount Osore

Attention here, Mount Osore will take away part of your soul and you will have to pick it up a few months later. If you do not come here even number of times you will end up eating rotten eggs in hell. Buddhist recruitment/marketing technique? No one knows for sure. In any case, I highly recommend you visit Mount Osore once, but … not in the summer!

Comment y aller ?

– In car, 30 minutes of Mutsu.

Où loger ?

Mutsu Park Hotel : Not many hotels in Mutsu, better jump on this one quick!

Hitachi Seaside Park in Autumn

I am not always fair with Ibaraki Prefecture. I always say that there is not much to it besides the occasional haikyo, but it actually does have its charms. One such place is Hitachi Seaside Park.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

The park is located next to the city of Mito and is situated along the beach. Since it is not very far from Tokyo, I waited for the perfect day (in terms of clear skies and blooming flowers) to make my way to the seaside. It took about two hours by car and I was back to work by the early afternoon. Access by train is fairly simple but takes time, so I recommend spending the day to make it worth your while.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

Visiting in the autumn or winter is particularly alluring. In winter, the baby blue eye flowers are in bloom. With autumn come pink and purple cosmos as well bassica scoparia, a type of ragweed that turns bright red when the seasons change. A floral schedule is available online here. Despite the parks peaceful appearance, it is actually quite crowded! That being the case, the best time to visit is early on weekday mornings.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

Do you see the little person in the middle of the picture brandishing his colorful cape? We must approach with caution.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

Atop the hill of colorful ragweed lies a bell…

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Hitachi Seaside Park

…to ring with your special someone, of course.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

The park is an ideal place for photo shoots as well as selfie sticks (ahem!), and can also be used to make your own Microsoft quality desktop background.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

I focused on this particular location, but the park is huge and there are many other plants and gardens to explore. If you have a passion for flowers, there are enough here for you to spend the entire day strolling around at a leisurely pace.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

autumn, ibaraki, japan, japanese, kanto, natural, nature
Hitachi Seaside Park

And here is our funny little person. Using the zoom function, I found her photographer hidden in the bushes. They seem to be having fun!

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Hitachi Seaside Park

If you have children, they may enjoy the attractions at the park entrance or the Ferris wheel with an ocean view.

autumn, ibaraki, japan, japanese, kanto, natural, nature
Hitachi Seaside Park

It is difficult to choose where to go in Japan during autumn. There are just too many things to see! However, if you are a family short on time with limited means of transportation, Hitachi Seaside Park is an easy choice to make.

Gunkanjima: Photos & Stories

Gunkanjima is an abandoned island in Nagasaki prefecture. The island is famed for its unbelievable appearance: surrounded by a sea wall, it is an entire abandoned city with huge concrete buildings. The island’s original name is Hashima but it’s better known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because it looks like a military warship. It became even better known after a digital version featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall.

Gunkanjima became an UNESCO World Heritage on July 5th 2015.

I’ve had the chance to visit Gunkanjima a few times in recent years. Here’s how the island looks when you are about to land.

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Official Tour & Unofficial Tour

There is an official Gunkanjima Tour (like this), but you’ll be restricted to the area shown below in purple. You’ll need permission from Nagasaki prefecture (and a specific project, written in Japanese). This isn’t easy to get nowadays but of course it’s worth it.

Gunkanjima Guide Map

I’ve written a few pieces on Gunkanjima in separate articles and this is a summary. Don’t miss my night walk and the interview with a former resident of Gunkanjima.

What is Gunkanjima

Gunkanjima was an undersea coal mine located on an island, bought by Mitsubishi in 1890 from a feudal lord. Mine shafts were dug, a village was constructed and some land was reclaimed. The island grew in size. The first apartment building (Block 30) was completed in 1916 – reinforced concrete had arrived in Japan. The village quickly became a city that looks like a monstrous maze of concrete. In 1959, this small island had the highest population density on Earth: 5,259 residents (7,301 people/km2)! But as petroleum began to replace coal the miners and other residents began to leave the island, which finally closed down in 1974. Mitsubishi handed it over to Nagasaki in 2001 and since 2009 it has been open for public tours. In 2015, Nagasaki announced that the main buildings of Gunkanjima are to be maintained, with a view to being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

My First Visit

I first visited the island in 2010. It was only for an hour, all I could negotiate at the time, but I made the most of the time running around. The result isn’t pretty but was a lot of fun. To make it more interesting I added some history. Here it is: A One Hour Adventure on Gunkanjima.

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Gunkanjima: First Trip

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Gunkanjima: The First Visit

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Gunkanjima: Movie Theater

The Block 65

One of the most popular aspects of Gunkanjima seems to be the huge concrete apartment building called Block 65. Recognize one of the scenes from the Skyfall movie? I’ll take you to explore those apartments here: Block 65.

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Gunkanjima: Block 65 Ultra Wide

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Gunkanjima: Pachink’old

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Gunkanjima: Apartments

The School

The school, one of the first places you discover when you reach the forbidden area, is one of my favourites. Discover it here: The School of Gunkanjima.

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Gunkanjima: School

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Gunkanjima: Crying Piano

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Gunkanjima: Teacher’s Room

Doutoku Sakamoto’s Memories

I met and explored Gunkanjima with a former resident, Doutoku Sakamoto. He loves this island with all his heart and is one of the official guides. I asked him to tag along with me and my friends and he kindly took us to the places he loves. Discover his interview here: The Memories of Doutoku Sakamoto.

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Gunkanjima: Apartments

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Gunkanjima: Through History

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Gunkanjima: Teleconic

A Maze of Streets and Stairs

Everything can be found in this abandoned city: two schools, shops, hospital, prison, swimming pool, cinema, gymnasium, all tightly squeezed into a very confined space. More here : A Maze of Streets & Hellish Staircases

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Gunkanjima: Stairway To Hell

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The Student of Gunkanjima

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Gunkanjima: Footbridge

Between Hell & Paradise

Gunkanjima is not loved by everyone. It has many painful stories to tell as well as happy moments. Let’s explore these contrasts here: Gunkanjima: Between Hell & Paradise.

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Gunkanjima: The Chair

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Gunkanjima: The Heart of the Hellship

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Gunkanjima: Hair Salon

Gunkanjima by night

One of my favourite moments was a stroll on the island by night, warmed only by some sake. Follow my walk here: Gunkanjima by night.

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Gunkanjima: Mine by Night

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Gunkanjima: Block 65 at Night

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Gunkanjima: Streets by Night

The Shrine, The Mine, The Hospital

I’ll soon be writing about those three special places but meanwhile I’m looking out more interesting and surprising details. To avoid missing any new posts, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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Gunkanjima: My Love

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Gunkanjima: Accountant

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Gunkanjima: Chirurgy

I hope you enjoyed my special tour of Gunkanjima! If you are interested in such locations I suggest you to have a look at my book Abandoned Japan. It is available in pre-order here: Abandoned Japan. I also have a collection of photos of Gunkanjima here: http://www.meow.fr/Gunkanjima. Thank you! 🙂

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Ebisu Iwa & Daikoku Iwa

To the west of the island of Hokkaido, after a beautiful tour of Shakotan Peninsula (subject of a future article), you’ll perhaps be thinking it’s time to head back to Otaru city. Think again, there’s a spot where I recommend losing yourself on the way.

Shakotan Kape
Shakotan Kape

By taking a different route through the village you’ll eventually find yourself stuck in a creepy dead end street. But turn your head to the right and there’s a surprise: the handsome rocks of Ebisu and Daikoku basking in the Sea of Japan. Drawing a fine line between bucolic, romantic and baleful (you need at least that to balance the scale), look for the centre of gravity of the triangle so created, and there we are. Feet in the water.

Ebisu Iwa
Ebisu Iwa

These two deities seem to have been forgotten here. There are no combini, let alone shops or food stalls. With any luck, you’ll find two or three cats with fur flying scuffle over the remains of a fish.

Ebisu Iwa
Ebisu Iwa

These two rocks – iwa – are shintai: the physical entities harbour spiritual beings. They’re known as Ebisu Iwa (恵 比 寿 岩) and Daikoku Iwa (大 黒 岩) because of their striking resemblance to the gods of that name.

To the left, Ebisu, the god of fishermen. He’s chubby, holds a fishing rod in one hand and a rather hefty red seabass in the other. To the right, Daikoku, the god of wealth. He’s often depicted with a golden mallet. Both will bring you good fortune even if that doesn’t seem to be true of the nearby village.

Ebisu Iwa
Ebisu Iwa

It’s an ideal place to visit when the sun is highest in the sky (the rocks are often in the shade) or indeed at sunset. I also came across a magnificent picture showing the rocks covered with snow: here. So why not go there in winter?

How to get there?

– By car, 30 minutes from Otaru.

Where to stay?

Dormy Inn Premium Otaru: Unprepossessing outside but there’s a very nice thermal bath (onsen) inside! Moreover, the breakfast is buffet-style with loads of choice and even seafood (if you love ikura as I do it’s a joy …). Right next to Otaru station.

Green Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

In Japan, the Tea Ceremony is a fine art that demands years of practice. But there’s no denying that this ceremony – beautiful as it is – won’t necessarily make your tea any better! Perhaps even the opposite: the ceremony is very strict, calm and genteel – often too much for Westerners. But fortunately, there is an alternative.

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Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

You can visit a very pleasant spot very near Mount Fuji to appreciate the fields of green tea. Best to go in spring, early in the morning – it’s less than two hours from Tokyo by car.

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Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

Try to get as close as possible to the point shown on the map. You can’t go wrong, just follow the other cars or visitors on foot. Japanese photographers, determined and serious, will all be there already waiting for the sun to reach the ideal height to illuminate the scene perfectly.

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Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

I’m exaggerating of course, but by getting there early enough you’ll have peace until around 10 o’clock, after which there seem to be tours and even photography courses.

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Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

But before the noise of the visitors and the clicks of the photographers, you’ll have a moment all to yourself between the fields of green tea and Mount Fuji. To complete the picture, don’t of course forget to open the bottle of tea that you’ve bought from the convenience store (combini). The atmosphere will work its magic and I’m sure the taste of the tea will complete the picture.

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Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

Next, head for the tree in the middle of the fields, take pictures of your other half or your children with red parasols – Japan holiday snaps sorted!

chubu, fields, japan, japanese, mount fuji, natural, nature, shizuoka, spring, yamanashi
Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

If you want to meet the locals and taste an excellent green tea with no fuss, try a visit to the Hazuki family farm. You can find them on Facebook here: Hazuki Farm. Either contact them in advance or visit them directly.

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Tea Fields at Mount Fuji

The Nihondairai tea fields, a rather less secret name, are also very pleasant and offer a fantastic view out to sea. On the way back to Tokyo, you can stop off at Hakone and spend the next day there.

How to go?

– By car, 2 hours from Tokyo.
– Or… 1 hour from Hakone.

Where to sleep?

– Traditional: Yushitei (Hakone)
– Western (as used by the imperial family): Fujiya Hotel (Hakone)

Exploration of the Catacombs of Paris

It’s 7 in the morning and I’m sipping a coffee on a terrace in front of the subway station, watching closely the arrivals. It’s almost the usual morning for me except I’m not in Tokyo, but within the Paris life for a few days, and most importantly, minutes away from being introduced to the catacombs.

Diane and Mathieu will take me along, they are lovely explorers met within the numeric world. They promptly arrive so I throw out my espresso in the gutter. Mathieu set me up with boots that aren’t my size and there we go, the entrance is not very far from there.

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Catacombs of Paris

Uh? We’ll really enter by this sewer manhole cover?

Mathieu : It’s not the sewers, it’s a cover of the IGC (organization responsible for the general inspection of the galleries, pits, mines). We’re going to see the galleries, not the rats!

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Catacombs of Paris

Ok, I thought that the access were within the “Petite Ceinture” level, so now that’s surprising!

Diane: The “Petite Ceinture” access is well-known and touristic (the “Petite Ceinture” was the name of a circular train line that ran around Paris but is now laying abandoned since 1934). Obviously, there are other ways to access the old galleries, either by manhole plates that goes directly into the galleries or by other subterranean interconnections because there are not only galleries but sewers, technical galleries, subway etc.

Mathieu: The access are usually opened by cataphiles (people who likes going into the catacombs), and then closed by the authorities. It’s possible to enter by the “Petite Ceinture” but the first place we’re bringing you to is not in the vicinity of this entry-spot. We’ll use this manhole which will lead us to the part we want to see in the network.

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Catacombs of Paris

To enter by a manhole cover in the middle of the street, the people, isn’t it nutty? Will the cops come frisking behind us?

Mathieu: If somebody ask me what I’m doing, I tell him I’m working and I’m going to fix something up. Usually, people ask if you see rats down there. The cops are the thing to avoid, but that’s the game. They are outside… but also inside the galleries!

Mathieu holds the plate, Diane steps in and I step onto her. Mathieu join us right away and close the plate over us. Bam, pitch black. We light our torches.

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Catacombs of Paris

I can’t believe it, I lived in Paris 5 years without ever setting foot down here… Diane, up to today, how many times have you been here?

Diane: No idea about how many times I came down, I’ve never counted and there are times when I came down only two times in a year, and other periods I’ve been coming many times in a week, it’s randomly.

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Catacombs of Paris

Did you ever get caught down here?

Diane: I’ve never had to deal with the “catacops” and in 7-8 years of coming down here, I had only 1 police check on the street level, when we were about to go down to visit a gallery in the 12th district.

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Catacombs of Paris

Oh, that’s not what I meant but it’s ok. Well, what about the first time?

Diane: My first time down was in 2005 or 2006, it has been many months since I was invited to come but being lightly claustrophobic, I was a little afraid. Finally I got down with someone that I was doing some work with and that had done some explorations down here already. We went by the “Petite Ceinture” and I clearly realized my boots weren’t high enough!

We get ourselves throughout a hole (know as “châtière”) to access the real catacombs from the technical gallery where we are.

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Catacombs of Paris

You talk about “châtières” regularly, those miniatures galleries by which one must squeeze in order to go from a spot to another. Is it an official term or is it only used by the cataphiles?

Diane: A term used by the cataphiles but also by the speleologists. The “châtières” are dug by the cataphiles to go from one spot to the other by crawling in such hole on many meters. It can be to reconnect 2 parts of a network which has been disconnected, have access to a room or create interconnections with other subterranean networks to get in or out of the catacombs galleries.

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Catacombs of Paris

Who dig those “châtières”, how does it work?

Diane: Generally, one or many cataphiles decides to start a project. The means they get going in there depends on the tools they have and the terrain material they have to dig. The tools can be shovels, maces, chisels, and even hammer-drill for the concrete walls. In such case they do an electric diversion in order to use the hammer-drill, because there’s obviously no electricity within the catacombs.

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Catacombs of Paris

Did you ever dig?

Diane: I’ve never dug, but I’ve been to an ongoing digging site some years ago and I tried digging! Well, it wasn’t easy and it requires a lot of time for the cataphile workers to complete their project.

We hang out within the catacombs; it’s a really large labyrinth. Fortunately they know the network well.

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Catacombs of Paris

You mention sometimes the North catacombs and the South catacombs, the first one being our entry point and the second where we’ll surface… but what’s the difference between the two? Aren’t they both located on the left shore?

Diane: The galleries spans underneath several districts of Paris. The South and the North of our map of the catacombs is in fact based on the areas where we can go. Here is a map who shows well the location of the galleries in Paris.

Catacombes de Paris en 1986

Mathieu: Globally, when we say North or South, we usually talk about the GRS, the main network of the catacombs.

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Catacombs of Paris

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

And Mesrine, what does he do here?

Mathieu: He’s not really hidden. It’s a grapher that made it. Apparently, Mesrine has been in galleries in the Paris region but it’s not the catacombs. It’s maybe a tribute to this or simply a coincidence 😉

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Catacombs of Paris

Talking ‘bout graphers it seems we can’t avoid “Psychoz”, a dude who is not only cataphile but also does street-art… Did you ever meet him? How does things goes between him and the “purists” cataphiles?

Diane: I’ve never met him. I don’t know a lot of people who tags or graph in the catacombs or elsewhere. Personally I don’t like the graphs in this kind of place, I think this is dilapidation and most don’t know where they do their graphs… sometimes masking history hints when it’s in the catacombs. I don’t like Psychoz’s characters and there are many in the network. This is my personal opinion but in realm of the array of cataphiles, even if we do not have the same point of view, we share the place anyway. I know some FCs; essentially I don’t like what they do, but as a person, it’s doesn’t prevent us from meeting some interesting people with different views and opinions, but all tastes are in the world. On the other side, I will not work with the graphers and give them maps or other.

Mathieu: I’ve never met Psychoz, but he makes the catacombs a nice playground like Jérôme Mesnager before. It’s not easy to decipher people’s reactions, some likes art, some not. He has some friends within the network and some who like him less, like everybody in fact!

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

After all, what would be a purist cataphile?

Diane: Someone who comes down here, doesn’t touch anything, who is interested in the galleries’ history and who dissent any event that could make the network mutate. Well, it’s basically the description of an embittered old fart? 🙂 (there are some)

Mathieu: Each and everyone will have an diverse definition of it because there are so many different reasons and ideas to come down here!

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

You have been down here many time, so what’s the big deal about coming again?

Mathieu: Some networks are only open at some times, so we got to hurry to visit them. But on the forefront, it’s also a place for life. Instead of going out in a bar, why not come down in the quietness underneath Paris? There are also people from different background who come here. We can find ourselves with someone that lead a big business or someone who only have a small job. There is no real difference about this in the underneath.

Diane: There is over 200km of galleries to explore under Paris, this takes a lot of time to visit it all, and it depends on what we want to do here. Taking pictures takes an awful lot of time because we have to take care of the lighting; there are sometimes some networks that open and we must hurry, and there are a lot of historical details that one doesn’t always see at first glance. There is a lot of writing and name plates, new rooms dug by cataphiles, sculptures… the network evolves as the people keeps visiting it.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

Are you sure you’re not going in there to get high and whatnot with some other bastards? I can guess you’ve been the witness of some comic stuff, right?

Diane: Yeah, well it’s a place without rules and free, so people do what they want. Some disputes actually happen but I’ve never witnessed any underground. One time I’ve been the witness of a conflict between two cataphiles, but onto the surface, at an exhibition’s private view. One of them brought a cream pie and slammed it onto the other guy’s face, it was very comic 🙂

Mathieu: No, I have not witnessed any conflicts. But we heard about ‘em when it happens.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

It’s precisely what surprises me these days: the fact that the catacombs are a “living place”. I wasn’t looking forward to see people everywhere. For instance, who are those people (generally speaking) that we met in that room from which they blocked the access? What are they doing?

Diane: The people we met are regular cataphiles. Some don’t hesitate to stay overnight, or even over a weekend. It’s like camping. The cataphiles meet underground, spend the night together, meet some other people, party, listen to music, just like the evenings we have on the surface, but there, the place is special : there is no social barriers, it’s a non-capitalist free space, no need to take anything to take part of it. Everybody can bring a little something and share it, just like the person who offered us a coffee.

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Catacombs of Paris

After all, what are the most popular activities in the catacombs?

Diane: It varies greatly : just browse around, discover, party, meet friends and new people who share the same passion for the underground. Take pictures, do carving, redo or build new rooms, some nice and user-friendly rooms. Some other people dig access to parts of the network that aren’t reachable or technical galleries in order to gain access to the catacombs. Finally, there are those who will just tag… or graph, paint.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

The main danger in the catacombs really is… its inhabitants? What are the main dangers? I guess it’s fairly bad to get underground without any kind of map 😉

Diane: We can have bad encounters but it’s quite rare, otherwise, the galleries’ ceilings are mostly low, we must take care not to hurt ourselves, and also we have to watch our steps because there are holes and slippery places. And yes, with more than 200km of galleries, a map is a must have.

Mathieu: There are also some place that collapse, we must watch out. Some people go around without a map because they know well some areas of the network they go in.

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Catacombs of Paris

Is it true that the cataphiles works conjointly with the IGC to avoid having tourists or novices? All along letting the experienced going?

Diane: Not at all. The access into the catacombs is strictly prohibited. But it happen sometimes that some cataphiles approach the IGC or the catacombs’ cops if there is a trouble. For instance when there is a collapse risk or more frequently, when there is some leak because of the urban heating.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

I have friends who when to the Mines’ School and they are authorized to get down once a year. Apparently they go in without shoes and must sometime swim in the ooze, but isn’t it dangerous?

Diane: Without shoes? Or without boots? The first danger is still to get hurt, and then for the water, there is a risk of leptospirosis, a disease conveyed by the rats’ urine. But yeah there is about next to no rats or mice in the catacombs but the risk remain. Any still water can bring disease if not careful.

Mathieu: They have the right to this visit in because of the Mines’ School and the access they’ve got. Then, each year, those who are willing gets in a part of the galleries (the promo gallery) to paint a fresco with a godparent. For dangers, yes there clearly are some!

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Catacombs of Paris

How do you look forward the future for the catacombs, in let’s say, 10 years from now?

Mathieu: An uncertain future. The more time goes, more and more spaces are injected. We sure have time before it all gets injected, but it can happen any day.

Diane: It’s a difficult question to answer! We can look it thru what happened and what happens. The galleries under Paris are extensive, it would be hard for example, to inject them all, and tough this is possible on certain sections. It’s happening in the Southern part of the network. Take it like this, if a housing project gets underway on the surface, it may need ground consolidation or if a parking is built, a part of the network can be altered or injected. Some parts of the network like the German bunker has been subject of studies to do something else with it… Nothing dramatic for now anyway! The catacombs will surely remain as they are for some time! After, the state of it will continue to deteriorate and lose historic hints because of the tags for instance.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

How do you think this underground society will evolve?

Mathieu: Impossible to say! It evolves thanks to the contributors who come and go, nothing is written, and everything is possible!

Diane: Apart from the enthusiasts, people come and go throughout the urban exploration trend. Either there will be more and more people underground; either it will remain the same. There are periods and waves linked to the trend, or the “Catacombs” film release! This sparks the desire to go to see, but after all, it remains a well-shut and crude space so I wonder how many comes back and how often afterwards. Nevertheless, the catacomb cops doesn’t want the cataphiles population to increase and they are further more on the lookout for illegal visits.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

Will you continue to go as often?

Mathieu: If I come to Paris, it’s a prerequisite. This place is so interesting! I can’t actually imagine not going back.

Diane: It’s been 8 years that I’m going underground and it depends of times. Sometimes I go regularly and some other times, I don’t go for months. At time, we need to stay put for a while to better rediscover them: get the lack of it to better have the fun after and remember it. In my case, I don’t really have an affectionate feeling over the galleries and I think I will go back again many times wherever life gets me.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

Apart from the catacombs, what are your personal projects?

Mathieu: I started my tour around the world a month ago. I’m done with Europe tomorrow. Then, Russia, Asia, Australia and America. I’ll be in Japan in September or October I think, I hope I can meet you. By the way, I’d really like to go to an island and a certain amusement park if you see what I mean! So, 2 years of roads, meetings, auto-stop, crazy places, urban exploration of course and a lot of surprises. A fascinating place : http://theroadland.me/project/etape-6-la-bulgarie-partie-2/. Very hard to go, I thought I’d never make it. Shitty weather but how happy I was when I saw the saucer in the far during the 3 seconds the fog disappeared. Or else I take some of my couch-surfing hosts in urban exploration, it’s so cool!

The questions have been answered in the later part of 2013. In the meantime, Mathieu has come to Japan and we visited the abandoned Nara Dreamland park together.
abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Catacombs of Paris

Diane: I have various projects going on that I can’t actually talk about right now. However, I’m working to get my pictures to be part of exhibitions, in October, I’ll be at the “Nuit de la photo contemporaine” in Paris. The next year is still uncertain for me but if it’s possible I’d like to explore wastelands and galleries of other countries to broaden my horizons!

Mathieu is still continuing his trip around the world. You can check his website, it is called ExplorationUrbaine.com. Diane does amazing photo articles and we can sometimes see her nude, yeah! Find out on Neverends.

A bonus, here’s the Paris’ catacombs plan by Nexus.

Catacombes Nexus

Ah! And there it is, my favourite moment: the time to get out. Moreover, after 10 hours of walking, here we are at the “Petite Ceinture”, it’s amazing! Thanks guys!

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Petite Ceinture Verte

If you have question to ask Mathieu and Diane, don’t hesitate, I’m sure they’ll come around and answer in the comments sometime.

The Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo

I again stayed in Tokyo this year to take my « special sakura » day. I have been taken short notice once again by the early bloom of the cherry trees and I had to figure out an urgent day to wander the Tokyo streets and find nice scenes. But, I must warn you : I haven’t been as lucky as last year so I had to rely on some spots I already knew 🙂

This article was written in 2014.
Hibiya.
Hibiya.

The first to bloom are the plum tree flowers. At Hibiya Park, they were splendid! Since they last pretty long, we can still admire those at the same period as the cherry trees flowers. Those in this following picture are especially heart-warming.

Hibiya.
Hibiya.

I’ll cheat and show you a picture of sakura taken on the previous day. To be honest, the weather was so bad that I seriously wondered if I’d do my sakura day 100% under the rain 😉

 

Sakura.
Sakura.

The sakura are obviously easier to bring out with a nice blue sky. I will then postpone my “under the rain” style session to a later year (not for 2015, I already have an idea planned!).

Sakura.
Sakura.

I took this day to go to Inokashira, in an area which I usually not go (Kichijoji). It’s actually a pretty plain sight : temple, small bridges, sakuras, old Japanese people, and, uh, goose-boats.

Inokashira.
Inokashira.

 

Inokashira.
Inokashira.

I then came back in central Tokyo to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine area.

Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine.

 

Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine.

 

Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine.

I roamed onto some city roofs to obtain some good sights but the beautiful sakuras weren’t easy to get to stand out from that point. I finally got to take this relatively interesting shot in Ikebukuro.

Ikebukuro.
Ikebukuro.

To complete this day, I went for a walk in Yanaka. There are many sakuras in the cemetery but it’s not as stunning as in Aoyama. I searched some more subtle scenes in the back streets but this has proven to be unsuccessful. So in order not to come back empty-handed, I went to Tennoji Temple to shoot two sakura trees that I really admire.

Yanaka.
Yanaka.

 

Yanaka.
Yanaka.

I then took these pictures on my daily route, to and from work.

Tokyo Midtown.
Tokyo Midtown.

 

Tokyo Midtown.
Tokyo Midtown.

 

Tokyo Midtown.
Tokyo Midtown.

 

Tokyo Midtown.
Tokyo Midtown.

You are in Japan? You have some pictures of unknown, subtle spots strewn with sakuras that you luckily encountered? Or did you find some in some other country? Please share it with us in the comments! Always interesting! 🙂

Article translated by センチレール ミッチ.

Nobeyama Radio Observatory

One afternoon, while I was driving around in Nagano, I noticed a huge parabolic antenna lost in the middle of the mountains. I changed my route immediately to get closer to it. Then more antennas appeared. What a surprising place! I am not alone. Many people are coming back from a visit and the entrance is closing. That’s fine, I’d rather visit during the night 🙂

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Nobeyama Radio Observatory

A few hours later, past midnight. There is no one and the sky is full of shooting stars. I walk in.

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Nobeyama Radio Observatory

I feel so little here and the full-moon is the spotlight of a scene in which I am really tiny. Walking around those giants is quite intimidating and I know everything is active around me, eerily quiet. I am in love with the Nobeyama Radio Observatory.

chubu, japan, japanese, nagano
Nobeyama Radio Observatory

I get to the huge radio detector I spotted earlier when I was driving. It is actually a 45m radio-telescope, not used to listen to the extraterrestrials’ rock stars but to analyze the short-millimeter wavelengths. This way, the professors working here can map the structure of our universe and detect such things as black holes.

chubu, japan, japanese, nagano
Nobeyama Radio Observatory

I feel like I am in a scene from X-Files or Contact. Every once in a while, my heart jumps: there is a sudden buzz and clicks then everything starts to move. I realize all those giants are mounted on rails! It’s really odd to see them moving around.

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Nobeyama Radio Observatory

This part…

chubu, japan, japanese, nagano
Nobeyama Radio Observatory

The six big parabolic antennas at the entrance are the Nobeyama Millimeter Array (NMA). With them you can build high spatial resolution images.

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Nobeyama Radio Observatory

There is more to see in this observatory such as the Nobeyama Radioheliograph (which is an array of 84 very little parabolic antennas) and Radio Polarimeters.

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Nobeyama Radio Observatory
chubu, japan, japanese, nagano
Nobeyama Radio Observatory

I really recommend visit Nobeyama if you are between Matsumoto (Nagano) and Kofu (Yamanashi) area. The open time is from 8:30am to 5:00pm and it’s free! 🙂

16 Best Abandoned Places in Japan 2014

It has been a very busy but happy year. However, meanwhile, Totoro Times got covered by a Fujiesque pile of dust! I am now blowing it away with a new cleaner design. Many articles are also about to be published but for starters, as for 2012 and 2013, here is my 2014’s “Haikyo Best Of. I actually did find some time to explore a little 🙂

16. The Clinic of the Stray Dog

I have visited many abandoned hospitals in Japan (check my selection of abandoned hospitals and abandoned clinics) and was not expecting any new surprises. The Clinic of the Stray Dog pleased me in that sense : it is a really fun location to discover and just around Tokyo. What I didn’t knew is that a stray dog lives inside! It took me a while before to be stupid enough to get into that place, walk beside the dog looking at me with its dying eyes and go upstairs. My friend – she is not a haikyo explorer – waited for me the whole time wondering if I was fine. And I was, enjoying the very Ghiblish second floor and fearing to go downstairs and meet that poor little guy again.

abandoned, haikyo, hospital, japan, japanese, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
The Dog is Watching!

15. Nichitsu School

Memories definitely change our perception of the places and that is probably why I enjoyed my re-visit of the School of Nichitsu. For those who don’t know, Nichitsu is a famous abandoned village and, still, an active mining company in Saitama. I felt like this place didn’t change at all since my first time there in 2011 but my life did, so much. Somehow I found myself entering a very thin and fragile spacetime, between the life of those students who once where, and my three-years younger myself.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, ruin, school, urban exploration, urbex
Nichitsu School

14. Abandoned Schools in Kyoto

Having to meet one french friend in Osaka, I decided to stop by Kyoto on the way to meet another friend of mine, my haikyo-budd だみあん (Damian is on Flickr). We had a nice time lunching in the garden of an old abandoned school with two models then we took pictures of them. It was simple, sweet and relaxing.

school,abandoned,kyoto
Schools in Kyoto with Friends

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Schools in Kyoto with Friends

By the way, please check my article about abandoned schools in Japan if you are interested in those 🙂

13. Ponbetsu & Horonai Mines in Hokkaido

I love Hokkaido and managed to go twice this year. The first time was with my travel buddy Airi-chan, not a haikyo explorer but a girl who loves photography and adventures. We didn’t have the opportunity to do anything amazingly crazy but I went back to two abandoned mines I enjoyed before : Ponbetsu and Horonai. Hokkaido has many cool haikyo but I have to admit: the landscapes are even better.

sumitomo,ponbetsu,mine,abandoned,hokkaido
Sumitomo Ponbetsu Coal Mine

horonai,mine,abandoned,hokkaido
Horonai Mine

12. Clinic of the Mining Village

The closure of the mines left a lot of Hokkaido towns half-abandoned. This clinic is in an extremely bad state, the walls falling down and the building from outside is tilted. However, the surgery room is sparkling clean, eery, looks like it is still in use.

surgery,hokkaido,abandoned,hospital
Surgery Room in Hokkaido

11. Taushubetsu Bridge

One of my dreams was to walk on the Taushubetsu Bridge in Hokkaido, right in the center of the island of Hokkaido. But when we arrived, I didn’t expect that the 4km road to the bridge was actually forbidden at all times, because of bears! We decided to go nevertheless, under the eyes of our furry hungry friends, keeping them away by talking loud and playing music…

taushubetsu,abandoned,bridge,hokkaido
Taushubetsu Bridge

10. The Forgotten Swimming-Pool

It’s very early in the morning and I am walking around an abandoned swimming pool. The haikyo is surrounded by a metal fence and there is no easy way to get in. “Are you sure you can climb it?” I asked Mana Dancer, my friend and today’s model. “Yeah, sure, why not!”. It’s her first haikyo but she’s certainly not scared. I help her, we get in, and bring to the sad broken-down swimming-pool a bit of life and glory for a moment.

abandoned,swimming,pool,tokyo
Mana Dancer

9. Strip Club

The end of afternoon rays wake up the calcined floor of the old abandoned strip-club. It’s warm, very warm for a winter day but Mana Dancer decides to set the podium on fire. An unforgettable moment of fun with the sunset, the light that runs on the walls before escaping the place, the flashes and the erotic and satanic dance.

abandoned,strip-club,japan
Mana Dancer

abandoned,strip-club,tokyo,japan
Mana Dancer

8. The Shrine of the Sleeping Lake

My Japanese family lives in Fukushima Prefecture (far from the sea and the nuclear plants) and that is why I am going there nearly every month. Being certainly one of the most beautiful prefecture of Japan, I feel this is dramatic that the events of 2011 are still being scary for the foreign tourists. The shrine lays in the depth of the lake, which was created during the Mount Bandai eruption. What we see here is a tori facing that now invisible shrine. Not only the shrine is in the water, a whole village is also there, with its secrets. Let’s discover more about this place later this year.

abandoned,shrine,fukushima
The Yama Shrine

7. Abandoned School in Yamanashi

I am having a great time with Satomi’s cute daughters. They love haikyo, modeling and they of course are the perfect fit of this old school in Yamanashi. We made a story through photos of them entering the school, having a class, playing music, having a break outside, etc. It deserves an article later so please look forward to it! We already went for more adventures all together, this year gonna be fun.

Haikyo School With N&M&K
Haikyo School With N&M&K

Haikyo School With N&M&K
Haikyo School With N&M&K

6. Royal House

This abandoned house has everything to please. From its location in the forest, to its western appearance, surrounded by a Japanese mystery in which appears a wealthy British business-man and the Queen Elizabeth. If you don’t know this house already, please check the Abandoned House in the Forest and Royal House: Stories from the Past. Only one part was missing to the story: and end. This is done now. Ai-chan, in the role of the last family member, discovering the place and, also, her story.

Royal House With Ai
Royal House With Ai

Royal House With Ai
Royal House With Ai

5. Nara Dreamland

My 4th visit of Nara Dreamland was surprisingly also the scariest: I was not alone in Nara Dreamland this time, there was also another person! We could see his torchlight, hear him from time to time (actually talking) but we never met him. Well, we did our best to avoid it too 😉 This didn’t stop Matthieu and I not to climb all the abandoned roller-coasters of the park under a sky full of stars. We had a really romantic time, in a way.

Nara Dreamland, abandoned, amusement park, attraction park, haikyo, japan, japanese, kansai, nara, ruin, theme park, urban exploration, urbex
Highway To Hell

Nara Dreamland, abandoned, amusement park, attraction park, haikyo, japan, japanese, kansai, nara, ruin, theme park, urban exploration, urbex
Highway Stars

4. Shitamachi

Shitamachi is an area in Tokyo filled-up with old buildings, mostly around Sentagi area and Nezu. In reality, shitamachi can be found anywhere, as long as the place possesses that old vibe that caracterizes the Edo Period.

Shitamachi Vibes
Shitamachi Vibes

3. The Ogushi Mine

“Look! What a funny-looking deer! OH WAIT! That’s a bear! A big roundy fluffy bear!”. Mimi-chan, my haikyo friend is surprised and delighted. It’s her first bear. Second one for me, after a surprising encounter in a swamp in Fukushima. This is not a joke, Japan is full of bears! Since that, I never go out in the wild without my little anti-bear-bell (and my tripod, which might be as useful). We decided to be really careful when exploring the Ogushi Mine by night. I parked the car, played my favorite playlist out loud and we took photos around, dancing under the milky way. I didn’t feel sorry for the bears for the disturbance of the peace.

abandoned,mine,japan,haikyo
Ogushi Mine

2. The Abandoned Mine of Nichitsu

For the first time, I had the chance to visit the abandoned part of the mine of Nichitsu. That wasn’t easy, I tried before and failed twice for different reasons. But this time, with my adorable haikyo-buddy Junya-kun (check this blog: Gagaga 7310), we went and enjoyed the colors of autumn at their best. We were only startled once and we had to run as fast as we can! Give me some time to come back to you on this with a full report 🙂 Oh, and this is Joan by the way.

abandoned, haikyo, japan, japanese, mine, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Nichitsu Mine

Nichitsu with Joan
Nichitsu with Joan

1. Gunkanjima

As for Nara Dreamland, I enjoyed my 4th visit of Gunkanjima in 2014. This time, I went with my good buddies Airi-chan and Marutan with a project in mind. It was also the occasion for Marutan to live one his dreams! But somehow, we all ended-up having a nap at the top of the island for one hour 🙂 During the morning, Doutoku Sakamoto, a former inhabitant of the island, joined and took us to a few places important to him. That was a really beautiful visit and that made of Gunkanjima my best haikyo memory of this year. If you don’t know it already, please check my article about the abandoned island: Gunkanjima, 10 Stories, 200 Photos.

abandoned, gunkanjima, haikyo, japan, japanese, kyushu, nagasaki, on-sale, ruin, urban exploration, urbex
Gunkanjima: Let’s Go!

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Gunkanjima: The Chair

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Gunkanjima: Apartments

abandoned, gunkanjima, haikyo, japan, japanese, kyushu, nagasaki, on-sale, ruin, television, urban exploration, urbex
Gunkanjima: Teleconic

Voilà for this year ! By the way, what do you think of the new design of Totoro Times? Do you like it? Thanks for liking and sharing this article, I need to restart the Totoro Times machine 🙂 See you all!

The Offbeat Guide to Japan